February 21, 2019

4 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Recruiting Company


If you’re in the process of hiring a recruiting agency to help you fill some difficult roles, you might not know where to start.

Are all recruiting organizations the same? Does it really matter which one you hire? How can you tell which ones really have your best interests at heart?

These aren’t the easiest questions in the world to answer, but this article will give you a few pointers on how to find the right recruiting firm for your hiring needs. Next time you’re talking to a recruiter you might want to hire, make sure to ask them these four questions:

1. Do You Work on a Contingency or a Retained Basis?

This question tells you a lot about the way the organization is set up, the way it structures its fees, and the quality of candidates it is likely to send to you.

Most recruiting agencies work on contingency. This means they only get paid if they find the candidate your organization hires. However, this also means they are less invested in the hiring process. Contingent agencies will often have a single recruiter handle four or five positions at a time, gambling that the recruiter will be able to make at least one hire in the process.

With a retained recruiter, your organization will usually have to pay in full in advance. This means the up-front investment from your organization is higher, but the recruiting company is also much more deeply committed to your position. A retained recruiter has the time to get to know your organization’s needs on a much deeper level. The retained recruiter can focus on bringing you candidates who not only have the skills you require, but are also good cultural fits likely to stay on board for the long term.

Your company’s situation will determine whether a contingency or retained recruiter is right at any given time. However, it’s always important to know which category the firm you hire falls into. Otherwise you might expect something the company is unable to provide.

2. Are Your Recruiters Trained in Interviewing?

If the firm’s recruiters are trained in interviewing, they can save your company time and effort in the hiring process.

Think about it like this: If the recruiters are not trained in interviewing, they won’t be able to fully vet candidates before passing them to your HR team. The candidates who make it through will simply be those who had either the skills or the charm to make it through an informal chat. By the time your HR team sees the candidates, the process isn’t any further along than it would be if the candidates had just come in off the street. You’ll have to do the majority of the screening yourself.

If the recruiters are trained in interviewing, however, they can screen out the bad fits before they ever get to your HR team. That means your people can focus on finding the best possible fits without having to worry about filtering out bad matches.

4. How Will You Keep Me Updated on the Status of the Search?

Some recruiters will start their search, and you won’t hear from them again until they submit a candidate — if they ever do. No progress reports, no check-ins, and no requests for more information.

If you’ve hired a number of recruiters and have a steady stream of candidates headed to your door, the lack of updates might not be a problem. However, if you’ve hired only one firm to fill an important position, you’re going to want some updates on the progress of the search — especially if the process is ever halted.

It’s important to make sure the recruiting organization you hire has a set procedure for keeping clients in the loop. Status updates will help you keep tabs on the firm and make sure it is working to bring you the best possible candidate in the shortest possible time.

4. Do You guarantee That You Will Fill the Position?

Very few recruiters offer a guarantee they’ll fill the position they are hired to work on. This is just the way the industry works. Organizations hire multiple contingent agencies, none of which make any guarantee they’ll find the individual who eventually gets hired. Agencies gamble that if they work on enough positions, they’ll find enough hires to turn a profit. Organizations gamble that if they hire enough recruiters, at least one of them will find the right person.

It’s always important to know whether the recruiter makes a guarantee or not, but whether or not your organization can benefit from a guarantee isn’t always as clear. If your growing company just opened a new office and has to make many hires, you may prefer to go with a large number of agencies without guarantees. On the other hand, you might favor an organization that offers a guarantee if you’re hiring for a position that is in high demand and/or particularly hard to fill. If you’re hiring for a very high-level position, you will almost definitely want a guarantee.

Jeffrey Audette is president of VMG Recruiting. Contact Jeff at [email protected].

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Jeffrey Audette is the president of VMG Recruiting. With more than 25 years of experience in recruiting, Jeff has partnered with small, medium, and Fortune 500 firms, helping them find the talent they need. You can learn more at VMGT.com or contact Jeff at [email protected]