How To Increase Fill Ratios While Decreasing Client-Related Frustrations

recruiting recruitment staffing Oct 04, 2023

Has your firm ever been busy with hard-to-fill jobs due to difficult clients? If so, what impact did this have on your revenue? How about your level of frustration and job satisfaction? 

Perhaps the most important ratio in the recruiting business is your fill ratio (the percentage of jobs you bring in that you fill). What's your firm's fill ratio? Are you satisfied with it? Low fill ratios negatively impact:

  • Client relationships
  • The amount of repeat business and referrals you receive
  • The confidence and morale of you and your staff
  • The revenue and profitability of your firm

Four factors determine your fill ratio:

  1. Client and job quality
  2. The quality of your job intake process
  3. The quality of your account management (client interactions after the job intake)
  4. The quality of your candidate delivery (recruiting process)

The purpose of this article is to address everything except candidate delivery.

Root causes of low fill ratios

All problems have symptoms and root causes. The symptoms are what you see (e.g., the client doesn't provide prompt feedback after submittals and interviews). The root causes are the core issues causing the problem (e.g., the client doesn't know or care about the impact of their lack of prompt feedback).

Below are the four root causes of low fill ratios. In any given situation, one or more of these are at play. As you improve in these four areas, your fill ratios will increase, and your frustrations will decrease:

1. Hiring Process Dysfunctions (HPDs) are related to the things the client does after you've submitted candidates that make it more difficult to fill the position.

If the client has significant HPDs and is unwilling to address them based on your advice, you have a high risk of failure in the search. If they agree to your specific expectations (e.g., providing feedback on submissions and interviews within 48 hours), your odds of success rise dramatically.  

A high-quality job intake call allows you to identify and address most of the client's HPDs. This is where you have the greatest ability to influence client expectations and behavior. The key principle to influencing your client is this: "People will do anything you ask if they understand why it's in their best interest."

2. Account Management Dysfunctions (AMDs) relate to things the Account Manager (AM) does or doesn't do after the job intake that lower your odds of filling the job. AMDs often relate to actions the AM didn't take that conveyed the message that the HPDs are acceptable. For example, the client agreed to provide feedback within 48 hours and then didn't comply. If the AM fails to remind them about the agreement, the client will likely believe that it is not really important to the AM.

There is an art and a science to good management that is a topic for a different article. A fundamental principle to manage clients effectively is to become a master of expectation setting using the "People will do anything you ask if they understand why it's in their best interest." principle.

3. Job Intake Dysfunctions (JIDs) arise because of an ineffective job intake process. Most recruiting firms utilize a subpar job intake process that lowers their fill ratios substantially. Performing a quality job intake is the single most crucial step in the search process and provides the following benefits for your recruiting firm: 

  • It helps you understand your client's "true needs." You won't get this information from a client-provided job description. 
  • It positions you as a trusted advisor, allowing you to influence your client on specs, comp, the hiring process, etc.
  • It permits you to identify the client's HPDs to address them on the intake call where you have a receptive audience.
  • It gives you an objective assessment of the client's level of influenceability and flexibility. These are key elements that determine client quality.

4. Poor Client Quality (PCQ) relates to problems with fillability that are client-imposedYou know you're dealing with a PCQ when your client is not open to your attempts to identify their fillability issues despite a quality JI and competent Account Management. The biggest danger in the search business is PCQ! 

If a client is open and flexible to your attempts to identify and correct their fillability issues, you probably have a good-quality client. Most PCQ issues can be determined during the job intake, but some you won't know until you start working on the search. The AM needs to address these issues when they are discovered. Remember, the key determinant of client quality is their willingness to be influenced by YOU to fix their problems!

Putting It All Together
Business development for recruiting firms should have two main objectives:
1. More high-quality clients.
2. Fewer low-quality clients.

The desire to prioritize more new jobs regardless of quality can quickly cause your fill ratio to plummet, and your failure and frustration skyrocket. This is an unwise business development strategy for recruiting firms. Quality Job Intakes and Account Management allow you to screen out low-quality clients before you've invested too much into the search. This leaves you with a greater percentage of quality clients and higher fill ratios. The above concepts provide you with a practical model to increase your fill ratios while decreasing your client-related frustrations.

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