How to Select a Recruitment Agency

May 28th, 2015 by Veronica Blatt

apple-orangeWhether you’re an employer with ongoing hiring needs or have a one-off role to fill, using a recruitment agency is definitely an option worth considering. There are many traits and characteristics to consider when you are evaluating recruitment agencies. If you’re unsure how to select a recruitment agency, here are six pointers worth evaluating:

Relational or Transactional. Broadly, a transactional recruiter will approach your needs as a transaction. A relational recruiter will take time to develop a thorough understanding of your business and culture, and will want to partner with you in a strategic manner for the long term. There is nothing wrong a transactional approach; for certain roles, it may even be desired. What’s most important is to think about how YOU want to work. If you have a transactional mindset and the recruiter has a relational approach, neither side is likely to be satisfied with the working arrangement. In general, however, I think recruiters are more successful when they develop those strong, deep client relationships. They’re more effective at finding good-fit candidates, and understanding your long-term goals can help them work with you on building your team in a strategic way.

Experience. How long has the agency been in business? What about the individual recruiters? What was their pre-recruitment background? Have they worked in your particular industry? It’s also good to know WHO you’ll be working with on your recruitment assignment – a tenured recruiter, or someone who is learning the ropes. Ideally, you’re looking for a firm with a proven track record of success, and that will most likely come from years of experience. Firms that have been in business for a number of years will generally have weathered some economic ups and downs and know how to survive in a slow market.

Specialist or Generalist. Recruitment firms come in all different styles. Some will be “generalist” firms across the board. Others will be made of individual specialists. Others may be micro-specialists, serving a niche-within-a-niche. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question; a lot of it will depend on the business you’re in and the kind of hiring you need to do. If you’re a manufacturing facility and generally need the same sorts of engineers, operations professionals, plant managers, etc. on a consistent and ongoing basis, a generalist firm with manufacturing experience might be perfect for your needs. If you’re a law firm or a hospital, it’s probably best to look for a recruitment agency that focuses specifically on lawyers or nurses. In my experience, there aren’t a lot of “generalist” firms that are really equipped to effectively source those types of candidates. If you need a person with a very specific (and rare) skill set, and you already know there are not a lot of those professionals in existence, a micro-specialist is the way to go. These recruiters have deep networks and relationships; if they don’t already know who all the prime candidates are, they’re going to be able to tap their resources to find them.

Methodology. How does the recruitment agency work? What services are they providing? Be sure you understand exactly what you’re buying and how the process is going to work, including a timeline for presenting candidates and obtaining feedback from you. A successful, professional recruiter should be able to document (or at least thoroughly describe) the steps they will take to complete your search from initial discussion all the way to the candidate’s first day on the job (and maybe longer!).

Accreditation. It’s always a good idea to ask about credentialing. Does the recruitment agency belong to any trade associations or other governing bodies? Have the individual recruiters obtained professional certification? Here in the USA, recruiters can earn a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) designation through NAPS, which means they have mastered a certain level of knowledge about their profession. This includes proficiency in U.S. employment law. NAPS certification also requires that recruitment professionals adhere to specific professional and ethical standards. Recruitment agencies can also belong to formal networks that have a code of conduct, ethics committees, or other oversight.

Size. The size of a recruitment agency is something to consider. There are arguments that “bigger is better” – that larger firms have more resources available and are better able to handle your search. Very large firms can also experience significant staff turnover, and you may find that your account manager is either very inexperienced or is frequently changing. On the other hand, very small firms *can* be limited in how many roles they can reasonably be working on at any one time. There is another option to consider, and that is a small firm that is part of a larger network of recruitment firms. In this scenario, employers can benefit from personal relationships, superior service and attention from the owner or a senior employee, yet still have the “backbone” of a large organization that can support their efforts across multiple occupations, industries, or geographies.

Hiring top talent is a major priority for successful, competitive businesses. Make sure you understand how to select a recruitment agency that will help you meet your hiring needs and goals both now and in the future.

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