How to Motivate a Recruiter

Not All Jobs Are Equal

Motivating your recruiter matters because the majority of the time they will be working on multiple briefs for multiple clients looking for candidates with similar skillsets. With plenty of roles to choose from, good recruiters will be selective about which roles they invest their energy in pursuing. So, do you want a recruiter with fewer roles? (probably not) and, how can you ensure your role stays at the top of the pile? (by helping make the recruiter as efficient as possible). I’ll explain in more detail below.

Why choose a recruiter who has more roles than they can fill

The best recruiters cherry pick the best roles and because they are able to choose the best roles they also attract the best candidates. The way they are able to cherry pick the best roles is to consistently seek out new roles and clients irrespective of how many they are already working. The least attractive roles then get less attention or are passed to other consultants.

Size doesn’t matter (much)

While the fee from a role matters what recruiter focus on is efficiency. Maximising their chances of generating a fee efficiently is the most effective way to get them to prioritise your role. Recruiters instinctively know the time they need to invest to find good quality candidates for each role as well as the likelihood of their efforts generating a fee – the more recruiters working on the role the lower their chances. The size of the fee is only the third consideration and tends to vary less than the other two.

How you are the biggest factor affecting efficiency

The first thing that significantly impacts how long a role will take to fill, is the brief. The recruiter’s job is to find you a number of people who would suit your culture and have the skills and experience to do the role well. A brief that is too vague will result in a lot of back and forth wasting your time and the recruiters. At the other end of the scale a brief that is too prescriptive may simply be impossible to meet. Working with your recruiter(s) to develop the job description will immediately put your role higher up the pile as the recruiter is more likely to feel they can meet the brief.

The second way clients transform efficiency is during the recruitment process itself. Recruiters will prioritise organisations that:

  • offer a competitive package - in a candidate-short market, like we have at the moment, good candidates will typically receive multiple offers and are unlikely to accept anything below the market rate.
  • give candidates an equal chance irrespective of who sourced them – some organisations favour candidates from specific recruiters (great if you are them) or from their in-house teams. If recruiters have put good candidates forward for multiple roles with a client but have rarely made a fee, that client goes to the bottom of the pile.
  • have an efficient recruitment process – there is little point in spending time identifying and coaching a candidate through a process that is going to take so long the candidate will already have accepted an offer elsewhere.

Giving your recruiter a head start

More and more of our clients are finding that briefing multiple agencies on a role is not always the way to produce the best results. Far from making them lazy, giving one recruiter a head start of a couple of weeks will result in them spending more time on the role because their chances of filling it are much higher. They can spend that time finding the best two or three candidates, not the first ones who could do the job, as no other recruiter is going to send that CV in first and that means you will spend less time recruiting and see better candidates.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer candidates will be considered either – typically if three agencies are working a role all of them will be advertising on the same jobs boards and running similar searches so there will be significant overlap in terms of profiles reviewed and candidates approached. Added to that, given each recruiter is competing with two other agencies they will need to work on at least two other roles at the same time to increase the likelihood they’ll hit their targets.

If the recruiter hasn’t delivered at the end of the head start you can always use other agencies but that tends to be the exception.


Offering a recruiter a retainer goes one step further. It gives them a licence to block out time to focus on a role. It is a particularly effective technique to encourage your recruiter to focus on hard to fill roles where they could spend a lot of time searching unsuccessfully for a candidate that meets the job requirements or where the role is especially important And you as the client want to be sure that the recruiter has thoroughly scoped the market to identify the best possible candidates.

Clare Wight is managing director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: