Dealing with demanding candidates

Dealing with demanding candidates

Being a recruiter, sometimes your negotiation skills need to be on a par with international diplomats. Communicating between a client who wants the ideal fit for their organisation and a candidate who wants to make sure they’re moving for all the right reasons can be a challenge.

So when a candidate starts making unreasonable demands, your negotiation skills can be thoroughly tested. While you can enter a certain amount of negotiation on the initial contract, there may come a time when a candidate simply asks too much. So how should you approach these candidates, and when is it time to give up?


Reasonable requests

Firstly, not all demands are unreasonable. Fair demands might include asking about flexible working, or enquiring whether the recruiting organisation might support the candidate to gain a professional qualification, says Claire McCartney, adviser in resourcing and talent planning for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

“As a recruiter or employer you want to provide the conditions that will make that employee as productive as possible,” she says. “Despite the economic climate, many organisations still struggle to find people with the right skills, so they need to make sure they accommodate the needs of different people. But candidates need to make requests rather than demands.”

The emphasis here is on the word ‘requests.’ So if a working parent asks for hours that mean they can pick up their children from school, this is something that potentially can be accommodated by them making up the hours elsewhere or sacrificing some of their salary.

Or someone interviewing for a senior role has benchmarked their salary expectations against a survey from a trade magazine, in this case it is not unreasonable for them to ask whether the recruiter can match a recognised industry average.

Of course, not every employer can accommodate these requests, but it’s important to be honest about the reasons why.

“A manufacturing company might not be able to accommodate flexible working for example,” says McCartney. “Or budgets might be too tight to pay for a qualification. But on both counts the employer could say ‘We’ll look at these requests in a few months time, so it’s not an outright ‘No’.”

One approach you could take as a recruiter is to ask the candidate to put together a business case for their request. If they claim that by working from home two days a week they can save the company travel money, or will be able to spend time on work instead of a lengthy commute, then it is more likely to be met favourably by the employer. This way, both parties benefit.


Dealing with unreasonable demands

When demands become unreasonable, it pays to keep sight of what is best for both the client and the candidate. “Candidate control plays an extremely important part in a consultant’s daily activity, both in understanding a candidate’s expectations, but also benchmarking to ensure that individual expectations are realistic in the current market conditions,” says Keith Lewis, managing director of technical recruitment company Matchtech.

“Unrealistic demands generally refer to unrealistic expectations around salary, promotion and bonuses, or things that simply go against the company’s policy,” says McCartney. “If the candidate expects a salary higher than all of their colleagues, then that doesn’t gel with the values of the organisation and if others found out it would risk alienating them or disengaging them.”

Managing the candidate’s expectations on what is and isn’t negotiable should take place as early as possible in the recruitment process. Having a conversation about the upper salary limit at the stage when the candidate is showing interest in the role, for example, will make life easier further down the line.

Robert Bowyer, director at recruitment company Venn Grou, has come across candidates who, with so many people chasing fewer roles, feel their experience and skills are worthy of a higher salary that perhaps the client simply cannot afford. “In these cases it is the job of a consultant to talk through their CV in greater detail to ensure that the candidate hasn’t missed out important facts that demonstrate they are at a certain level,” he says. “The recruiter needs to explain what type of roles they should be positioning themselves for, without simply telling them they are punching above their weight.”


The consequences

If an employer begins their relationship with the candidate by ‘giving in’ to their demands, the candidate will come to expect more and more. So if the employer doesn’t meet future requests, the candidate may choose to leave, and the recruitment costs associated with hiring them will have been a waste.

Ridiculously unbelievable demands, such as asking for a company car when they live around the corner from the office and have no reason to travel for their job, could suggest it’s time to part company with this candidate.

The recruiter’s role in all of this is to judge what is reasonable and liaise with their client on where demands can be met. In some cases, demands will prove easily satisfied, which will make up for areas in which the candidate has lost out. A really successful negotiation could end up with you getting more money (or holiday, or a better job title) for your candidate, but also doing a favour for your client, so start brushing up those negotiating skills.


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