6 practical steps for winning more exclusive business

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2024 by Alison Humphreys - Award winning NED and strategic advisor

Every recruiter I know wants more of their business to be exclusive. They know they can give the role the attention it needs because they will get paid. And the client will get a better service.

But in many cases, they are just asking clients to take that on trust. I listened in to some conversations happening in recruitment businesses I work with.

They weren’t getting exclusivity because:

“The client had already started looking”.

“The client wanted to hedge her bets”.

“The client thought I would just send the same CVs”.

If you are going to ask clients to give you greater commitment, you must show them something up front that proves they are not just getting the same service.

For one recruiter I work with, we came up with a plan:

  1. Use data to show the size of the pool. LI insights, similar live job ads, relevant CVs on CV download services, etc. Show the client what this data means in terms of live applications. It’s probably too big for her to handle, or too small to be confident of a successful hire. 
  2. Demonstrate why you’re advertising and outreach campaign will be more effective than hers. You don’t need to 
  3. Give away all your trade secrets, but an explanation of your tech stack and the algorithms you use blows away most hiring managers (and some internal talent specialists!).
  4. Show them an example of a structured, evidence-based selection process you have carried out for someone else. This might involve scoring the evidence obtained of key competencies (think soft skills as well as hard). For some roles, it might include a recorded video or psychometric. Explain that every candidate you present on the shortlist will be able to do the job, and they don’t need to start the screening process all over again. Work up a structured selection process for this role.
  5. Make the pricing compelling. After all, if your normal fill rate is 1 in 4, you can afford to reduce your fees for a 1 in 1 probability.
  6. Make sure your exclusivity is not just a handshake. You need terms that cover you for 3rd party candidates and wild-card applicants. This may take the form of a cancellation fee or retainer, or the full fee because you have put them through the same selection process (key hires only).
  7. Send updates to stop your client from getting edgy. Let them know what action has been taken each week, and how many applications are considered, interviewed, and rejected. If you have feedback from candidates about the client’s employer brand or EVP, pass it on with recommendations. 
  8. If they have already started looking, that needn’t be a barrier to exclusivity. Find out exactly what’s been achieved by other sources to date.

Implementing that plan, with training and increased “real life” client meetings, has increased one of my client recruitment consultancy’s fill rates from 1 in 6 to 1 in 2. That leaves lots more capacity to go and find more clients!  

Get in touch with me today to tap into my extensive 30 years of experience in the recruitment industry. 

Together, we can explore how you can improve your fill rate, secure valuable partnerships, and elevate your recruitment efforts. Let’s connect and unlock new opportunities for your business.


Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector. She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on strategy, finance, sales and management to maximise performance, enter new markets, prepare for sale and work more efficiently. 

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