What is a client?


A client is a person, group or business who uses and pays for advice or services provided by professionals such as lawyers, accountants and recruiters.  

While clients are similar to customers, there are a few fundamental differences between the two terms. Customers typically come to a business, such as a supermarket or clothing store, to buy the products or services that they offer. Clients, on the other hand, buy advice and service solutions which are more personalised to their needs. Clients also tend to form a more long-term relationship with businesses, which means greater loyalty and spend.

In the context of recruitment, a client refers to an organisation or company that is seeking to fill a job vacancy or hire new employees. The client provides the job description, requirements and other necessary information to the recruitment agency or team, who then work to identify, evaluate and present potential candidates to the client for consideration.

History of client-led recruitment

The concept of client-led recruitment took off in the 1970s. Before then, recruiters worked with and were paid by candidates to find suitable roles. Under a client-led model, however, the roles are reversed – recruiters approach candidates directly to inform them about clients’ needs and vacancies.

Recruitment firms aim to build up a portfolio of clients that fit their niche or strengths. Once the recruitment firm and client start working together, the aim is to foster a longer-term relationship where the recruiter helps the client identify their hiring needs and fills any vacancies by sourcing suitable candidates.

The shift to the client-led model was driven by primarily by the evolving dynamics of the job market and the increasing demand for specialised talent. In the client-led model, recruitment firms prioritise understanding the unique needs, culture and requirements of their clients. This approach enables them to tailor their candidate search to the required skill sets, experiences and attributes.

Recent trends in client-led recruitment

The jobs market underwent a profound transformation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This period witnessed a notable demographic shift, particularly among individuals aged 50 and above, as a substantial number either opted for retirement or faced obstacles to working due to persistent health issues, including the lingering effects of ‘long Covid’.

The Great Resignation further reshaped workforce dynamics, with a growing number of individuals choosing to leave their current employment. Multiple factors are driving this phenomenon, such as employers no longer offering the flexible or remote work options people enjoyed during lockdowns, or the pursuit of roles that align more closely with personal values. Young people in particular are seeking a greater sense of purpose in their professional lives.

This shift has propelled the job market towards a candidate-driven paradigm, where employees wield greater influence over working preferences, compensation and benefits. A surge in vacancies and the changing expectations of workers have contributed to this new dynamic, where job seekers are able to dictate their work style, remuneration and overall job packages. This means that clients need to be more pro-active, listening to the needs of candidates and offering attractive and competitive terms.

The recent acceptance of remote and flexible work arrangements has prompted some clients to broaden their search for suitable candidates, even extending beyond geographical boundaries. Collaborating closely with their recruitment partners, clients have embraced technological solutions that facilitate remote candidate interviews and onboarding, catering even to candidates located overseas. The focus on diversity and inclusion has also prompted the integration of candidate evaluation tools to ensure a fair and unbiased hiring process.

Social media platforms have gained prominence as effective tools for both sourcing and engaging potential candidates, particularly in creative job roles. They have also emerged as powerful platforms for showcasing company culture, new product launches and other significant developments to both active and passive candidates.

Recruitment firms, on the other hand, are harnessing the potential of social media to not only attract clients but also to establish their expertise and sector knowledge. This includes creating written content for channels such as LinkedIn or videos for YouTube that highlight their knowledge and sector expertise.

Additionally, the use of performance metrics such as time to hire and candidates per hire has gained traction among clients as a means to assess recruiters’ effectiveness and plan future strategies.

Advantages of client-led recruitment

By putting clients at the forefront, recruitment firms can deliver more targeted and efficient solutions, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful candidate placements.

Clients will do your marketing for you if you deliver results, as their word of mouth could lead to more clients knocking at your door.

Disadvantages of client-led recruitment

Focusing on client needs could result in recruiters losing focus or overlooking the needs of the candidate.