Picking the Right Recruiting Firm

By Mike Tatay, CPC | Account Representative, Rochester, NY

“It’s nothing against you or your firm, but we’ve had terrible luck working with outside recruiters in the past, so it’s very unlikely we’ll ever do business with you.”  

This is a too-common response we hear when we contact new prospective clients to discuss their recruiting needs.  Actually this is a toned down depiction as well – we hear from the more mild “we just didn’t see any good candidates” to the very direct “there are some real bottom-feeders in your industry” and sadly most all are correct.  

Rather than focus on the tales of ineffective recruiters or those whose practices fly in the face of ethical business tactics I think it is more helpful to offer some advice on how to identify the firms that do it the right way and are most likely to deliver solid results.  

As previously mentioned, it can be challenging in today’s economic climate to identify and attract the top talent in any given field, and enlisting the assistance of a quality recruiting firm can be a tremendously helpful tool in ensuring your company has the best chance at doing so.  However, separating the good from the bad in an industry whose reputation suffers from the actions of a few bad apples is a daunting challenge.  

How do I find the best firm to work with?

Asking a few questions can help you ensure you have the best chance at good results and professional interaction with search firms.  A few of the following come to mind:

  • How long has your firm been in business?
  • How much industry experience do your recruiters have?
  • What, if any certifications do your recruiters have?
  • Are your recruiters industry specific?  
  • What is your firm’s retention rate at client placements?
  • Can you provide a list of satisfied clients with whom you work?
  • What is your search strategy/what is your process?
  • What resources do you employ to source candidates?

Having recruiters who are experienced in their area of expertise is a key to a successful search.  Those recruiters will typically have a strong network built up from which to source potential candidates.  Related to that, firms who employ specialized, industry specific recruiters will tend to be more focused and able to respond quickly to your needs.  A recruiter who is focused on one type of position full time is likely to have a stronger network, but also a more thorough understanding of the types of candidates to seek, and who among those they find are the best possible fit.  Retention rate also speaks to the recruiters’ care in learning about your corporate culture, those semi-intangible factors that make a personality fit along with a skill set and experience fit.  Understanding a candidate’s professional and personal goals is a key to identifying the best environment for them.  Having recruiters and staff who are certified by a professional organization (NAPS for example) will help to ensure that those you select to represent your company have been educated in, and must show continued learning in laws as they apply to the industry as well as the ethics they should be adhering to.  

Asking a firm to produce references seems elementary, but it can go a long way toward weeding out those who don’t deliver, or who engage in unsavory tactics.  If they have a solid, referencable client base, chances are they have delivered repeatedly for their clients and have maintained a level of ethics that results in clients who are happy to lend a word of support when asked; often when they are especially strong, clients may be anxious to share their experiences.  

A set tangible strategy for sourcing and attracting the top candidates is another key to success for a recruiting firm.  The methods by which recruiters accomplish this are varied, but it is important to see that a firm has put the proper level of thought and planning into the process is the idea here.  A solid strategy optimizes the results.  Part of that strategy is the types of resources they employ.  Will they be relying on job boards, or do they belong to other professional organizations and networks that allow them access to more passive candidates?  What is their “hands off” policy regarding clients and candidates?  Having a policy regarding who they will and will not recruit speaks to their ethics and also allows you to have a conversation should you have partner businesses or related companies you wish them to avoid when sourcing.  

Earning a fee is more than simply finding and forwarding a qualified candidate.  Be sure the firm you partner with is thorough in evaluating candidates.  Ask how they screen; will you be receiving fully screened/interviewed candidates or are they simply “shuffling paper”?  (hastily forwarding a number of candidates – flinging spaghetti at the wall to see what fits).  Little is more irritating to a hiring manager than expressing interest in a candidate submitted only to find the recruiter did not actually clear them and ensure they have interest in the position – this is just one of the risks involved in this unethical practice.  All candidates should be screened for interest, fit and qualification.  

Confidentiality is another key element we must respect.  Confidentiality of candidate information.  This speaks not only to no unsolicited submissions to the client, but also in respecting all sensitive information they have access to.  When necessary client confidentiality must also be respected.  

Hopefully this brief list of questions to ask and qualities to seek in a recruiting firm is helpful in ensuring that a few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch for those who choose to do business the right way.  

Of course the easiest way I know of to ensure you get the best is to simply pick up the phone and contact us here at Professionals Incorporated!

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