5 Times When It’s Okay to Turn Down a Job Order

Everyone in the staffing industry loves getting job orders—sometimes even to the point of celebrating their arrival with alarms, fanfares, and bells in the office! When I was in the staffing industry, for example, my office rang a bell (originally we used a gong but we changed to something quieter when high-volume orders came in and the loud gong became annoying) when we submitted a qualified candidate for a qualified job.

Note that I wrote “a qualified job.” We didn’t accept every job that came through our door—and neither should you. True, job orders are the bread and butter of staffers. But if you want your organization to be successful, you must use discernment when deciding which orders to take.

When a job order meets at least one of the criteria below, you may be better off declining it:

1. The client is sharing the order with anyone who calls.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Accepting these types of orders immediately devalues your firm both as a recruiter and as a value-added partner. As soon as you accept the order, the race is on to submit a marginally qualified warm body faster than the competition. When agencies undermine their own value this way, both they and their clients suffer. In short, everyone loses!

Run—don’t walk—as fast as you can away from these jobs!

2. The position is too difficult to fill.

I’m certainly not saying you should shy away from hard work. But I do urge you to make sure that you have a reasonable chance of fulfilling any task you undertake.

Think back to that time in your career when an executive assistant opening took nine months to fill because the executive’s ideal candidate didn’t really exist. (If it wasn’t an executive assistant job, it was some other position.) Every staffer has a similar tale to tell.

Some positions are excessively difficult to fill because of unrealistic expectations related to the preferred candidate’s skills, experience, or personality. When you spot one of those jobs, think twice about accepting it.

(Before you walk away, though, try your hand at a bit of consulting and see if you can talk some sense into the client. Who knows—you might be the first recruiter to call him or her out on those unreasonable expectations!)

3. The position is not in your wheelhouse.

You may think that any job order is a good job order for you. But taking a job outside your area of expertise could lead to a situation in which everyone loses as you struggle to fill the position (or fill it poorly—or not at all), and your clients have to deal with poorly matched placements or inadequate staffing.

Don’t forget to consider the possible hit to your bottom line, too. If your firm does mostly IT staffing, for example, but you land an order for 25 call-center reps, will the return on those placements justify the time diverted from your core business? (And in this particular example, you’d also have to be prepared to deal with the high turnover that plagues high-volume call-center staffing.)

4. The client has a history of poor communication or poor follow-through.

Have you ever had a client who needed an employee ASAP, so you put all hands on deck and submitted three awesome candidates in record time … only to get radio silence in return? I’m sure that pretty much every staffer has been in this situation before.

After this happened to me a few times when I was in the staffing industry, I decided not to accept any more job orders from those particular clients. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

5. The client wants you to staff the position for peanuts.

I’ve written before about avoiding the markup conversation. I realize, however, that sometimes that conversation is inevitable. So when the talk turns to money, make sure you can afford to accept a particular order. You work in a world where sales team and recruiter compensation is driven by margins, so you need to be clear on your bottom line and walk away from business that could ultimately result in a net loss for you.


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