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The Power of “No”

Sara Eke set up her recruitment business, Sara Eke Recruitment more than a decade ago and has seen many changes in employment trends and attitudes towards both permanent and temporary staff.

 Here, she explains that whilst the notion of “the customer is always right” is a great philosophy to adopt, it’s sometimes best to not take on that customer in the first place.

When I set up my business 12 years ago I wanted to be there for everyone and I found myself saying yes to everyone and everything that came along. It quickly became apparent that I had to learn to say no. Sadly, it’s easier said than done.

Last year, we had a number of clients who didn’t treat us very well – they didn’t respond to emails or telephone messages, wouldn’t answer our queries, didn’t provide job descriptions or even outlines, requested CVs but didn’t look at them (in one case for over a month), rejected candidates without reason and were basically uncommunicative, remote and annoying.

I like to build relationships with my clients and candidates and I like clients to think I will take the effort to get to know exactly what they want and to provide only candidates who match their criteria. However, it’s a two-way street, I need something in return from them so that I can offer the very best service to them and to the candidate. I need to know exactly what they are looking for – “I want someone local who can do a bit of typing” is not an acceptable job description.

I need to know the culture of the company – “we work hard and play hard” sounds like a line from a bad ‘80s film and frankly frightens me. I need to know what sort of person they envisage for the role, for example, do they want someone with an outgoing personality, able to pick up the phone to customers and hit the ground running or would they rather have someone who just puts their head down and gets on with the work?

So after a lot of hard work, we find someone who lives locally, can do a bit of typing and isn’t put off by hard work or hard playing and we tell them what we know about the client – trying to manage their expectations by saying we know the client is very busy at the moment and we may not have any news for a few days.

We email our candidate’s CV to the client and we wait. An acknowledgement might be nice but no … we wait. After a day or so we ring the client – of course it goes to voicemail – our client is far too busy to pick up the phone. We leave a message – “just wondering if you’ve had a chance to review the CV we sent across”. And we wait. The candidate emails – “have you heard anything”. What can you say???

The one thing that our clients forget is that we are their ambassadors and we have to keep candidates up to date. This is very difficult when you don’t hear anything back. They seem to forget that people talk and that their reputation is left in our hands.

So we say that we haven’t heard anything yet but we’ll be in touch as soon as we do – and the candidates thinks a little bit less of us and probably a lot less of the client.

Then we email with that pleading first sentence- “I know you’re busy but …” and still there’s no reply.

By this time, we’ve wasted hours speaking to the client in the first place trying to get information out of him or her about the role etc, advertising the vacancy, working our way through the response which, depending upon the role, can mean in excess of 100 CVs, speaking to potential candidates, forwarding their CVs … and waiting …

And then an email arrives from the client. Has he read the CV? Has he the important answers to our queries? Does he want to see the candidate?

Of course not – he’s politely telling us that a friend of the receptionist’s mother-in-law’s acupuncturist has filled the job.

We grit our teeth and reply that we’re pleased he’s been able to fill the role and we hope he’ll bear us in mind for any work in the future. We smile sweetly.

And then we remove the adverts, contact all the candidates who have been on hold, sort out the paperwork and mutter under our breaths that a bit of communication isn’t too much to ask. And it shouldn’t be, but sometimes things are in our own hands, so this year we are going to toughen up and learn how to say “No”.

We’re giving a big fat NO to the clients without job specs, salaries or job titles. No to the clients who haven’t had sign off for the vacancy yet or who are waiting for funding. No to the client who refuses to deal with me or sends me semi-literate emails and who treats me like “just another agency”.

Since I started the business we have been quick to stop dealing with candidates who have let us down, lied on their CV or have been rude – thankfully there have not been too many of them.

Now it’s time to embrace the power of no with our clients. No is easily confused with negativity but I feel that where negativity is an ongoing attitude, NO is a moment of clear choice announcing something positive about you.

I am taking personal responsibility over this – I will not put up with your unprofessionalism because I do not wish to be associated with it. Having built up a good reputation the last thing I want to do is place candidates with such clients as you who can quickly damage your own reputation.

I must stress that 99% of my clients are lovely, but the time taken to micro manage the other 1% has an adverse effect on the majority.

Be assured, my aim is to get the right person for the right job at the right time and I’ll always stay true to my principles and values and focus on my own goals. After all every “no” makes space for the perfect “yes” …

Sara Eke can be contacted at Sara Eke Recruitment Limited – Tel : 01665 579 056 Mobile : 07971 025 199

Email : [email protected]

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