What are you worth?
Over the past two weeks, I’ve received three different LinkedIn messages from other recruiters in my space. That isn’t uncommon. But, what is uncommon is the messaging. Let me paraphrase for you: ‘I run a recruiting firm in the healthcare space. We’re good at what we do. We are offering a special price of 10% fee on any hires right now.’
Let’s unpack this a bit, shall we?
- You run a recruiting firm and you are good at what you do...then why are you sending your message to another recruiter in your space? I do not hide the fact that I’m in the talent access space. In fact, I practically scream it from the virtual LinkedIn rooftop! If you were targeting your message to decision-makers, I am not the right target.
- You are good at what you do...then why are you offering to work at 10%? We will dive into this in a bit.
- You are offering a special price of 10%...Again, WHY?
I completely understand that 2020 was not what any of us expected. I also know that Covid hit many recruiting firms very hard. Many firms went out of business. Many recruiters left the industry, some by choice and some by their owners choice.
But doing this J-O-B of recruiting is H-A-R-D. Finding openings take a lot of effort. Building good relationships, with companies that value you as a partner, is even more challenging. Finding the best talent, not just a seat filler, is challenging. Feeling confident that this top talent is sincere about leaving their current employer, withstanding counteroffers and even worse, guilt, and starting with a new company with many unknowns is really challenging.
So, why would someone de-value their services, and that of the many incredible talent access professionals, with a fee of 10%? I get it, we have to eat. As an owner of a firm, you need revenue coming in order to keep the lights on. As a recruiter within a firm, you need cash-in to earn commissions in order to provide for your family. I get it.
But...you should value yourself more than that type of discount. You should be more confident in your abilities. You should have confidence that a little extra effort will eventually bring you openings where the company and decision maker values you, your opinion, and is willing to pay a respectable fee.
The amount of that fee is relative. In some industries, 30% is the norm. In others, you won’t get a dime above 20%. Still, in others, every role is not based on a percentage, but on a flat fee.
Remember this: while it isn’t impossible, once you’ve established a reduced fee, it is incredibly challenging to increase that amount with your client. Recruiting is a rather unique industry in that the more successful you are with a particular client, the greater chance they try to request a fee concession in the future. So, if you are already starting at a reduced fee, the client attempting to cut you down even further could be problematic.
There are several ways to negotiate a fee that is respectable of your effort and abilities:
- Engaged Search. Maybe you get a full 30% or maybe you negotiate a slightly reduced fee for an upfront payment. This can help ‘keep the lights’ on over a couple of months.
- Retained Search. (Yes, there’s a difference.) In retained search, you get paid in 3 portions, typically upon initiation of search, after the presentation of a candidate shortlist, and finally upon hire.
- Retention Bonus. Maybe your client-company can’t pay 30% upon start. With a retention-bonus, you can invoice at a reduced amount upon start and then the remaining after a pre-selected period of time (typically six months or a year). The initial payment shouldn’t be less than two-thirds of the total fee.
- Flat Fee. This works great when there is a wide gap in the salary range. Base the fee on the lower end of the salary range at 30%. Then, they won’t need to pull out a calculator to figure out the fee based on the prospective candidate’s salary. It is locked in. The larger the range, the better this looks to the client.
- Sliding Scale/multi-position hires/loyalty program. Starting at a higher percentage for the first 1-3 roles each calendar year, offer a percentage reduction for each batch of hires.
If you notice, none of these suggestions have you reducing your fee by two-thirds! 10%, really?
None of these alternatives are Earth-shattering revelations. You have probably heard about them before. You have probably used some iteration of them in the past. Just in case you haven’t, here they are for your use. Free of charge!
On the off chance you’ve never heard about one of these, you might wonder why I would share them. After all, this is a “cutthroat” industry, right? Wrong. Some of my closest friends are direct competitors to me. But, I share because I care. From a self-preserving standpoint, I also share because it is good for the recruiting industry as a whole. If this article helps just one of you to increase your fee offerings, that is a win for us all.
Allow me to circle back to where we started this conversation - a random LinkedIn message. Pretty please, properly target your message. Don’t perform a weak search and send off your message as if you were shooting in the dark. You will rarely hit your intended target.
As Al Frankens’s character “Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmations” on SNL said “You deserve good things. You are good enough. You are smart enough and gosh darn it, people like you.” To translate this into recruiter speak, “you are good enough. You are smart enough and gosh darn it, you are worth more than 10%!”
Chris Heinz is a Managing Partner with Westport One. With more than 23 years in the recruiting industry, he has become a thought leader in both recruiting and the healthcare industry. Chris is an avid endurance athlete where he has turned that passion into good by raising thousands of dollars for several charities.