Inside Staffing – Fielding A Client’s Request

Here we outline how a staffing firm fields a request from a client.

This article may seem to address a new sales exec. Either way, it’s part of knowing about the staffing industry.

Some staffing firms call them job orders, orders, requisitions, positions, leads, etc. It’s what happens when a sales, or account executive, person finally encounters a client that has need of the firm’s services. This could be achieved from a cold call or as a result of their previous 100+ calls to the company.

Standards range from firm to firm as to what actually constitutes a viable request from a client. Some staffing/temporary firms will have a set of criteria that needs to be met before the order is worthy of the team’s valuable time. There are some firms that merely know the client is looking for help with a particular skill set and that is enough for them to consider it an active request. Mileage varies. The more info you have, the quicker and easier it is to facilitate a great experience for everyone – firm, candidate, and client.

It’s All in the Job Details

Getting the following questions are pretty standard by sales/account execs at staffing firms. The list that follows will also give clients insight into providing really good details about their company as well as info needed to find the right person for the right job.

  1. Company name – You laugh, but there are times when someone needs help but the contact you’re speaking to is working for the client. Think of a service provider needing help. So is the service provider the person to bill or is it the service provider’s client?
  2. Contact name – The one making the call. A no brainer.
  3. Contact phone number – Another no brainer, but firms want to work fast to beat the competition and take advantage of talent that is immediately available. Multiple numbers are best – work and cell
  4. Client addresses – Yes, that’s plural. You need one for billing – show me the money, and one for where the actual job is located. There are plenty of large companies that have multiple locations.
  5. Invoicing info – including billing contact, address and purchase order number. You want a timely commission, don’t you?

We haven’t even started on the actual job requirements or skills needed for the position! This process could easily take 30-60 minutes. Clients may be anxious to throw out quick info because they have ten other things to do and may not realize how important the tid bits are, but don’t let them off the hook. The info is so helpful. More time can be spent on this later, but doing it right from the beginning does save time and headaches. Managers, you have to realize that firms have done this before and really do have your best interest at hand. If they don’t do the right thing it could be detrimental to their revenue stream and reputation in the industry.

Get to the Job Requirements

The following questions, there is some thought to the order, are the meat and potatoes for a successful match – candidate to client.

  1. When do you need this person to start? – This will give you a level of urgency of the client. Don’t accept ‘as soon as possible’. If you’re a sales person call them out on it. “So if I have the right candidate I can have them show up tomorrow to start work?” and listen to them respond with “oh, no. Not that soon. I didn’t mean that”. Uh, well, then lets define ASAP.
  2. Why is this person needed? – Replacement, newly created position or staff augmentation.
  3. How has the work been getting done? – Team is picking up the slack. It hasn’t been getting done. How is this impacting the business?
  4. If this is a replacement or new position – How long has the position been open? – This is a huge question. It will tell the info how much effort has already been put into the effort. It may shed light on whether the client is simply being too particular or has high expectations. It may also tell you that details don’t match. It could be the need for someone with a skill set but a candidate would never have it with the years of experience for the position.
  5. As a follow up to the previous queston – What’s been missing from those candidates? – This will tell the firm the candidates you don’t want to see. Why regurgitate the same type of people?
  6. What type of help do you need? – temp, fte, contract, contract-to-hire. All depends on whether it’s a true project/staff augmentation – seeking help for so many weeks or months, or something else.
  7. What is the title of the role? – Some companies have some odd titles. A firm will want to tell the candidate what it is so they’re properly informed, but a firm will want to use something more agnostic. Fancy titles like Business System Analyst can be fuzzy. It may garner interest, but if the person is going to be doing programming or application development, not business analysis – requirements gathering, and specs, then posting it as a Programmer or App Dev will attract more interest.
  8. How long do you need the person? – A week? 12 months? For those long-term contracts I suggest addressing the bill rate for twelve months at a time. I’ve run into consultants that have been at a client for 2+ years. The consultant ends up asking for a raise after 12 months and the firm needs to be aware up front on how a pay raise will impact your bill rate/margin. It may be rare that this comes up, but it’s good to nail this down in the beginning. Back tracking can create some very difficult situations. I have experienced clients that want to reward the candidate with a raise but not get billed a higher rate. Keep in mind, the firm is paying the candidate.
  9. How many years of experience do they need? OH! Entry level needs to be defined. Entry level to me is someone that needs no industry experience. This is similar to ASAP, above.
  10. What is the weekly work schedule and hours? – Some companies/managers are flexible as long as someone doesn’t take advantage of the situations and start abusing it. This whole process comes down to ensure everyone is on the same page, so knowing if there are after hours requirements of the job is also important.
  11. Who will this person be reporting to on a daily basis? – It’s not always the client contact on the phone that is the person that will be responsible for managing the temporary. It could be a team lead, or the supervisor one level up.
  12. What are the top 3 must-have skills for this job? – Wish lists are good but it makes screening applicants much easier if you can say they have x, y, and z. The combinations can be endless and too many more will leave you chasing your tail.
  13. What are nice-to-have skills? – This ties into the previous question. The person will have x, y, and z, this extra one will be the cherry on top of the sundae.
  14. What tools will they need to be using? – Skills are one thing, but what tools will be given to the consultant in order to do the job. For information technology professionals this may include text editors or IDE’s when doing programming, source control – git or subversion, to include diagnostic tools used for troubleshooting different scenarios.
  15. Who will they be working with? – Size of team and any mentors that can help them get around the job and company. What is the experience level of the staff?
  16. What is the hiring process? – Firms want to start the person as soon as possible – same or next day. Yes, it can happen. It’s not always the case. The firm has done the application, tax forms, i9, interview, skills assessment and references. Still, no matter their fiscal or political preferences, managers are inherently conservative when it comes to hiring. Some managers will want to do resume, phone interview, face to face with hiring manager, interview with team, interview with upper management, introduce the candidate to the manager’s spouse and kids, maybe run the person to mom & dad’s. Let’s be reasonable. The client can say “we really need someone” but drag out the process out beyond belief. Managers, if you’re doing contract/contract-to-hire arrangement, why spend time on all this stuff if you have the liberty to let the person go at any time? Keep this in mind.
  17. Do you have budget approval for this position/request? – HA! While someone may look at this list and say, “this should be at the top of the process.” Nobody wants to waste time, so be the client needs to secure budget dollars and the firm needs to know if the client does not.
  18. What would be the base salary for someone with equal skills & experience in your organization? – This will give the firm an idea of the client expectations and knowledge of the market. If the client wants to hire a 5+ year person and the firm knows the going salary is 15-20% higher than the client states, there’s an opportunity for education. Get the info out on the table and discuss any descrepencies. Many managers don’t know what’s going on in the market. Sales execs can use this number, divide it by 2080 and provide an approximate hourly rate for a candidate. Multiply your percentage mark up and pad it a bit and an ‘up-to’ bill rate is determined. Keep in mind the skills. Many managers may not be wholly familiar with the market, but they tend to know tough skill sets from ones that are not necessarily in high demand.
  19. Does your company offer any bonus incentives? – Just in case things come down to an offer. Can be used to market the company to a potential candidate.
  20. What is the work environment like? – Is it Nerf gun fights at noon, or sterile as a doctor’s office? Are there fun office events? Why would someone want to work there. Again, a recruiter that needs to fill this request will want to know how to market the positoin and company to their candidates.
  21. Is relocation assistance included? – The details for this will help market the opportunity, allow the firm to look outside the local market and check into satellite offices or other markets.
  22. How is performance measured? – This could come at offer time, but it doesn’t hurt to understand, even if the person is on a project without a chance for hire/conversion. It will outline how the client will measure the person’s job. Not all people with the same skill sets work at the same pace or with the same quality of work. Again, goes back to setting expectations and ensuring everyone is on the same page, including the candidate.
  23. What are the different job advancement opportunities? – Again, another one that may come into play at offer time, it doesn’t hurt to know that there are growth opportunities for those that do good work.

After Getting the Job Details

The minute the sales person starts asking questions in a split shop where there’s a dedicated recruiter, the recruiter will start to listen in on your conversation. They will want to provide a candidate they know is close to meeting some of the requirements and get that resume and highlights in front of the sales exec. This way the sales exec can go from the last question to talking about the great candidate that is going to do a great job for the client. Many good sales execs will actually email the candidate over to the client while the client is still on the phone and go through it together.

“Well we have just the person. We spoke to Jane last week and she’s been doing x, y, z for 5 years. The last place she was at she saved so many dollars for doing….one of her references said….bill rate for Jane would be….” The sales exec can quote specific bill rate for Jane because the recruiter already locked down the candidate’s pay expectations. Throw in the fact that the firm and the client are looking over Jane’s resume at the same time and you can see how things can move along rather quickly.

Powerful. Impactful.

Next Steps in the Process

Presenting a candidate while on the phone does not always happen. It’s time to solidify next steps.

The firm wants to be accountable. “Mrs.Client, I’m going to get off the phone and provide these details to our recruiter. She’s going to talk to me about viable candidates and I’ll get you their info within an hour.” It could be “get you their info by tomorrow morning” if it is a difficult skill set.

Managers, firms do this so they can act in a timely fashion. You’re using them for a reason. You have customer or a supervisor that hired you for your expertise, you are hiring a firm because of theirs. Some firms can be quite aggressive and can get quite excited to make things happen for you. You can strike a balance as long as solid expectations are set. Keep in mind, the firm needs to provide courteous service to the candidates as well. They don’t want to get a candidate all hyped up about a fantastic opportunity only to have a client drag it out for days and weeks without some type of communication/follow up. It is ok to tell the firm, “look, I appreciate your tenacity, but I’m really busy. I will follow up with you…” and be sure you do what you say. This latter part should be business professionalism one oh one, and not just because your a client holding the wallet. The firm will appreciate this.

Clients are you experiencing this attention to detail? Firms, are you getting everything you need? Leave feedback in the comments section.

For info on how this translates over to presenting the opportunity to the candidate, check our article Inside Staffing – The Candidate Experience

Next article – Inside Staffing – The Human Resources Connection

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