If it breaks, you simply return it to whoever sold it to you and get a
full refund. The same is true with a flat-screen TV or a weed whacker.
Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
So why should the placement of a candidate be any different? If the
person doesn't live up to expectations after being hired, shouldn't the
employer be able to return the candidate to the recruiter and get his
placement fee back?
The answer is no-for three very good reasons.
First of all, a candidate is a person, not a piece of merchandise. And
the last time I checked, it was illegal to buy and sell other human
beings. You can own a weed whacker. You can't own a person.
When an employer agrees to hire a qualified candidate as a result of my
referral, it's not as though the candidate is changing hands from one
owner to another. The candidate and the employer are simply agreeing to
work together, exchanging the employer's money for the candidate's time
Besides, the two principals have had the opportunity to interview each
other and engage in due diligence prior to making a decision of their
own free will. To compare a candidate to a weed whacker is like
comparing an apple to an orange.
Secondly, there's a limit to what I can guarantee.
For example, I can guarantee that the candidates I refer meet the
employer's requirements, with respect to their background and ability. I
can guarantee that I'm complying with employment law. But I can't
guarantee the future performance of other people or how effectively they
work together. If I had that sort of power, I would have arranged for
world peace a long time ago.
I can be enthusiastic about putting a deal together-assuming there's a
match. But the actual decision to hire or accept employment is beyond my
control. And I can't guarantee that which I can't control.
Finally, a major part of my decision to accept a search assignment is
based on my prediction of the outcome. Whatever my pricing model, the
last thing I want is to spend time on a project that's problematic or is
doomed to fail. And if the fee for my services is contingent upon making
a placement, I'm going to make darned sure I can fill the job before I
spend 20, 40 or 100 hours of my time working on it.
The most compelling reason not to return my fee is that my professional
activities-the sourcing, screening, qualifying, appointment-setting,
closing, interview prepping, debriefing, offer negotiation and
counteroffer-defense-all take time. Lots of time. And the time I spend
of behalf of my client's hiring needs cannot be recovered. That time is
Negotiating your terms and conditions
When an employer asks about your guarantee, simply explain that if the
candidate leaves for any reason other than lack of work, you'll do
everything in your power to find a suitable replacement within a
reasonable period of time; and that doing so represents not so much your
obligation, but rather a good-faith act of courtesy, dedication and
loyalty to the client.
I've found that most employers understand that in a contingency
arrangement, the recruiter assumes all the risk, and can't recover his
costs associated with a placement that turns sour. Like everyone else,
recruiters have bills to pay.
For employers who absolutely insist on a money-back guarantee, I suggest
you offer a couple of different pricing models: You can either pay me on
a time-and-materials basis, billed at $200.00 an hour; or you can pay me
a non-refundable deposit to cover my initial costs before I start the
In either case, the risk is shared, with both parties having made an
investment in a successful conclusion.
If I'm going to climb onto a high wire, it's only common sense to insist
on a net.