8 Tips for Working With a Recruiting Firm

The executive vice president for a large regional systems integration company with multiple branches asked my recruiting firm to conduct a search for a commercial sales manager for its entire organization. We went through an extensive process, including interviewing a long list of candidates. Our client was ready to make an offer and the candidate was willing to relocate. All that was left was one final interview with the CEO.

Unfortunately, there were some mixed signals because the CEO really wanted a sales manager who would handle just one branch. With the different position, pay scale and responsibilities, the candidate chose not to accept the offer.

The bottom line is that a lot of time, energy and expenses were wasted — not to mention the process left the candidate with a bad impression of the company. If your company is going to take advantage of the benefits of working with a recruiting firm — or headhunters as we are commonly called — there are a number of things you should know.

First, companies hire recruiting firms. That means recruiters work for the client’s company and their main obligation is to find an employee for the company, not to find a job for a candidate. Also, the search for the right candidate is strictly confidential. Companies often approach a recruiter to replace an existing employee. Some companies (or candidates) might not want it known in the marketplace that they are looking.

What follows are eight tips you can remember when working with a recruiting firm. Some are appropriate for your own searches even if you don’t use an agency.

1. Interview the Recruiting Firm
There are different types of recruiting firms so treat each like a potential employee. Ask for references, the methods it uses and its success rate. Some firms will throw as many resumes your way as possible — even if the candidates have not been thoroughly qualified.

Make sure the recruiter knows the security industry and then ask what level of positions it works with within the industry. Find out what happens if the person you hire doesn’t work out.

2. Have a Signed Fee Agreement
It’s always a good idea to have a signed agreement so you know all costs and policies beforehand. Most recruiting firms will work on either a retainer or contingency basis.

With a retainer, you will pay some money upfront, some money during the process and then the balance once the hire is made. Contingency means that you don’t have to pay the firm until you hire from it. Most recruiting firms work on a contingency basis, which is why you shouldn’t use more than one firm.

3. Create Clear Definitions
Everyone involved in the hiring process should meet beforehand and define the scope, responsibilities, accomplishments and compensation of the job. They should also be 100 percent in agreement on the specifications before beginning.

4. Have a Firm Compensation Plan
A detailed compensation plan should be in place, including price range, ideal salary, benefits, commissions, bonuses, perks and a relocation package. Plan ahead on how flexible you will be on each point.

5. Accurately Present the Position
Don’t present a false impression of the company or position just to lure a candidate in. It will eventually backfire and won’t take long for employees to see what the company is really like. As you might suspect, employee retention at those companies is very low.

6. Always Be Responsive
Return phone calls so the recruiter won’t have to track you down. When discussing candidates, be honest and tell the recruiter whether you are interested in the person they suggest. Even if you haven’t made a decision, let them know that and when you will make it.

7. Make a Timely Decision
Candidates’ lives are disrupted the most in the recruiting process — more so than the employer. Changing jobs is one of the most stressful and critical decisions made in life. Once you’ve made contact with a candidate and indicated to them that your company is interested, don’t leave them hanging. Many good candidates drop out of the picture simply because the company never makes a decision.

8. Let the Firm Guide the Search
Once you choose a recruiting firm, let them guide the recruitment process from the first interview through the compensation plan and even into background checks.

I once presented a number of candidates to a company but excluded one particular candidate, although he was in my database. However, another recruiting firm presented the candidate I had left out to the company. Even though I strongly suggested that this wasn’t a good fit, the client hired him anyway. The day before he was to start, he took another position and never showed up for work.

Maybe the company chose to ignore my recommendation because it thought I was worried about my fee. In any case, I had to start the search all over again. I did find someone else to fill the position. That person has produced millions of dollars in sales and has been promoted twice.

Success With Recruiters
Looking for the right person to fill a position is not always the easiest task so take advantage of the recruiting agency’s experience and knowledge. Think of a recruiting firm as a strategic partner. Work with it in the right way and you’ll get top quality candidates, the vast majority of whom you would never find on your own.

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