Hi Danny,

I recently got into one of those situations with a long term client where I had presented the candidate a few months ago and he wasn’t interested. He knew him from a previous project they had worked on, liked him, but decided to pass. Fast forward 4 months, I find out my candidate is now going to work for them! Things changed, someone left his organization, this guy was a good fit and he contacted him on his own. I called him regarding an active candidate we are in the process of interviewing and he is planning on making an offer. He brought up the other situation first and said he wasn’t trying to be unfair, but since he had known the guy from before and they’d tried to get him on board in the past, he wanted to think about a compromise.

There was never any discussion in the past that they were pursuing him, only that they knew him, but took a pass when I presented him. When circumstances changed he took the opportunity and did a back door on me.

I don’t want to give him the upper hand but they have been a client of mine for 18 yrs. Both of these candidates are well in the $200+ range so the fee will be high. I have always given them 25% because that’s how we had set it up initially and they always hired from me.

Now what do I do about the backdoor placement? I think I earned my fee and don’t want to negotiate. He hasn’t gotten back to me, so I left him a voicemail this morning saying, “Hi di@@wad (not really), I’d like to get the candidate’s base salary as my managing partner wants to send over an invoice, look forward to hearing from you.” All said in a very professional cheery voice.

I know he wants to negotiate to a lower fee, but I feel like I’m being taken advantage of, and given the long history with them it’s a tough call. I don’t want to risk the relationship, yet I clearly did my job professionally. I did speak with the candidate and he acknowledged he accepted the position but does not want to get involved in this.

What would Danny do???

My Response:

I thought it was allergy season, but since your scenario has happened to you, me and two of my members this week, apparently it is also “shameless sleazy clients” season! If they come up with a pill for that I will pour them down my throat like Tic Tacs after a red eye.

So, breathe deeply with me…SIGH! You presented your candidate. You didn’t get them an interview. So you didn’t establish legal procuring cause. If this were to ever get between lawyers, God forbid, I would rather be on their side.

But!! Good news!

Your client is admitting you are due “something”

It is a long-term client and you have a relationship

Bad News?

It is a long-term client and you have a relationship.

Let’s get real here. I know you’re angry. (The one that happened to us this week was with a client we have done a TON of work for, but no matter, a board member knew our guy and is SURE he would have passed him on to our VP any minute. Grrr. My point is “I get it! I feel your pain.”) The fees are 50K. That’s serious money. If you send a full 50K invoice, they will not pay, will turn it over to legal, you will spend 20K chasing the 50K for 1-2 years and then probably lose. Sorry. And bonus, most clients don’t like to do business with someone who is suing them. So you will likely lose the client.

I have been single long enough to realize a little compromise might have been the better tactic to choose rather than insisting I was right, ranting, holding my breath, storming out, doing hole shots in my own driveway and channeling Sue Mengers in texts that didn’t even make sense to me when I sent them. “You’ll never eat lunch in this town again!!”

Dial it down. Call (or email if they won’t respond), and tell them that while you feel you deserve the full fee, and that it is disappointing to not be given the benefit of the doubt after lo these many years (So excited to be able to use the word “lo”), but you realize you are having an emotional reaction and that a compromise between two professionals is in order. There is a lot of value left to be delivered in closing and securing and onboarding the candidate, so you will accept a one time “situational reduction” and charge a flat fee of $37,500 (totally random, pick a number). Then ask if this is acceptable and tell them you value your relationship more than you do the principle behind the situation.

Big Pants on…live to fight another day!

Follow Up:

Today we finally reached a resolution on the backdoor hire. We have agreed upon a reduced fee of 20K based on assumptions made by them that they had “done all the work”, but hadn’t communicated with us or included us in the hiring process and therefore didn’t think I earned my fee. It was a difficult call, but in the end I want to keep the long term relationship I’ve had for 18 yrs., keep their respect and move forward. We are both satisfied with the resolution and I already have another candidate before them he really likes and the fee will be substantial.

Just wanted to give you a follow up and let you know that you can turn things around…….sometimes!!!