Business handshake with row of people in backgroundIn this era of social media, both job seekers and employers may wonder if traditional recruiting is still relevant. Since resources such as LinkedIn and Facebook can quickly find a significant amount of contacts, job applicants and employers may question if a search firm can provide added value. The volume of resumes delivered, however, only tells part of the story; the added quality of resumes and relationships with hiring companies that recruiters bring to the table is crucial.

Recruiters provide benefit to a challenging task that reoccurs for companies – finding a new, productive employee. From the hiring company’s standpoint, an agency possesses a large and prescreened database of resumes that few clients can match. For candidates, the search firm can offer a smooth connection to the hiring manager. For both, recruiting firms give useful, inside information – not only about the position and compensation range, but also about the individual players, company culture and hiring philosophy.

Bob Kustka, founder of The Fusion Factor, an HR consultancy based in Norwell, believes search firms deliver substantial value. Many hiring organizations today employ junior-level recruiters with limited staffing experience, notes Kustka, making the experience of search firms a differentiator.

Though Kustka has used the professional networking site LinkedIn for 10 years, he acknowledges that it can have limitations. He says he can “spend a ton of time” doing LinkedIn searches, or can simply use a recruiter.

“I believe it’s more cost-effective to use a recruiter who has established relationships, a vetted database,” he says.

While many websites can match keywords pertinent to a staffing need, only an experienced recruiter can discern the nuances in a search, explains Kustka. For example, two candidates may have the same credentials for a particular position, and an experienced recruiter can determine why one person may fit the role better than another.

Similarly, Lauri Rich, currently the director of Outreach and Career Development at the Boston University School of Public Health, has engaged search firms during her career. Though she now helps graduate students launch their careers, Rich possesses a background in human resources and staffing that spans 30 years.

As the director of Sales Recruitment and Retention for a global communications firm in the late 90s, Lauri utilized firms exclusively, as there was a huge competition for technical talent during that time, and she didn’t have internal staffing resources. While manager of Workforce Planning at a large healthcare plan from 2003 to 2006, she engaged agencies when she had a challenging need to fill.

Generally, Lauri would choose to use an agency for one of two reasons: If the search for a role needed to be confidential, a recruiting firm would be an ideal option. Lauri would also engage a recruiting firm if she had already exhausted her own network.

With the arrival of social media, Lauri also adopted LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, stating that she utilized the professional networking site to source strong sales candidates.

“You need to go where the people are, and the millennials are on social media,” says Lauri, referring to those candidates born after 1980.

While Lauri notes the benefits of LinkedIn, she says that recruiting firms bring “an objective perspective” to their client searches. Through their client contact, search firms glean competitive intelligence at different companies, particularly information surrounding compensation.

“Recruiters have access to those types of trends,” Lauri explains.

Plus, the stakes grow higher when recruiting high-level executives.

“With a leadership role, the benefit of having a recruiter to vet candidates is really important,” says Lauri. To select a recruiting agency, Lauri would look to her professional network for referrals.

Meghan Burke has also used search firms in the past, usually for hard-to-fill or niche roles. In her current role as the talent manager at The MENTOR Network, she oversees the recruitment function of the 24,000-employee organization, including its Boston headquarters and offices across the country.

Meghan believes a recruiting firm can provide a “deeper reach,” and she appreciates the dedicated time that firms can devote to a search. She typically chooses a recruiting company based on established relationships, her own or her employer’s.

“When an organization has worked with a recruiting firm, it allows you to ‘get right to it’ without any ramp-up time,” Meghan explains.

While Meghan has leveraged multiple social media sites for recruiting, she has also continued to engage search firms and appreciates the relationships she has formed. She uses both direct sourcing and external recruitment agencies to reach the depths of the hiring pool, casting a wide recruitment net.

While social media has added another tactic to the recruiting game, recruiters still offer insight into candidates combined with experience that other sources and methods can’t match.

“The need for agencies to identify the best talent in similar roles is as relevant as it ever was,” summarizes Lauri.

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