5 Things to Consider Before Hiring Your Next Recruiting Firm

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There are 20,000 recruiting and staffing firms in the United States. But you knew that — it seems like they all contact you every week!

The point is you have options when it comes to selecting a recruiting partner for your next search. Perhaps too many options: It can be overwhelming to find the right recruiter, especially considering you need one because you’re so busy to begin with!

I have these two pieces of good news for you:

  1. There are many hardworking, eager recruiters out there in the employment market, which means there is more than one right answer when it comes to choosing the right one for your company.
  2. You can quickly generate a short list if you assess your options according to the five criteria below.

These criteria are based on my experience over the past 10 years advising the leaders of recruiting, staffing, and executive search firms (some you likely know) on their marketing — and on the 2,274 scheduled meetings (a real number as of this article) I’ve had over the past two years with company and HR leaders who are considering working with a recruiter.

1. A Fee That Makes Both Parties Happy

The average recruitment fee comes in around 22 percent, but it can be “fun” to see how low you can get an agency to go.

Sure you want a low fee — but do you want to be the lowest-paying client of a firm that works off commission? Be careful how far you negotiate a firm down. They’ll have to do something to save that money they’re no longer getting from you, and that could translate to cutting corners. They may chase the signed agreement and then not be motivated to actually fill the role.

No one wants to overpay, but if you have to negotiate hard to get to the fee you want, maybe that firm isn’t right for your needs.

2. A Guarantee That Makes Sense

A 90-day guarantee is the industry standard, and it’s troubling how easily some firms will drop their fees but refuse to extend their guarantees. Not. Even. A. Single. Day.

The amount of time a firm is willing to stand behind a placement can not only have a major impact on your recruiting budget, but it can also speak volumes about how they view your partnership. Figure out how long it takes you to truly assess the success of a new hire and make sure that’s your guarantee minimum.

For more expert talent acquisition insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. A Process That Is Built Around Your Search

Anyone can forward a resume. Make sure the firm has a process and resources available to find your candidates, not just any candidates. The recruiters should want to speak with you and your team to get a full understanding of what you’re looking for before they start submitting “perfect fits.”

Is a firm really going out and hunting for you, or is the firm giving you second and third looks at previously sourced candidates in the hopes of making a quick “close enough” placement? Resume recyclers come out of the gate looking strong — and sometimes the tactic even works! — but if your search dries up around week two or three, there may be no actual search going on at all. If you get five resumes on the first day and zero on the 14th, it’s time to move on.

4. A Partnership You Both Want

You will get the best from your recruiting partners when they feel respected. Recruiters want you to invest in your relationships with them. If you’re considering adding a fourth or fifth partner to a search, it may be time to rethink your entire approach. One or two firms with which you have strong partnerships will outperform a collection of countless recruiters over the long term every time.

If you don’t have the time to be a good partner, neither will your recruiters. Focus your loyalty on the firms that hold you accountable and allow you to do the same.

5. A Why That Makes Sense

This can be awkward. Sometimes it’s not the recruiting firm — it’s you.

No, wait! You’re great. Don’t get me wrong. It just feels, you know, like you were hoping the firm was going to fix something you really need to fix yourself.

There are times when working with a recruiting firm is the right move, and there are also times when it’s not. If you’re hoping a recruiting firm can help you pay top talent under market value, source an unrealistic set of skills, or overcome your reputation for a toxic workplace, you’re in for a disappointment. If there are structural issues keeping you from making the hire, address those first. Otherwise, you’ll only relive those challenges on a larger scale as your recruiters start submitting resumes.

Addressing each of these items in a way that makes both you and your recruiter happy is essential for a successful recruiting partnership. These partnerships may require some work to develop, but the right recruiter will save you time, work hard to keep you engaged, and be well worth the fee you mutually agreed on.

Patrick Cahill is the founder of #twiceasnice Recruiting.

By Patrick Cahill