How to Win the Battle for Candidate Ownership

Here’s a scenario you might be familiar with: You’ve just put your gold-dust candidate forward for a role you’re working, only to be told by the client that another agency has already submitted them for the job.

It’s every recruiter’s worst nightmare!

But there are steps you can take to win this battle for candidate ownership back off your competitor – and better still, prevent this situation from ever happening again.

What to do when another recruiter claims your candidate

So first up, here’s what to do if you find yourself in a situation where your candidate has been put forward by another recruiter.

Step 1: Don’t panic

Recruiters in a tug of warIt’s embarrassing to be told that you don’t have control of your candidate, but keep your cool and let your client know that you will speak to your candidate and figure this out immediately.

Whatever you do, don’t go in all guns blazing claiming the fee is yours. You have your relationships to think about here, not to mention your reputation!

If you throw your toys out the pram and make a scene, you can kiss any future opportunities with both your client and the candidate goodbye.

Step 2: Decide if the ownership really sits with you

Candidate ownership is not about who’s had the candidate in their database the longest or who was first to send the CV to the client.

There’s still a real problem in the industry where some recruiters think they can fire twenty CVs over to their client at once and still try and claim the fee is there’s if the CV landed in the client’s inbox from them first.

Let’s just be clear that this sort of spray and pray recruitment is precisely what gives recruitment a bad name and candidate ownership doesn’t even enter the picture in these circumstances.

Have a serious think about whether you can really lay claim to that candidate and be honest with yourself about the answers or it will come back to bite you!

If you still feel confident that the ownership sits with you, go to your CRM to gather your evidence. Look through your notes and recent tracked history with the candidate. You need to find exactly when your candidate acknowledged you were representing them so you can use this as proof.

Step 3: Weigh up whether it’s worth the battle

So you’ve got your evidence from your CRM that the candidate agreed to you representing them. Now you have to decide if it’s really worth the battle in fighting your corner.

While your fee certainly matters, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more at steak here for the candidate. If things get messy (and they often do in these situations), the candidate could miss out on their dream role just because two recruiters are fighting over a fee.

If you do decide to let this one slide, let the candidate and the client both know that you’re walking away to defuse the situation and this could work out much better for your relationships in the long-run.

Step 4: Call your candidate

Cold calls to warm calls Your next step is to give the candidate a call and calmly figure out what went wrong.

Could this just be a matter of a simple misunderstanding? Does the candidate not want you to represent them anymore or did your competitor perhaps even put them forward for the role without telling them? You just have to pick up the phone to find out.

It could be a situation that’s easily solved with a just a short phone conversation, so go into the call with a positive attitude to give yourself the best chance of sorting this out.

If you call your candidate under the impression that you’ve been screwed over, the conversation is not going to end well.

Step 5: State your case

If your candidate has agreed that they wanted you to represent them to this role, not your competitor, ask them to confirm this in writing or over video and show your client the proof.

Your opponent will back down as soon as you have solid evidence of ownership and it certainly wouldn’t make sense for the client to go against the candidate’s wishes either.

Again, be cautious of how you might come across to the client when stating your case – if you want any repeat business from them in future, handle this part of the process respectfully. Make it clear to your client that this is just a matter of respecting good recruitment practice rather than you laying claim to the fee.

3 ways to ensure you always have ownership of your best candidates

The key to always winning the battle for candidate ownership is to ensure you always have it from the beginning.

Weave good practice into your recruitment processes that ensure you’re always covered. That way, you’ll never have to worry about your best candidates getting scooped up by another recruiter when you’re taking them to market.

1. Always get candidate ownership in writing

how to screen a candidate on video recruitment blogWhen you start working with a new candidate, make it part of your recruitment process to always ask for confirmation that you’re representing them on the market in writing or over video.

2. Track everything in your CRM

Keep all candidate permissions stored safely in your CRM. Any good recruitment software will have an ATS that tracks the candidate from first touch through to placement, so the candidate should be clearly situated within your job workflows if you’re representing them.

Firefish also sends a time-stamped, automated confirmation email to candidates any time you submit them for a role, so with the right tech behind you, keeping candidate ownership should never be a problem.

3. Never neglect your candidate

If a candidate agrees to be represented by you and then you never call them again, can you really be surprised if they jump in with your competitor?

Stay in regular contact, use job alerts to keep candidate leads warm and always involve them in the application process from start to finish.

4. Work more retainers

If you’re working a retainer with your client, you’ll never even have to think about candidate ownership!

Download the eBook below for tips on how to successfully manage a candidate job offer.Managing Candidate Job Offers


Katie Paterson

Katie once headed up the Firefish blog and marketing team. She now works as a freelance copywriter and continues to contribute to our award-winning blog.

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