Molecular recognition is integral to biological function and frequently involves preferred binding of a molecule to one of several exchanging ligand conformations in solution. In such a process the bound structure can be selected from the ensemble of interconverting ligands a priori (conformational selection, CS) or may form once the ligand is bound (induced fit, IF). Here we focus on the ubiquitous and conserved Hsp70 chaperone which oversees the integrity of the cellular proteome through its ATP-dependent interaction with client proteins. We directly quantify the flux along CS and IF pathways using solution NMR spectroscopy that exploits a methyl TROSY effect and selective isotope-labeling methodologies. Our measurements establish that both bacterial and human Hsp70 chaperones interact with clients by selecting the unfolded state from a pre-existing array of interconverting structures, suggesting a conserved mode of client recognition among Hsp70s and highlighting the importance of molecular dynamics in this recognition event.