difficult clients
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Challenging Staffing Clients – Tips to Work With 4 Types

Congratulations! You’ve landed a new account and are excited to kick things off and build trust with your new client. To ensure you can meet their needs and expectations from Day 1, you need to determine exactly what kind of client you’re working with.

In your first meeting, you want to identify red flags and the unique communication style your new client needs you to match. This means noting red flags immediately and troubleshooting how to overcome obstacles in the process of building relationships with difficult clients

The bottom line: not all clients are cut from the same mold. Here are a few of the more difficult clients and how you can ensure success filling their open roles.

The micromanager

Micromanager clients can, unfortunately, inhibit a smooth staffing process. While they hired you to get the job done, they are more likely to want it to be done their way. They don’t fully trust any process that doesn’t revolve around their idea of the right way to do it. And they may seem frustrated if you don’t know what that means when you begin working together.

It’s possible to work with micromanaging clients if you can get clear feedback. They are less likely to struggle with granting you autonomy if they feel seen and heard in the process. 

How to work with a micromanager client: ask for feedback! Insist on it regularly.

Make it your business to get in their head. Check-in proactively to build trust and ask for more clarity so you’re able to make the best use of your time and efforts. Make it clear you want to ensure you’re prioritizing their concerns and feedback during the staffing process so they get the best talent in front of them STAT.

The uninvolved

Sometimes, the uninvolved client makes you long for the micromanager. They’re not really disinterested in what you’re doing. They simply have come to terms with the fact they cannot do everything. They trust that you’re capable and are happy to let a few things fall from their plate to yours.

This client can be tricky to work with, however. In the process of the uninvolved client being hands-off, it’s not clear if they saw your email, heard your voicemail, and plan to follow up. It’s nice to be given some room to work, but it’s difficult to do your job well without adequate feedback from clients.

How to work with the uninvolved client: keep your confidence in check! Remind yourself that you know what you’re doing.

Keep clear records of communication with these difficult clients. Follow up on a consistent basis and provide clear guidelines/expectations. For example, state clearly “If I do not hear back by 4p on Tuesday, I’ll move forward with sending these candidates to the video interview stage.” Try drawing their attention to action items you need a response to by using a bold font or underlining. Keep in mind, the uninvolved client is busy! Be clear and concise in communication. 

The agree-er

The agree-er trusts that you know best — not just because they are busy but because they are more confident in your skills in this role than their own. They know you’re an expert, so even when you want feedback, they are certain you can sort it out and make the decision.

Working with a compulsive agree-er can be a breath of fresh air when you’ve been up against difficult clients who push back. However, you’re not likely to get the feedback you need to improve on your process. Many staffing decisions you make require accurate accounts of how your talent sourcing and screening are impacting your client’s hiring process.

How to work with the agree-er client: Ask them fewer questions! Present to them facts and clear instructions for providing the information you need.

For example, you can say “This is what I consider the top 3 traits to look for in this role based on previous successful hires. I am going to proceed with adding these to the criteria for hiring managers to evaluate. I will need you to provide feedback on these metrics when I follow up in 2 weeks.”

By avoiding open-ended and yes/no questions, you can gather the data and feedback you need.    Laying out facts and expectations will help you feel confident in your decisions and reinforce their trust in your knowledge and experience. 

The mind-changer

The mind-changer likes to consider all of their options. Unfortunately, it’s costing you time and energy to circle back over and over again. You want to be sure you’re responding to the mind-changer client in a way that shows you take their concerns and input seriously when determining their staffing strategy. This requires a careful balance of responding to “Ok, but what about?” and preparing for their next question.

How to work with the mind-changer client: Prepare ahead of time. Get inside their brain and think through the ‘or,’ ‘but,’ what if?’ before them. 

Present your mind-changing client with plenty of information. At the end of each conversation, ask if there is anything that wasn’t considered. Empowering them to add more (unlike the agree-er) to an open-ended inquiry for feedback, helps them think through actively with you rather than overthinking later.

Put a deadline on their feedback. Following the Tuesday morning call, if you have the time to wait, let them know “I’ll jump into this tomorrow after lunch, if you think of anything else you’d like me to consider, let’s connect before then’.