5 Ways to know if a Company is a “Client” or “Customer”


As a third party recruiter, we are engaged in a partnership of sorts with our clients in the endeavor of recruiting talent.  It doesn’t take long to figure out if the company you are working with will ever become a true client or merely be  a customer. On the flip side, we find ourselves discovering whether we will be considered a true partner or consultant during the hiring process or if we will be relegated to the realm of merely a “vendor.”  I have found that these two questions are forever linked.

I’ve been in both scenarios and there is no comparison as to the quality of the relationship and the results. When we ar


e a true partner, our clients welcome, even solicit our insights and assistance as how to facilitate hiring the best possible person for their open assignment.  However, if we are merely a vendor to our customer, they see our contribution as an external, even superfluous component to their hiring process. They fail to fully understand the insight and influence that we have on the successful outcome of their hiring.  Very often, their own processes eliminate the best candidates from consideration.  For many larger companies, HR has developed hiring processes that they are compelled to adhere to which allows little or no room for the recruiter to impact the outcome.  I am mystified as to exactly why this is.  Perhaps it is because they have a distrust of the recruiter and want to remove their perceived bias from the equation.  Whatever the reason, they/HR often removes the recruiter from the process at their earliest possible opportunity and nearly always at their own peril.


As I consult with recruiters on building a meaningful Retained Search practice, I often encourage them to consider which of the companies they work with actually see them as consultants and which ones only see them as vendors.  Based upon their answer to that question, we know which companies are true clients and which are merely customers.  There is a huge difference between the two. My advice is to nurture the relationship with your clients and replace your customers with new clients. If you do, you will begin to see your stock go up and as you are more selective in your client selection, you will continue to enjoy your recruiting career more and produce greater outcomes for all parties.

How do you know if a company is a client or a customer?

1. Do they return your calls promptly?

2. Do they ask your opinion?

3. Do they take your advice when offered?

4. Do they allow you full access to the decision makers?

5. Are they willing to amend their process to get the right person?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, it is very likely that this is a mere customer who sees you as a vendor.

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3 thoughts on “5 Ways to know if a Company is a “Client” or “Customer”

  1. Drue, unfortunately we tend to be delusional when it comes to relationships with the companies we work with. These are excellent points to evaluate what our true relationship is….

  2. You forgot one Drue:

    Do they include you in the discussion at the beginning of the process – before they even decide if and what type of person to hire. Are you considered a part of their hiring team, helping to decide whether to hire or more people around for a better department or company?

    Now that’s a client!

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