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‘Exclusive’ candidates will double your billings

Greg Savage

Not long ago I wrote how ‘unique candidates’ are the future of successful recruiting.

Indeed, recruiters talk a great deal about securing exclusive job orders (although few recruiters actually know how!) while we should really put equal focus on negotiating exclusivity with highly specialised, in-demand candidates.

The rewards for doing so are juicy-sweet.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not talking about a legal ‘contract’ with the candidate, or any other restrictive covenant. I am talking about having the credibility, the process and the influencing skills to show an A+ candidate why it’s in their interests to work with you exclusively. Why they should allow you to act as their ‘agent’.

This is a big topic that normally takes me 60 minutes to deliver in a seminar format, so here is your short-form template for understanding why we should do it, why it’s cool for candidates, and how to actually implement ‘candidate exclusivity’.

Candidate exclusivity: The ‘why’.

In candidate-short markets it becomes vital to work our candidate exclusively.

  • Any recruiter worth their salt will back themselves to place a highly skilled talent if they have the time to ‘cover the market’ for the candidate. So we will get paid more often for the work we do if we work exclusive candidates.
  • Transactional resume-racing is dead or dying. We need to become professional, consultative, providing a quality service. The biggest criticism of our industry is lack of candidate care and communication. So let’s work with fewer, better candidates, and place a higher percentage or them.
  • You have a massive competitive advantage if a great candidate works with you and does not go to other recruiters, or approach employers directly. You have time to do great work, leading to better outcomes for clients, candidates, and yourself.
  • If clients learn over time that you can access talent others can’t (and they can’t themselves either!) you become strongly differentiated, credible and eventually their first and maybe only port of call.
  • Remember, even if you don’t place the ‘exclusive’ candidate this time, they will come back to you, or may become your biggest advocate, because of the quality service, insights, advice and personalised help you are able to offer.

Candidate exclusivity: Why it’s cool for candidates

This is the key to the whole process. You need to be confident, skilled and articulate in explaining to the candidate why it is in their interests to allow you to take control of their job search (if only for an agreed period of time).

  • The candidate gets 100% of our attention. If we agree to work in partnership, we commit to finding them appropriate interviews and will do so within an agreed time frame (You can offer this if the candidate is great and the market is tight, right?)
  • The candidate gets bespoke personalised service; Regular contact, access to exclusive jobs, real-time updates and ‘our after hours number’.
  • The candidate does not have to ‘do the rounds’ of recruiters, and trust me they do not love visiting recruiters, taking time off work, being kept waiting etc. etc.
  • The candidate won’t have their resume sprayed around town. Exclusivity preserves their confidentiality and credibility.
  • Exclusivity improves their ‘image’ with clients. The client has not seen them from elsewhere. They are a ‘rare’ bird. And rarity increases value.
  • It saves the candidate time talking to many recruiters over an extended period. An outcome they will thank you for.
  • Finally, what do they have to lose? You will only ask for a few days, maybe a week or two, max. That’s all they risk. And you will make sure it does not fail, so the risk is in fact, minimal.

Candidate Exclusivity: The ‘how’

  • Be selective in choosing the candidate that you work exclusively (they must outstanding and highly placeable). The rule is you only ask for exclusivity if you know you can secure that person interviews in the agreed time frame. Only do it if you have great matching orders
  • Ask your candidate for a period of exclusivity. The timing of asking for this should be once we have built up rapport and trust in the interview process, and have shown that you have a range of appropriate job orders.
  • Ask for reasonable, manageable period of time. A few days for a junior candidate. A few hours for a ‘hot’ temp’ candidate. A week or two for a more senior candidate. But be flexible. It’s not about ‘stopping the candidate from their job search’. It about securing enough time for you to wrap the search up for them!
  • Explain the benefits to the candidate. Agree a list of jobs that you will represent the candidate to. Ask where else the candidate would like to work. Agree to approach those companies.
  • ‘I will give you 100% of my commitment if you can give me 100% of yours’.
  • Explain the ‘rules of engagement’. You will approach the agreed 5 or 6 companies. The candidate will not go to any other recruiters, or approach clients direct, for the period of the exclusive window.
  • Map out a ‘job search’ plan, bespoke for the candidate, in front of them. These are the steps you will take. The clients you will approach. The referees you will contact. This is the communications schedule we agree on.
  • Get actively working on them, stay constantly in touch, and show them you care about them. Give regular updates.
  • Get them one or more interviews with clients ASAP. Show you can deliver.

If you are not getting interviews for the candidate as you thought you would, ‘release’ them from the ‘exclusive agreement’ early and with a smile. Asking for the commitment and then not delivering will harm the relationship forever.

What I have shared with you above has the potential to change your dysfunctional work patterns, increase your billings and enhance customer satisfaction on all fronts. Not to mention your own self esteem and job satisfaction.

But you have to try it!

Take action!


Credit - Greg Savage
Original article available at