Guide to exclusivity

  • 01-10-17
  • Geoff Balmer

Many misconceptions exist around the subject of exclusivity, the scenario where an employer gives a role brief to only one recruiter. This isn’t limited to the people doing the hiring either, many accounting recruiters are equally as guilty of not knowing the right time and place for exclusivity. This leads to further misconceptions and poor experiences. However, given the right role, company, recruiter and relationship, a one-on-one exclusive recruitment project can be a significant competitive advantage for both the employer and recruiter alike.

As an accounting employer, the key is knowing when it’s the right occasion to work with a recruiter exclusively and what you need to consider when agreeing to this arrangement. So, without further fuss, here is our guide to getting exclusivity right.


The words “exclusive” and “retained” are often interchanged incorrectly in recruitment circles. Exclusivity in accounting recruitment pertains to a client giving an assignment to one and only one recruiter for a pre-determined amount of time, to search and fill. Any financial commitment is still contingent on the recruiter identifying and securing a successful candidate. If the accounting recruiter doesn’t find the right candidate during their period of exclusivity, the client has no further obligation to the agency.

Retained assignments are essentially a professional services relationship (and the core domain of executive search firms). In these arrangements, the recruiter is usually paid for their time in thirds: one-third of the anticipated fee upfront, another third at the acceptance of a shortlist, and the final third upon the successful hiring of a candidate. The big difference is that both parties are committed to one another until the role is filled.


Whilst the benefits to a recruiter of an exclusive assignment are fairly obvious, there can be many benefits for the employer too.


When an employer gives a requirement to multiple accounting recruiters, each is then competing with the other to get candidates to the hiring manager. This can be a positive, – there is a built-in sense of urgency as often the same candidates are registered with multiple agencies.

On the flip side, the issue with this is around the quality of the process that is taking place behind the scenes. In an exclusive assignment, recruiters are able to take more time to plan, map out the landscape, search, headhunt or deep-dive into talent pools, finding the two or three very best candidates in the Sydney accounting market, rather than the candidates who are most obvious (it’s not uncommon for these to be very different). When the Recruitment Consultant can work in the knowledge that they won’t be pipped to the post, there is no need to rush any part of the process. Think about when you know you can work on something without pressure. While pressure can sometimes drive people to work harder, security enables a greater level of preparation and planning. With recruiters, they can go into more depth in interviews and be more judicious when screening, which inevitably leads to a higher standard of candidates being presented to you that align with your required competencies.


This might sound strange to say when, for the majority of the time, the tried and true statement of ‘many hands make light work’ holds true. But giving a brief exclusively to only one recruiter saves you from having to give the same job brief, over and over again, in multiple meetings with multiple recruiters. It also saves you time in fielding and siphoning through large volumes of resumes and potentially having to wade through the murky area of duplicate candidate submissions.


You will also see that recruiters prioritise this exclusive work over other “competitive” work, all available resources will be thrown at it, covering the market as much as possible, because it makes commercial sense to do so. This means that the chances of getting a great candidate are heightened, as they are the only ones working on a job brief.


Having just one organisation represent you and your role in the marketplace increases your level of control as to what is said about your company and where. It also allows for a more controlled and engaged candidate experience that accurately reflects your brand – and as we’ve covered previously, employer brand is something that’s becoming increasingly crucial.

This is particularly important at the executive level, where the role is often highly confidential and the employer does not want the general market to be aware of a change in leadership before they are ready to publicly announce it. By reducing the number of people with access to that information, you drastically reduce the chances of anything leaking out.

When an exclusive relationship is formed, your recruitment partner becomes a trusted advisor. They can talk to you about the market (and to the market about you), your brand, where you sit compared to the competition, and your competitors’ activities. While it’s not impossible in a non-exclusive arrangement, the access that exclusivity enables on both sides makes it easier for the recruiter to come and discuss any difficulties there may be with the job, whether that be location, rate or salary, or even a company perception issue, which in turn makes it easier for them to represent your brand effectively.


While exclusive engagements almost always result in a better outcome for our clients and candidates, that doesn’t mean that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, when there is a role for which our client is looking for a ‘purple unicorn’ – a candidate with a very specific set of skills and experience – we don’t ask for exclusivity. This is because we know that our reputation is at stake if what is available in the market doesn’t match up with what the client is looking for, and more importantly, we may not be able to produce the outcomes our client is looking for. While exclusivity in recruitment is great for many reasons, being given an exclusive assignment and not having anything to show for it at the end is bad for everybody involved. While this is a rare situation, given our specialist nature as a recruiter for the Sydney Accounting market, we’re honest with our clients about how their expectations match up with the talent available and are happy for them to cast their net as wide as possible in order to have a better chance at finding the person they’re looking for.


Most young recruiters, working for large multinationals are trained to ask or pitch for an exclusive assignment on every occasion. Too many just do this by rote and for the wrong reasons – mostly financial ones. Notice how we didn’t mention cost as a benefit? This is because whilst there is an opinion in the market that exclusive briefs should come at a discounted cost, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, at the executive end of the scale, the cost actually goes up! This is because you’re getting exclusive access to the agency’s resources, becoming more of a priority internally resulting in recruiters dedicating more time and energy to your needs.

This ties into the best reason to partner with a recruiter via an exclusive arrangement – the quality and assurance that your needs will be met. Exclusivity ensures a more holistic search for the best candidate for your role, not just the candidate that looks best and is available right now.

While it’s something rarely thought of by clients, exclusivity if handled properly and managed in a thorough manner, can have real benefits for all parties involved, client, candidate and recruiter. At Richard Lloyd, we like nothing more than a win/win/win situation, so if you are still unsure if your role would be better suited being sent to the masses or to just one great recruiter, contact us here and let’s discuss which option will be best for your business.

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