When walking away is the right thing to do

Beate OeraAbout recruitment, Research, insights & industry news

investment banking - talent loss - private equity

All firms will have experienced a moment when negotiating with a new client or supplier, where walking away from the deal has been the best solution. This month, we did just that with a potential client, as it was clear that our values and working methods were incompatible. It was not a first, and will no doubt happen again, but it made us think – what is the point when a client ought to walk away from a potential recruitment partner? And so we compiled this list of points where warning signals should sound:

Bad CV practice

This one is top of our list – we are learning from our candidates that it is becoming more and more common for recruiters to send candidates’ CVs without obtaining their permission, or even discussing the firm and the role with them. This is bad practice, and an unacceptable betrayal of the candidates’ trust. Apart from their poor treatment of candidates, it should raise some concerns: if the recruiter places such a low value on candidates’ right to confidentiality, how will they treat yours?

Lack of Expertise

With the downturn in investment banking over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more firms trying their hand at wealth management. Often this initiative is led by a consultant who has been brought off a less lucrative division, and their understanding of the market is limited. Most importantly, they don’t have the network to deliver on an assignment. Most wealth managers can’t transfer assets, or win significant amounts of new business, and so knowing those who can is essential to being a successful recruiter in this field.

The recruiter you work with is an extension of your business.

A lack of willingness to meet in person

If a recruiter isn’t at least asking you for an in-depth phone call at the beginning of a relationship, something is wrong. Good working relationships is based on fully understanding a client’s needs and requirements, and it really isn’t possible to gain this just by emails and reading a client’s website. We have come across potential clients who have had recruitment fatigue and do not wish to invest time in speaking to recruiters, following bad experiences in the past; indeed, this is one of the issues that might cause us to walk away. A good recruiter knows that they will not be able to do a good job for a client without fully understanding the client’s firm and culture. This is one meeting you should try to find time for, and you should certainly question the quality of the recruiter who isn’t pushing for one. A good working relationship begins with investing time to understand each other.


The market has been difficult for recruiters in the last few years, with the credit crisis putting a halt to recruitment for many firms, there has been considerable consolidation activity, a move towards in-house recruitment, and most recently the Brexit vote slowed things down. The result has been something of a race to the bottom for prices. Cheap is nice, of course, but as our first point above proves, it has had an effect on quality too. When the price is too low, the result is that you will be sent unscreened CVs, often without a candidate’s permission, and more often than not, sourced from CV databases. A good recruiter should screen (and meet, where appropriate) candidates for you, and should be able to find candidates who are not actively looking as well. That is where true value add lies, and it is worth paying for.

Ultimately, you need ask yourself what you want from your recruiter. Is this a senior hire? Do you want process to be handled sensitively? Is confidentiality important? Do you want to hard-to-reach talent, or would CV databases be a good source? Are you happy to handle large numbers of CVs, or do you want your recruiter to screen CVs for you? There are recruiters and there are recruiters – make sure to pick the one that works for you.

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