bad hire

Why is it a recruiter’s fault when a client makes a bad hire?

You and your team have scoured through your contacts, your network, your social feeds, and all of your other resources. You’ve sent your client a few select job candidates because they check off all of the company’s wants for the position. 

Your client selects one of your candidates and makes an offer. Happy clients, happy new hire – mission accomplished. Now it’s time to move onto the next order.

Except, soon enough, your client tells you, that hire didn’t work out. Then they blame you for the bad hire. Even though they made the final decision to hire this person.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? How can we be held accountable for things that we can’t control? After all, we as recruiters have zero control over a job candidate’s behaviour. All we can do is stack the odds in our client’s favour, but there are never any guarantees.

After working in the recruiting field for over two decades, I can say from experience, that these scenarios are actually great learning opportunities for both the client and for us, as recruiters. Moreover, it is never worth it to take that kind of finger-pointing to heart.

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years to help turn the scenario above from a negative experience into a positive one:


Educate clients from your first touchpoint with them

It helps to establish expectations from the very beginning of the process with new clients. Let them know that if by chance, a new hire should not work out, which can happen from time to time (since we have no control over another person’s behaviour), as one client-agency team, we’ll work together with them to rectify the situation.

Together, we can treat the experience as a learning opportunity, and leverage insights we glean to better understand what worked and what didn’t, for next time.


Beyond skills, search for a great personality-fit

It took me years to figure out for my own staff, what kind of personality-fit worked best with me. I noticed after several unsuccessful internal hires, that when I hired people with a certain profile, they just understood me better and they quickly and easily caught on to my approach and line of thinking, This didn’t happen because I was psychic.

Rather, over time, I was able to identify key personality traits in people who just clicked with my working style. We need to always watch out for the same patterns with our clients.


Ask your clients the right questions to learn what personality types work well with them

When we don’t know, we always need to just ask. Consider questions like: Can you tell me more about the personality of the hiring manager? For example, are they hands-on or hands-off in their working style? Tell me about the last person in the position, who was successful and what kind of work background did they have? Can I have a 5-minute call directly with the hiring manager?

If clients can’t give you 5-minutes for a call, that can be a red flag.  To set you up for success, clients need to invest their time in the process too.


Look for clues on personality-fit based on what did NOT work in the past

When you ask a question like: “What didn’t work before?” the responses you get can often hold a lot of intel. For example, was the past hire a clock-watcher? Did they work in big, bureaucratic sectors where they may have been great at navigating processes, but are not used to making quick, on-the-spot decisions? 


Establish formalized processes to track these insights

At our agency, we track every conversation we have with both clients and candidates, in order to better understand them and their needs. This helps us cultivate better, more trusting relationships with the people that matter to us most in this business.

I’ve heard some people say they think this is “painful” – as in, cumbersome to do, or that they feel there’s a negative connotation to keeping notes. But to us, this is an authentic effort on our part to demonstrate that we are interested in what they are saying. 

When I re-connect with a client a few months after we last spoke, and ask how her daughter is doing to follow-up from our last conversation, they can feel that I genuinely care about them. I don’t have to have a super-human, computer-like memory that never forgets.

I have to simply care enough to remind myself of our last conversation. This kind of effort builds trust and it helps us better serve our clients in the end. I can say from experience, it makes a BIG difference.

A lot of job seekers have been reluctant to change jobs right now, in the midst of this current COVID-19 global pandemic. But my prediction is that, as our society overcomes this current health crisis, once the uncertainly is over, movement will resume quickly.

We as recruiters need to watch the market, because many people will start changing jobs, and we’ll need to be ready and prepared to serve our clients well.

Julie Labrie

Julie Labrie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions. As an entrepreneur and recruiting veteran with over 20 years of experience, Julie is a trailblazer in her industry. In 2019, Julie was recognized by Top Recruiter as being the #3 recruiter in Canada. Her company, BlueSky Personnel Solutions was also awarded the #1 recruitment agency designation in Toronto. Julie and her team specialize in French/bilingual placements and work closely with both business, HR executives, and job candidates.  As such, Julie is able to offer unique insights into the strategies, nuances and psychology of the hiring process. Julie is also a regular, trusted media commentator who offers talent management and career advice for today’s ever-changing marketplace. She has been featured in such media as: the CBC, Global TV, MoneySense magazine, Newstalk 1010 radio among others. Check out Julie’s  “Ask a Recruiter” column in the Globe and Mail where she responds to reader questions and offers unique insights to both employers and job seekers.