Setting Client Expectations: 3 Essential Tips Every Recruiter Needs To Know

Posted by Brian Rudolph on 5/9/19 1:39 PM
Brian Rudolph
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The delicate matter of setting and managing client expectations in a competitive industry sector can present a dilemma for even the most experienced recruiters. Achieving the all-important retained or even exclusive assignment can be at times be a feat in itself in markets where candidates are queueing up for vacancies – but what of the industries where the so-called ‘war for talent’ is well and truly raging?

In both environments, managing the expectations of employers and your short-listed candidates can be a challenge. Even the seemingly straightforward assignment can disintegrate part-way through the hiring process, calling your reputation as an experienced recruiter into question.

Securing retained and exclusive assignments can still be a battle for some recruiters but once won, how do you manage client expectations, especially in those hard to fill jobs?

Understand what’s needed

Let’s be honest, hiring managers aren’t always the easiest people in the world to work with. Dealing with the simultaneous trends of getting that all important candidate experience right as well as embracing the continual changes forced on them by the rapid evolution in HR technology means the pressure is on. An in-depth knowledge of how those trends affect your industry will support your cause but ultimately, you must have gain insight into the company and its culture. Asking the right questions will enable you to create a picture of the challenges ahead and manage those all-important expectations, for example:

  • What problems is the employer hoping to solve by filling this vacancy?
  • What does success look like in their organization?
  • What are the common characteristics of their high achievers?
  • Is the hiring manager willing (or able) to provide you with up-to-date information on employee retention levels?

The final question is perhaps the most important of all: How are you going to convince the top talent to move to a company whose best employees are quitting on a regular basis?


A common mistake that rookie, and more experienced recruiters make is failing to clarify every aspect of the search process. If your clients fails to respond in a timely manner to your short-list, be clear with them on the consequences. Unanticipated and unexplained delays will lose your best candidates. A lack of clarity over salary expectations on the part of both hiring managers and candidates will mean that your carefully managed assignment falls apart in its final stages. As a recruiter, it’s your responsibility to identify and address problems as they arise and be prepared to offer solutions while keeping the lines of communication open. I never said it would be easy.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Don’t promise your client a shortlist of five outstanding passive candidates for a difficult role in a bid to secure the assignment. Be realistic, be cautious. You’re dealing with the unpredictable in recruitment – people. Allow for delays in the search process, build in contingencies, anticipate problems such as scheduling mutually convenient interview times – and in the worst case scenario the candidate accepting a counter offer. In a competitive market with an outstanding passive candidate it can happen. My advice is to have a back-up candidate wherever feasible. Under promising and over-delivering means that you are able to go above and beyond what is expected of you. The result? Your clients and your candidates are happy and your reputation is enhanced and in the world of recruitment you know that’s an achievement.

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Topics: Recruitment