Five Ways to Keep a Nightmare Client Content

March 17, 2022
Lisa Walder Founder

There’s no way around it: nightmare clients are going to be part of your life as a recruiter.

For some, navigating the onslaught of absurd requests, micromanagement and communication drought is the worst part of the job.

But once you know how to handle them, most “nightmare clients” really aren’t so bad.

Here are five things you need to do master the art:

1. Set realistic expectations

The single most common trait of nightmare clients is that they set absurd expectations – and don’t seem to be aware that what they’re asking for is impossible.

Rookie recruiters often assume this is just part of the job – that they just have to accept whatever wild demands are made. 

But part of being a good recruiter is managing these expectations in a confident and considerate way.

Nothing good will come of pretending you can deliver the perfect candidate by midday tomorrow if you’ve only just started putting out feelers.

So you need to focus on negotiating realistic deadlines at every step of the process.

And never be afraid to be honest about a particularly unreasonable request.

2. Set clear plans

Sometimes, your more realistic expectations will be met with pushback from clients.

The best way to avoid this is by making clear your plans for the full recruitment process.

When clients make specific unrealistic requests, they are usually trying to assert control over the overarching success of your recruitment campaign.

And by laying out your plans and projections for when, why and how you’re going to deliver what they want – you can help calm them down and win their trust.

3. Locate the real problem

We often talk about clients that are “impossible to please”.

But a lot of the time, the problem is really that we’re taking their requests too literally.

Communication is difficult, and sometimes clients simply have a hard time articulating what they really want.

If they keep bugging you to send over analytics from your latest job ad, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really interested in the data.

In fact, it’s far more likely that they want reassurance that the process is going as planned – and that you’re going to bring them great candidates.

Decoding clients’ behaviour in this way can be like taking a weight off your shoulders.

It turns out, they don’t mean to be difficult – they’re just not sure how to ask for what they want.

And once you understand what the real reason for their behaviour is, you can figure out a better way to respond – one that will actually satisfy them!

4. Give a reason for everything you do

We’ve all had overbearing clients.

They want to know everything you do, and always have an opinion on how you should do it.

Sometimes, this is just an unfortunate personality trait they’ve got going on.

But just as often, they’re micromanaging because they’re anxious – and want reassurance.

The key to dealing with this is to give clear reasons for everything you do.

Even if it’s obvious – just explain exactly why you needed to rule out a particular candidate out or include a particular piece of information in the job ad.

Not only will this give them more confidence in your competence – it will make them feel included in the process, and therefore less anxious.

5. Let off steam with colleagues

Finally, I think there’s a lot to be said for just getting frustration out of your system.

We have to respect our clients, and our goals need to be aligned with them at all times.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be honest with coworkers about whatever absurd demand has been made of you that morning.

It’s important to give yourself permission to do this.

Because otherwise, that frustration is gonna hit boiling point.

And nobody wants to be around when that happens!