Managing customer expectations, regardless of service or industry, is key to success. For Consultants however, managing expectations is not only key, it can also be difficult. The challenge stems from the fact that the product a Consultant delivers isn’t a product at all, but a person. The entire human experience, the good and the bad, comes with each candidate you submit, which means there is a wealth of factors involved that are completely beyond your control. Both you and a client may be expecting one thing from a candidate, only to have it suddenly turn out to be something completely different. When things go wrong clients will end up looking to you for an explanation. With that in mind, what can you do to ensure your clients, whether they be internal or external, have the right expectations?

The first thing to do is to actually have a conversation about what those expectations are. You would be surprised at how few Consultant actually do this. Oftentimes the discussion is limited to discussing estimated time to fill, desired skill set, and, at least for external Consultant, what kind of commission will be paid upon placement. However, there’s more that needs to be considered than just that. Here are some key points you should cover when you begin the recruitment process:

  • Which candidate skills are must-haves versus nice-to-haves
  • Anticipated number of qualified candidates to be delivered
  • Expected response times from hiring managers (this can be KILLER)
  • Type of feedback needed from hiring managers
  • Potential stumbling blocks in the recruitment process
  • How often the Consultant and the hiring manager should be coordinating
  • What feedback the Consultant can expect after a hire is made

Most of the points we’ve listed here centre on “communication”. With increased communication you’ll find that you’ll have an easier time managing expectations in the event that difficulties arise.

In addition to knowing what to cover, you also need to know how you should cover it. There are three basic points to keep in mind when setting expectations:

Undersell and over-deliver

An oldie but a goodie! One of the best ways to keep people happy is to beat their expectations. In order to safely do this we recommend committing only to things that you know you can do. This might not be sexy, but it allows you to be much more confident in your actions. Furthermore, it ensures that anything you deliver that falls above this minimum will be perceived as a bonus.

Write it down

This doesn’t necessarily have to be part of a contract, but creating a written outline of expectations for all parties makes thing much clearer and avoids the misunderstandings that can come from a verbal agreement. It also makes it clear what the client will be responsible for throughout the process.

Use software that can keep people up to date on your process

When people can see how your recruitment pipelines are growing and developing they’ll have a better appreciation of your work and the value you deliver. Some Consultant only send CVs to hiring managers at the very end of the process, but until those CVs come in some hiring managers might be thinking the Consultants aren’t doing any work.

Keep it Human!

The last thing to keep in mind is the “Keep it Human” rule. This is where you need to remember that you are not just dealing with quotas, you’re dealing with human beings. In the past we’ve talked about the importance of personalizing communication with candidates, but it can be equally important to inform your clients about the unique personalities and needs of candidates they see. Whether you are dealing with a high-potential, in-demand candidate or someone with unique family responsibilities you can use this information to help the hiring manager understand how the company should be pitched, what kind of accommodations will be needed to maximize performance, how the onboarding should go, etc.

While some might say that this is the responsibility of the hiring manager and HR, you as the Consultant are the one who can shape expectations in a way to make sure that the human factor, the personal stuff that we all deal with at some point or another, is seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

Managing expectations is key to your success as a Consultant. If you take the time to cover all they key points, discuss, create, and share expectations in the right way, and remember to keep it human you’ll find that the process will not only go more smoothly, but that both your hiring managers and candidates will have a better experience.