How to Evaluate Good Recruiters

How to Evaluate Good Recruiters

Recruitment History

I spent 15 years working as a recruiter in the United States, New Zealand and Australia, and I loved my time in the industry. It can serve a very valuable purpose for both client companies as well as candidates, it’s not rocket science, it’s fun and most of all, it’s so easy to excel because much of the industry just doesn’t!

Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold. Bad recruiters (and unfortunately there are more bad than good) are a waste of both time and money. But how can you tell the difference? What separates a good recruiter from a bad one? And how can you vet them prior to working with them to save yourself frustration and heartache, not to mention hard earned cash?

Below is a list of characteristics shared by good (and great) recruiters. At the end you will find a sample checklist that can be to interview and vet a select group of recruiters with the intention of choosing 1 – 2 to form an ongoing relationship with.

The tips below are designed to help you discern those recruiters out of the flock who will do nothing more than post an ad on a job board, screen responses, do cursory interviews and throw you a list of “the best of a bad lot”. Why would you pay a fee for this? You shouldn’t and, if you follow these tips, you won’t ever have to again

Good recruiters:

  • Have good (if not great) candidates: Great recruiters are the “go to” recruiter in their field. How do they recruit good candidates? They DON’T rely on job boards. Why would you pay a fee to someone who just posts an ad on the local job boards and screens the results? They may save you a bit of time, but do they really provide value for their fee? Find a recruiter who knows the market and can tap into the people they need to fill roles when those roles come along.
  • Knowing the market can be as simple as using Linkedin to search for candidates or developing a community within their field, or as complex as mapping the market by niche and / or function. Good recruiters should work with both active (those actively looking for roles) and passive job seekers (those who are happily employed, but would welcome a call for the next, “right job” in their career).
  • Know their market: If they specialise in a specific industry (Mining, Professional Services, IT) they should understand your competitors and where you fit into your market niche. If they specialise in a specific function (Administration, Accounting, Software Programming) they should know what that function entails and should be able to speak knowledgeably about the field.
  • Ask good questions: A good recruiter’s sales process should primarily consist of getting to know you and your company in detail and then presenting some sample profiles that might meet your requirements. This demonstrates that they’ve understood your needs and can fill your jobs with the right candidates. If you have someone in your office who insists on talking about the benefits of doing business with them over their competitors and shows you a flashy slide deck or brochure, send them away as quickly as possible.
  • The only benefit of doing business with a recruiter is their ability to source top talent when you need it. Good recruiters should spend no less than an hour really getting to know what you’re looking for. They should ask well thought-out questions about your company, your department and yourself. They should take the time to find out why a candidate would  want to work for you. Before they ever start to look for a candidate they should have a thorough understanding of your company culture, values and your work-style (do you socialise after work or are you more head down, bum up?) along with not only the skills they are looking for, but the strengths or competencies that are needed in a specific position.
  • Don’t mis-represent candidates: Good recruiters should not re-format resumes. If the resume is not presentable the recruiter should help the candidate re-write it – it should not put it in a standard template. You want to see how the candidate presents him / herself. You can ascertain quite a bit about the candidate from the original resume. If the agency does reformat resumes as standard practice ask them not to for you. If they refuse, even after you have outlined why you would prefer this, move on, there are more fish in the sea.
  • Manage your expectations: If your salary level is not right for the position or if your company is not able to attract the type of talent you need, a good recruiter should honestly tell you this and help you do what you need to attract the people who can help your company grow. A good recruiter should also tell you honestly what other roles the candidate is entertaining and how yours stacks up. If the recruiter does not know this information they are not doing their job and you should cease working with them immediately.
  • Save you time: A good recruiter should only show you 3 – 5 candidates that hit the mark for any given role. There may be a learning curve over 1 – 2 roles (and you may take a bit of time to really determine what works for you), but they should be able to quickly get up to speed and show you a shortlist in a short amount of time. They should only show you candidates who are pre-qualified in terms of salary and who meet your criteria. A word of warning however, a GREAT recruiter will, from time to time, show you someone who might be out of left field, but if they know your company well enough it could be a great fit!
  • Save you money: Recruiters’ fees are not cheap. Do a cost/benefit analysis on their fees versus the time and money spent on other methods of recruiting such as posting to online job boards, researching resume databases, using Linkedin’s “Recruiting Solutions”, paying Employee Referral Fees, tracking company alumni or job fairs to make sure your recruiting dollars are being spent wisely.

To evaluate good recruiters from bad I suggest the following:

  • Look on your local job boards to see which recruiters do the most recruiting for your industry or function. Ask companies within your industry or candidates whom you interview for referrals. Note, you are actually looking for a person’s name as opposed to a company name. Recruiters may work for a company, but they are a business in and of themselves. Develop a shortlist of people you’d like to speak to. If you can’t find individual names call the likely companies and ask to speak to the manager of the division you’d be dealing with. Ask to set up a meeting with yourself, themselves and their BEST recruiter in that area. If you only have a few jobs per year you may not get the best recruiter, but if you hire over 10 people per year you certainly should.
  • It should clearly be stated that this meeting is for the purpose of identifying 1 – 2 firms for your company to partner with in an exclusive or semi-exclusive arrangement.
  • You should also tell them that the decision as to whether the Company will select that firm will be based entirely upon the questions the recruiters ask about the company within the meeting and how well they demonstrate their knowledge of the candidate market and suitable candidate fit to current or recently opened roles.
  • Based upon the outcome of these meetings, the top 1 – 2 recruiters should be given a period of 90 days (if you can give them sufficient order flow within that period of time) to fill any open jobs with a 1 week exclusive (i.e. you will not call the job out to additional agencies for 1 week).

In return for this exclusive or semi-exclusive arrangement the Company will pay:

  • Full fee for first placement
  • Negotiated discount (1 – 2%) for 2nd placement
  • Further negotiated (1 – 2%) discount for 3rd placement
  • Further negotiated (1 – 2%) for subsequent placements
  • Additionally, during the first 1 – 2 placements you should give honest feedback to the recruiters as to the quality of candidates and their suitability to the open roles.
  • This arrangement should make it worth their while to give you top quality service, as opposed to normal fee arrangements where the level of service corresponds to the level of fee. The moral of this story is that you get what you pay for and rarely are aggressive fee arrangements good for either your company or the recruiter.

If the recruiters miss the mark after the first 2 placements the exclusive or semi-exclusive arrangement should be terminated.

As I said, good recruiters are worth their weight in gold. But they are also a bit like Prince Charming – you might have to kiss a lot of frogs to find one who will truly partner with you to help you kick your business goals by attracting the staff you need. Don’t give up, follow this process and be persistent. You should only have to do this once, because good recruiters love what they do and they stay in the industry.

Please email me if you’re interested in the Recruiters’ Evaluation Checklist.

Kim Seeling Smith

Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Ignite Global, a consultancy whose mission is to deliver the much needed breakthroughs in attracting, engaging and retain staff in today’s Social Age.  Originally trained as a CPA and Management Consultant with KPMG, Kim subsequently spent 15 years working as a recruiter and studying why some companies are great at staff retention while others constantly battle staff turnover.  ph: 0402 773 286

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