Educating Clients

This article appeared in Issue 37 of my newsletter InSight. Published 18 June 2008  

In InSight 30 I wrote about the importance of sounding credible with clients. Today I will go a step further and detail the areas in which you need to educate your clients.  
One thing recruiters often lose sight of is how much knowledge they actually possess about talent generally, and recruitment, specifically. This knowledge can form the basis of educating clients   through being viewed as an independent expert  .  
The value a client places on this expertise depends upon whether they see the recruiter as a McDonald’s recruiter (order taker) or a McKinsey recruiter (consultant).  
In other words; do the clients’ demands and price drive the transaction, or does your known expertise, excellent service and quality outcomes, ensure you are chosen first   by clients?  
Effectively educating clients provides two major benefits to the recruiter:  

  • communicating and establishing your expertise
  • assisting with the management of client expectations
Recruiters are in the market for talent every minute of every working day (and many non-working days) and very quickly gain significant, valuable, knowledge.  
What holds many recruiters back from being more confident in displaying and communicating their knowledge, is that they perceive themselves to be inexperienced and therefore lacking knowledge and credibility.  
Consider this, with only six months   recruitment experience (approx 1000 hours at the recruitment coalface), a recruiter has more relevant recruitment experience than a client who spends half a day per week, every week for 5 years,   on recruitment.  
Also consider that the client has the disadvantage of only having a view of the market from inside their own organisation. They have no capacity to have an independent, objective view. In other words, they are inside looking out, whereas a recruiter is outside, looking in.  
Critically, this market knowledge that the recruiter possesses, makes little difference to the recruiter/client relationship unless this knowledge is used to effectively educate clients.  
Carol Mahoney, Vice-President of Talent Acquisition at Yahoo! in California, said at the Australasian Talent Conference in April this year, that the market information (about such things as salaries and benefits, jobs on offer, candidate supply, competitor plans re growth or down-sizing) her sourcing and recruitment team gained, through their daily activities, was recognised by the Yahoo! Executive Leadership Team as so valuable that they requested weekly updates.  
In his closing presentation at the same Australasian Talent Conference, US recruitment expert, Kevin Wheeler, stated that as recruiters, we risk being left behind if we pigeon-hole ourselves solely as recruitment experts.  
We have an opportunity and a need to extend our expertise to talent more broadly.  
The areas of expert knowledge that clients are most interested in are:   

  1. the depth  of relevant talent pools
  2. how   to attract   the best talent to apply for relevant roles
  3. what remuneration and benefits   are necessary to recruit the best talent
  4. what strategies are most effective in retaining   the best talent
  5. what competitors   (of the client) are doing in the area of talent attraction, recruitment and retention (what’s working and what’s not)
  6. articles or books  on relevant talent issues
Your expertise and more critically, the way you communicate this expertise, creates a clear, superior difference between you and your competitors.  
A global parent company, multi-site operations, ASX listings, sharp websites, the latest you-beaut database and slick business cards, might be impressive on the surface but what makes a real impact with a client is expert market knowledge that is directly relevant to the talent issues they are grappling with right now.  
How valuable is your   independent expert knowledge? More importantly, how effectively are you using it to educate your clients?


  1. GG on 18/06/2008 at 6:55 am

    Ross thanks for your article this week. When I read it I felt that I was talking to my own team and explaining to them how to turn their profile into an asset. To many recruiters are only in recruitment for a short time and hoping that it is a way to move across to the client side – hence our industry is filled with sales people and not career advisers!

    Even though it is shame that most people do not see the value in developing themselves, the result is that it helps to make those of us that do take the time and effort to invest, much better in the eyes of our clients and candidates alike.

    To give a recent example, I recruit in the accounting industry which is probably experiencing its toughest times yet in terms of recruiting the right people. When one of my clients had a transition of people within their own HR/Recruitment team, the outgoing staff recommended that they bring my team in to not only introduce ourselves but to assist with the handover – for the information that we had accumulated over 5 years in partnership was invaluable. We had become trusted advisors.

    I must say though, for those recruiters that are generalist, it is very difficult to maintain that knowledge when you are spread so thin. I would be inclined to say that the future of generalist recruiters is majorly in decline when both in-depth information is important when assisting clients and candidates. For those people who use recruitment agencies as a means to jumping to the dark side or simply making a buck, they are destined to failure as they will never be around long enough to add value in a way that will reward them in ways other than money.

  2. Ross Clennett on 18/06/2008 at 11:17 am

    Well said. I couldn’t disagree with anything you have said.

    Being a generalist recruiter is a recipe for career disaster in my book. The game now is to be a ‘go to’ person for a niche candidate pool. If you have that reputation the clients will be queuing up to give you work.

    That’s the benefit of being an expert and trusted advisor.

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