Justifying Your Fee – What Is Your Client Paying You For?

One of the biggest challenges many new recruiters face is the prospect of justifying the fee. Often, during negotiations, the client will decide that the fee is exorbitant; after all, what does a recruiter do, really, that they can’t. Clients will even say ‘we’d do it ourselves but we just don’t have the time’. But is time the only thing they’re paying you for?


Time is not the only thing but it is a significant factor. According to Dice Holdings, the Dice-DFH-Vacancy Duration Measure states in in 2009 it took an average of fifteen days to fill a position. By the end of 2016 that figure had risen to twenty-six! Twenty-six working days of a department head distracted from their day job in order to fill a vacancy. How much would the loss of those twenty-six days cost the business? And as their skill set probably doesn’t include the same as those of a professional recruiter, how suitable would their new recruit be? There is far more to the recruitment process than simply investing your time, however, many clients do not appreciate exactly what is involved. Therefore, in order to justify your fee, it’s important to be able to break down into bite-sized chunks the other factors.


The ability to put things in context: Taking a background for the company and finding out about the culture takes patience and skill, particularly if the client isn’t adept at imparting information. Of course, taking a detailed breakdown of what the job entails also takes time, as often clients haven’t thought the role through (often, it’s not their role they’re recruiting for, so they may not really know the nuts and bolts of the position). The more you know about the role, the better your chances of getting the right person for it. Don’t be dismissed with a bland ‘it’s a Personal Assistant role, you know the type of thing, I’m sure you’ve placed hundreds of them’. Perhaps you have, and there will be some crossover in the duties but you don’t know that for sure unless the client tells you. Additionally, by encouraging them to tell you what they want, you’re forcing them to decide on their priorities. If they change their mind at a later date, they will have to accept that they’ve changed their mind, rather than trying to shift the blame to you as a way of avoiding fees.


Industry knowledge – How much should the client expect to pay a candidate for this role? What types of benefits could they offer in lieu of a higher salary? What is the competition doing? Where will the right candidate be found? As a recruiter, you will know where to place the advert in order that you may attract the best people to apply for this role. You know whether you need a specialist publication or job board, or whether you will be better served using a more generalised arena.


Judgement – Judging the quality of the applications takes time and knowledge. A vast number of candidates who apply for a role are completely unqualified for it, lacking either the skills or the experience. Sifting these CVs out takes time but they are easy to spot. However, the Gold Star candidate may have a CV that doesn’t directly match the job description, but their transferable skills may make them ideal for the role. Being a professional recruiter, you should be able to spot these. The client may well have missed them.


Interviewing – It’s a skill, not an inherent ability. Many people think they can interview, that the process is simply about having a conversation. It isn’t. A good interviewer will be able to draw out information and encourage candidates to back up their answers with examples of their experience. A good interviewer should be able to sift out any significant embellishments to a candidate’s story. Anyone can say they’ve done something but a good interviewer will be able to discover if they really have.


Preparation – A professional recruiter will be able to prepare their candidate for the interview with the client. Candidates usually require instructions as to how to bring their skills and experience into the interview, particularly if the interviewer isn’t skilled enough to know how to look for the answers they need! Overcoming poor interview techniques can be the difference between a client understanding what the candidate can do and missing out entirely on the right person for the job!


Qualification – Getting meaningful references from previous employers can be tricky. In today’s litigious society, often there is a reluctance to divulge any information other than confirmation of the candidate’s employment in a specific role for a certain period of time. Getting anything else can be valuable but it isn’t easy!


So, the next time you’re discussing fees with a client, don’t apologise for charging for your services. Recruitment is a time-consuming process and requires all of the skills and experience detailed above. That’s why the client contracted you in the first place, even if they don’t really know it! If the client understands what they’re paying you for, they’ll see the value and stop arguing about the fee!