2nd January 2023

How to Onboard Clients as a Recruitment Agency


What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of introducing a new client to a recruitment agency and helping them understand the services offered by the agency. Knowing how to onboard clients successfully is of fundamental importance in building a successful working relationship with a client, as it helps to ensure that both the agency and the client have a clear understanding of their expectations and responsibilities.

Why is client onboarding important?

The question of how to onboard clients is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps establish trust and credibility between the agency and the client. By taking the time to carefully explain the services offered by the agency and how they will benefit the client, the agency can build a strong and lasting relationship with the client. This can help to increase the likelihood of repeat business from the client and can also lead to positive word-of-mouth recommendations from the client to others in their industry.

Secondly, knowing how to onboard clients helps to ensure that both sides are on the same page when it comes to the recruitment process. By clearly explaining the steps involved in the recruitment process, the agency can help the client understand what to expect and it can also help to identify any potential challenges or obstacles that may arise during the recruitment process. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications and can help to ensure that the recruitment process is as smooth and efficient as possible.

How to onboard a new client in six easy steps

1. Ensure contracts and agreements are in place

Recruitment is an important discipline. However it is also complex, so it is important to formally establish the commercial basis of the business relationship with your recruitment agency’s clients in a way that provides clarity for both sides.

Subsequently, before the start of any formal collaboration with a new recruitment agency client, it is essential the client onboarding process starts by making sure that the paperwork is all in order and that an agreement has been reached over terms and conditions.

Contracts and the fine print are critical to setting the boundaries of the relationship. This includes the scope of the agency’s brief, what is expected of the agency by the client, fees and rates, as well as payment terms.

2. Schedule a kick-off meeting with the client

Another primary step to onboarding clients is to organise an appropriate meeting to ensure alignment and mutual understanding. Think of it as a project kick-off meeting. Coordinate diaries to ensure that all the key stakeholders are invited and can attend. Lead recruiters and account managers on the agency side need to be introduced to key contacts on the client side.

Of course, with video conferencing everybody’s favourite time and money-saving web app, this has never been easier. However, as with all new B2B partnerships, it may be useful to have a face-to-face (F2F) meeting to properly establish an interpersonal dimension to the business relationship. 

3. Ensure you thoroughly understand the client’s needs

A key outcome of the client onboarding meeting is to fully identify the client’s needs. As part of the pre-sales process, you will probably have gained a good understanding, however, it is now time to refine it.

Discovering their specific needs is a conversation that often happens in tandem with asking them about their pain points with recruitment. Assuming the client isn’t a startup, it’s highly likely they will have used the services of a recruitment agency before. It might be they didn’t like the previous agency’s approach, It might be that their approach was good, but it didn’t produce enough talent of suitable calibre.

As part of their process of selecting your agency, they may well have identified that you are the solution to their problems! A good approach is to conduct a thorough needs assessment, which can help the agency understand the client’s strategic recruitment needs – their goals, objectives and challenges when it comes to recruitment. A client questionnaire is a useful tool for gathering assessment information.

4. Set out a tactical plan to fit with each client’s strategic hiring objectives

In response to performing a strategic assessment as part of the client onboarding process, develop a tactical plan. This outlines how your agency is going to design and execute the recruitment process so that it ties in with the client’s strategic recruitment needs.

Developing a recruitment plan that sets out the process steps the agency will use to identify and attract potential candidates, includes, but is not restricted to:

Explain this process to the client and document it in detail. It demonstrates your agency has a clear understanding of the client’s needs, a pillar for establishing a long and successful future relationship.

5. Support your new agency clients throughout the hiring process

As part of the client onboarding process, it is essential to fully support your clients by keeping them in the loop during the hiring process. Good communication in the shape of regular and timely updates helps ensure clients remain engaged throughout the hiring process.

Inviting stakeholders to scheduled calls is a good way and provides everyone with the opportunity to engage with the process and sets the baseline for how hiring will work in the future, once the client onboarding process is over.

During the first hires you conduct on behalf of a client, regular engagement allows your agency to address any questions or concerns new clients may have and allows you to ‘debug’ your process or further refine your tactical plan for successfully hiring to meet client needs. It isn’t over once the hire is made and the role is recruited. Following up with the client and the hired candidate to determine the success of the hire also allows for refinement of the recruitment process going forward.

6. Communicate clearly in defined channels 

Where does onboarding clients end and the routine of a day-to-day business relationship begin? Who can say… One view is that in terms of quality of service and giving each client your undivided attention, then perhaps it never ends! You simply need to treat every day as if it is day one. Once you have successfully onboarded a new client to your recruitment agency, good communication is a practice that needs to be embedded as part of everyday operations. 

Effective communication is key to a successful working relationship with each client. It’s important to establish clear communication channels from the outset, including regular meetings, phone calls, and email updates, to ensure that the client is always informed about the progress of their recruitment campaign.

Three tips for a smooth client onboarding process

  1. As a critical part of every employer’s business process, it is important that your recruitment agency clients feel you value their business. Being thorough and professional in your approach to the onboarding process speaks volumes. Paying attention to detail and doing the right thing to the best of your ability everyday continually demonstrates the value your agency provides.
  2. Asking the right questions of a new client and answering any they may have for you is an important part of the engagement process. Honesty and integrity build trust, which is pivotal to establishing a close and productive working relationship.
  3. It might well be an old pun, but it is also a rudiment of the industry: Recruitment is a people business. Recruitment agencies are all about matching people to companies that need their skills, expertise and experience. This is only achieved by effective and open communication. Whether they are new clients to be successfully onboarded, or candidates deciding on whether to apply for open positions, people need to trust your agency and your recruiters to listen to their needs and come up with appropriate matches.

Free recruitment agency client onboarding checklist

If you want to see whether you’re making the most of this important phase of the agency-client relationship, then download our free client onboarding checklist here.

Enjoy smoother agency operations with ETZ

ETZ’s leading timesheet and invoicing solution streamlines the back office processing of your recruitment agency. Our complementary solutions, ETZ Comply for onboarding and document management, and Caspian for business intelligence, give agencies further capability to streamline and uncover opportunities. To find out more, call us on +61 (0) 405 458 821 or book a demo.




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