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Field Guide to Selecting a Recruiter

Making Sense of the Recruiting Market

Our professional marketplace is full to the brim with staffing and recruitment agencies. In fact, in the last 30 days there is a high likelihood you've received a call from someone about a job somewhere, or with a candidate in hand they'd love to share with you, whether you asked for it or not. From time to time business opportunities result in the need to engage a search firm for assistance in talent acquisition activities. Talent acquisition support is necessary, but with so many agencies with such varied capabilities out there, how do you know which agency can meet your specific need? The following are a few pointed, out-of-the-box questions to aid you in sorting the champions from the chaff.

'What does my business do and how does your specialty complement my business?'

I love to ask this question. Asking the recruiter on the other end of the phone this one gives you an instant gauge on if you should entertain any further discussion. If the recruiter is prepared and in touch with your company, they will very likely be able to tell you your core market offerings, who your primary competitors are and strategic opportunities that exist in the marketplace for companies such as yours. I'll warn you, this isn't a question many recruiters are faced with over the course of their day. You may encounter a stammer or two but have hope, those who are best prepared to aid your business will impress you with their depth of knowledge.

'What pre-work is done before you contact candidates on my behalf? How do you prepare?'

Answers to this one will vary wildly. This question gets to the heart of how a recruiter conducts their business. Making contact with candidates is necessary (and all recruiters do it) but what is said when the opportunity to entertain the right candidate for you presents itself is paramount to success or failure. Be forewarned, many agencies build their business on the content of their candidate database. This works great for low-level, run of the mill positions that recruiting can be done for ahead of time. This is not the case for targeted searches. If your friend on the other end gets hung up in talking about the strength of their database and network, move on. The right recruiter will be able to discuss the strength of their prep work and strategy.

'How do you plan to represent my company, our vision and our brand?'

When challenging a recruiter with this question, more often than not I don't get much of an answer at all. For many, the interaction between client and recruiter exists primarily in the collection of a job description and the peppering of said client with a barrage of recruiter-generated candidates. The bombardment of off-the-mark candidates continues until either an acceptable candidate emerges or client or recruiter tap out, resources too exhausted to continue. With all of that activity, an important and seldom asked question emerges: what happened to your company perception with all of the candidates that were worked through in the process? Was their experience in talking to the recruiter who contacted them on your behalf a good one? Controlling public perception by way of the message and method used to attract talent is paramount. Make sure you're comfortable with your recruiter's tactics.

'What is left behind when your job is done?'

Engaging a talent acquisition consultant is an expensive undertaking. Likely, the cost of working through an agency to make a targeted hire will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. What do you get for that money? The obvious answer is your new hire but what else? What if an agency gave you more? A massive amount of information is developed, sorted through and compiled over the course of the recruitment process. Recruitment agencies develop sophisticated systems for making good use of the data they uncovered on your behalf. What about you? Asking this question will determine what the intent of the agency really is. If they are a strategic partner, there is a high likelihood they have a method of developing, tracking and delivering data relevant to the continuation of your business at the end of the search. Ask and ye shall find.

Trust your instincts.

You're an accomplished professional who has built a business and career with your own market savvy. You have an expertise sought out by your customers who view you as a trusted advisor. Your recruiter should exhibit these same characteristics. Engage those who resonate with you, who understand how their skillset truly complements your business and shares in your vision for success. As the old saying goes, "if you think it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur".

About the Author:

Jared Smith is the Founder of Reliance Workforce, LLC, a targeted search firm specializing in executive and strategic search. His experience spans business development, executive consultancy and high-level recruitment for multiple Fortune 500 companies. He currently resides in Denver, CO.


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