Ross Clennett Article

How to Avoid Declined Offers and

Why multi-listing a job may not be in the
client's best interests

by Ross Clennett

This article originally appeared in
  The Fordyce Letter (August 2007 edition) 


The Fordyce Letter is published monthly and is the leading publication for the recruitment, search and placement industry in the USA.


I coach and train agency recruiters all around Australia and one of the most frequently asked questions, from desk level recruiters is:

"How do I stop my client listing the job with other agencies?"


Great question! The practice of clients multi-listing a job has always been part of the daily challenge for recruiters.

My question in return is:
"Did you give the client a sound reason why it is not in their best interest to multi-list the job?"

Inevitably the answer from the consultant is "er, no I didn’t".


If the recruiter doesn’t provide at least one compelling reason for the client not to multi-list the job then why wouldn’t the client go ahead and list the job elsewhere? The major reason that most recruiters are unsuccessful in their attempt to dissuade the client from multi-listing a job is the conversation for job exclusivity comes across to the client as being about what’s in the recruiters best interest (no competition and an almost guaranteed fee), not about what’s in the client’s best interest (getting the best candidate for the job, as quickly as possible).


In this skills-short job market, the client logic for multi-listing is something like this:

"Listing the job with more recruiters, means greater market coverage therefore a better chance of filling the job quickly."

On the surface that sounds logical but lets look at 8 reasons why that logic might be flawed, and why exclusivity may be a smarter choice for the client.

  1. It potentially devalues the job in the market and potentially devalues the brand of the employer:

    The law of scarcity is a very powerful law. Using a metaphor to make the point: you are hungry and are looking for a good restaurant to eat at. You don’t know the area. You walk past a busy restaurant which has one table free. The almost-empty restaurant next door has plenty of tables free. Which restaurant do you choose to eat at?

    Nine out of ten times you choose the busy one because the perception (and most likely, the reality) is that the scarcer the seating the more likely it is the food is better value. It’s exactly the same with jobs.

    If four different recruiters ring up the same candidate across a 48 hour period and all mention the same job the perception is that the job is of less value than if one recruiter has the job. The candidate is more likely to wonder why the job needs to be given out to four recruiters. If it was a ‘hot job’ or a job working for a ‘brand employer’ one recruiter would be able to fill the job easily and quickly.

    Good jobs (or jobs with good companies) don’t need a multitude of recruiters to fill them.

  2. Quantity becomes more important than finding the best candidate:

    If a recruiter knows they are up against a competitor they are much more inclined to just ‘throw mud against a wall’ because they don’t want to risk a competitor putting forward a candidate that they also had on their database. As a result ALL recruiters in multi-list situations put forward any candidate that remotely fits the job spec.

    The outcome:
    4 different recruiters finish up sending 20 plus resumes and the client is lucky to be able to find one candidate worth interviewing.

  3. The client does more work and still pays the same fee!

    Taking the 20 resume example, above, the client now has to spend their own valuable time reviewing all 20 plus resumes and then fielding, or making, a multitude of calls to 4 different recruiters to provide feedback, arrange interviews etc (let alone the 4 separate conversations to brief each recruiter on the job).

    If you add up all of this additional time spent (compared to working with one recruiter) the client probably spends another 5 or 6 hours in duplicated communication.

  4. The client does more work, resents it and starts to cut corners:

    Because a client has briefed more than one recruiter the client quickly starts to resent all the duplicated communication.

    This then leads to the client lessening the most effective communication channels (face-to-face and phone) and increasing the least effective communication channel (email) so the client can ‘get back to doing their real job’.

    These tactics may help the client (in the short term) but they frustrate the recruiter who needs consistent and up-to-date ‘real time’ client feedback to deliver the best possible candidate to the client, as quickly as possible.

  5. Exclusivity gives the recruiter time to do a thorough job to find the best candidate:

    The most valuable gold nuggets are found by drilling down into a gold field, they are not found scattered on the surface, where it is easy and quick to locate them.

    It’s the same with the best quality candidates; you need to drill down deep into the market to find them, they are rarely to be found ‘on the surface’.

    A recruiter who has an exclusive brief has more time to ‘drill down’ - properly review their database, network the market, write a quality advertisement, screen effectively, interview effectively, brief the candidates fully, compile an effective short list, take references before referring resumes etc etc.

    All of this vastly improves the possibility that an 8/10 or 9/10 candidate will be found to fill the job, not a 5/10 or 6/10 candidate.

  6. The reality is that ALL recruiters give priority to exclusive jobs:

    Whether any recruiter admits it or not, the reality is that exclusive jobs are given higher priority by the recruiter for two main reasons:

    1)   the client is relying upon that recruiter, and only that recruiter, to fill the job, and

    2)  the probability of receiving a fee for work done is about 4 times greater with an exclusive job compared to a multi-list job. Like any smart person a recruiter pursues the option that is
    most likely to provide the best outcome (fee) for their input (time).

  7. The best candidates are put forward to exclusive jobs:

    In almost all cases the clients who multi-list a job are slower at responding to quality candidates who are put forward.

    Recruiters don’t want their hard earned reputation with candidates damaged by un-responsive clients so the best candidates are forwarded to quick-response clients (almost always clients listing jobs exclusively).

    Slow response clients are more likely to be sent second or third tier candidates simply because these candidates are more likely to still be on the market when the slow-response client finally gets around to responding to resumes sent by the recruiter.

  8. Other professions don’t do it:

    Which accountant would take on a client’s tax work if they knew that three other accountants also ‘had the job’ and the first one finished would get the fee? Real estate agents rarely take on a multi-listed property from a vendor.

    Multi-listing is rare elsewhere because other professions know it (mostly) leads to a vastly inferior client service. How is recruitment any different?

    As a recruiter there will be times when it is not in your client’s best interest to list the job exclusively with you (eg it’s not your area of specialisation, your ‘job book’ is currently full, you’re about to go on leave, etc).

    You should then recommend to the client what approaches you believe are appropriate to best fill the job, with the best candidate, as quickly as possible. I definitely don’t recommend exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake.

    The question I would recommend you ask yourself is:

    ‘what recruitment process best serves my client, for this vacancy, in these current circumstances?’

    If we act with our client’s best interests as our guiding light then we significantly enhance our chances of the client seeing us as a true recruitment partner, not a fee hungry body shop. And isn’t that what we all want?

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This article comes with full reprint rights, which means that you have permission to re-publish the article on your website, newsletter, eBook or any other means of reproduction.  The only requirement is that you do not make any editorial changes and that the author’s name is quoted. I would also appreciate it if you could let me know when and where you publish it.