The Curse of the Middle-Man: Managing Client & Candidate Expectations

Julie Futcher - Managing Client & Candidate Expectations

There are few things more frustrating than being the middle-man in a game of telephone tennis where both parties have their own agenda and expectations.

As a recruiter, like any other salesperson, your task is to solve customer’s problems. However, unlike any other sales role, you’re not selling a product or a service, you’re selling a person.

That person has a life, complete with all the responsibilities and urgencies that entails. Similarly, your Client – the ‘customer’ you’re selling this person to – has an agenda, targets to meet and, as if this wasn’t enough, is also the person paying your bill.

Phew! No wonder it can feel like a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times. Trying to manage all these individual needs and expectations, all at the same time as trying to hit your own targets, keep your own department afloat and feed your own family.

With this in mind, here are my top 5 tips for managing your Client and Candidate’s expectations:

#1. Say everything with clarity right from the get-go

Right from the beginning, it’s your job to convey messages and expectations clearly. Let me give you an example. Recently, we came up against a Client who, despite our nudges, didn’t get an interview date in the diary until 4 weeks after the job ad went out. The outcome? All the brilliant Candidates who applied had been snapped up elsewhere.

With the benefit of hindsight, we realised there were two things we could have done which would have avoided the wait and the toing and froing:

  1. Asked for an interview date before the job ad went out
  2. Been much clearer with the Client to let them know they would lose these Candidates if they weren’t more proactive

Negotiating is part of the job but expressing your expectations clearly and defining your processes right from the start will avoid a lot of angst and confusion later on.

#2. Never stop communicating

As the middle-man, it’s your job to make sure everyone is kept in the loop. From the initial pre-screen call, to the interview, through the waiting period and, ultimately to their first day, you serve as a support network and point of contact for the Candidate.

Similarly, you’re being employed by the Client and, as such, need to be letting them know what stage you’re at, how things are looking and what they should be doing to aid your search.

Maintaining communication with all parties shows you’re invested and keeps their nerves and worries at bay.

#3. Set your timeline out at the beginning

Before you begin advertising a position or speccing in a Candidate, have your timeline in place and be ready to advocate for it and hold people accountable to it. Here’s what you should ask before you start:

Filling a position for a Client:

  • When will you put the job ad up?
  • When will interviews take place?
  • When will the second round of interviews happen?
  • When would they like the new person to start?

Speccing out a Candidate:

  • When does their current employment end?
  • Do they have leeway on notice period?
  • When are they available to attend an interview?

Setting your timeline out at the beginning helps you to manage communications between the parties and keep things running smoothly.

#4. Keep the Candidate updated and on your side

Remember, even if a Candidate doesn’t win the role you first put them up for, you can spec them out to other Clients or local businesses. One job ad has the potential to bring in a pool of great CVs which have a life that’s longer than this one role.

Keep these people on your side. Demonstrate to them that you have their interests at heart, understand what they’re looking for and how important it is to them and, ultimately, make sure that you can place them in a brilliant role.

You achieve this by keeping the channels of communication open, checking in regularly to calm their nerves and helping them know what to expect at each stage.

#5. Give yourself room to overdeliver

One of the worst things you can do is offer more than you can reasonably achieve. If anything, give yourself a little room to overdeliver on your promises.

This isn’t always easy. By telling a Candidate that the interview won’t be for another two weeks, you run the risk of them going elsewhere or getting snapped up by a competitor. However, if there’s really no way of pulling the date forward, the worst thing you can do is keep them hanging or assure them you can get an earlier date when you can’t.

Ultimately, this will result in frustrated Candidates, Clients who feel rushed and a very stressed you in the middle!

So, I hope that’s given you a few good hints and tips on how to manage your Clients and Candidate’s expectations. I’d love to hear how you get on!

The Sales Manager are a sales training, recruitment and telemarketing company based in Northampton. To get in touch with any questions or to speak to us about any of our services, call 01604 532004 or email

See you next time.

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