Businesses spend nearly $500 billion every year on recruitment agencies. This seems like a huge amount of money, but in truth a good recruitment agency partner delivers great benefits to a business. In fact, one of the worst hiring strategies in the world is to not use recruitment agencies. When you are partnered with a great agency, it enhances your candidate experience and employer brand, reduces turnaround times, increases quality of hire, and saves you money in the long term. Despite this, most businesses treat their recruitment partners in a very transactional way without realising that this hurts the employer brand and candidate experience over the medium term, as well as costing the company more money. To avoid this, I am going to outline how to properly partner with a recruitment agency for your business and how to ensure it delivers a great ROI.

Ignore the company and focus on the recruiter

Let’s start with a simple truth that no recruitment agency wants you to know. The agency themselves is irrelevant. When you engage an agency, what you are doing is buying the network of the recruiter you are working with. If that well-connected recruiter leaves, so does the network. The company may have the names in the database, but the relationships leave with the recruiter. A successful recruiter eventually realises that financially it makes more sense to work for a smaller boutique company, as they can earn more money, instead of working for a larger big-name agency. I have lost count of the number of times I have been pitched by a recruiter from one of the big name agencies to tell me that are a specialist in recruiting in a certain industry, then when I look at their profile on LinkedIn they have only been working as a recruiter for 4 months. At what point in those 4 months did they become a specialist within an industry and build sufficient connections to be able to provide me with a quality shortlist quickly? The answer of course is that they have not. So, when engaging with an agency, first understand which recruiter is going to be recruiting the role for you. If the recruiter has not been recruiting in the industry for at least a few years, you are basically paying good money for a junior person to just look for keywords on a resume.

How does the recruiter assess candidates?

Which of the following two recruiters do you think delivers better value for money? Recruiter One that just sends you the resume of all the candidates who liked the job description and have the right keywords on the resume. Or Recruiter Two who personally interviews each of the candidates, assesses them based on the competency of the role and sends you a shortlist of 3 to 5 qualified candidates and a comprehensive overview of their profile. It is of course Recruiter Two. This will ensure that the quality of candidate presented to your business will be significantly higher. It means the recruiter takes a little more time, but the extra week or so before resumes are presented is usually worth it, as you are receiving pre-qualified quality. Its important to ensure you understand how the recruiter assesses the candidates the send you.

There are recruiters out there that are stealing a living by merely typing key words into a job board database, sending the candidates a Job Description, and sending on the resumes of the ones who came back and said interested. Is that worth $500 billion a year? Of course not. One of the easiest ways to tell whether a recruiter is good, is if they want to speak with you after you send them a job description. Those recruiters who annoy you, because they always want to speak to you about the role that you sent them, with lots of questions, they are the good ones. The reason they have all those questions is because they are planning on accurately assessing the candidates before sending them to you. To do this effectively, they need to speak with you to get a full understanding of the entire role, not just generic duties on a job description. Make sure you know which method your recruiter uses, before asking them to recruit the role.

Brand Advocates

The other reason a good recruiter usually wants to speak with you before recruiting the role is because they want to be able to effectively pitch the role for you within the market. A good recruiter is well connected and talking to the entire industry, not just those who are actively looking for a job. A good well-connected recruiter will be proactively speaking to people at your competitors about your role, even if they are not looking. They will be selling them a story on the vision of your company, how awesome the new role is, the career path and convincing them that they will be better off at your company, instead of their current company. Therefore, you want to partner with a well-connected, industry expert and not just a keyword monkey throwing stuff at the wall until it sticks. So, you should ensure that any agency you partner with is always asking you for more information about the company, its plans, unique selling points and so on. If all they want to know is the budget and if there is a job description, that is a warning sign.

Candidate Management

The final aspect to consider before partnering with a recruiter, is how they manage candidates. The conduct of a recruiter reflects your brand, as they are representing your brand in the market. If they are very salesy and aggressive and lie to candidates to get them to interview, or apply for a role, this is a huge warning sign. Are they doing all they can to just make a placement to get a quick commission, or are they focused on the long term and ensuring they provide both you and the candidate they represent in the best way?

An experienced industry expert recruiter is under no pressure to try and push through a quick hire. They know that if they push through a hire and it doesn’t work out, it reflects badly on them. The company will remember they spent good money on a bad hire. Likewise, the candidate will remember that the recruiter misrepresented the company to get them to accept an offer. If they manage candidates effectively, transparently, and ethically, when it comes time to make an offer its an easy process. No one is trying to get an unfair advantage, everything is nice and easy, no last-minute surprises or counter offers arise. There are usually two ways to assess this. The first is by assessing how many times they chase you for feedback in the couple of days after an interview. The second is by asking the candidates they represent, what they think of the agency.