Are you recruiting? How to get the best out of a recruitment agency

Ask employers if they’d use a recruitment agency to find the perfect candidate for a position, and their answer will probably go one of two ways: a very emphatic “no”, they are far too expensive and they don’t send through quality candidates; or “yes”, and they’re worth every penny.

Admittedly, there are recruitment agencies in operation that won’t bother to screen candidates sufficiently before putting them forward for jobs. But there are plenty of others (and we’d put ourselves very firmly in this particular camp!) that are committed to achieving the very best results for their clients and candidates, and believe that the fee earnt is commensurate with the effort put in and not, as some might suggest, the only motivation.

Recruitment agencies exist to help employers who lack the time and/or internal resource to recruit directly - recruiting for new roles or in new locations, in particular, can be a real challenge. If good foundations are laid down between both parties, you can reap rewards in the form of excellent candidates being put forward for jobs and true talent joining your teams. We mustn’t, of course, ignore the financial commitment that goes with this service and it’s obvious that you will want to feel like you’re getting value for money, which is why we’re giving you a few pointers on how you can make using a recruitment agency work for you and your company.

Choose a specialist in your sector

Generalist recruitment agencies are fine for administrative staff, but managerial and technical roles require specialist knowledge – and it’s this knowledge that you will really be paying for, a deep understanding of your industry sector and the roles within it. Always check, therefore, that the agency has recruited for similar positions and ask for testimonials from previous clients.

Check the credentials of your particular consultant

Always find out who will be handling your recruitment – how long have they been in the company and will they be your single point of contact? You want to feel that you’ll be receiving a consistent service from someone who is experienced, not passed round from one consultant to another.

When it comes to recruitment, putting your eggs in one basket is always better

You can give a job specification to any number of agencies, but do you have time to sift through all the candidates (good or bad) that a scattergun approach might generate? Generally, it’s better to give exclusivity to one agency – this really will ensure a better service and commitment to finding suitable candidates. Here at On Target, for instance, many of our clients really value our unique 3 Best Match Candidate Promise, where we use all our knowledge and expertise to identify and pre-select the three strongest contenders as the shortlisted candidates most suitable to be put forward for interview. Don’t worry if a client wants to see more candidates, we are happy to put forward more but the majority of our clients value this expert pre-selection which is designed to save our clients the time usually spent reading CVs or interviewing candidates who turn out to be unsuitable. This type of service is typical of recruitment agencies working with employers who value their relationship with an experienced recruitment consultant.

Agree costs

Make sure you agree terms and conditions at the beginning of the process, and feel satisfied that there are no ‘grey areas’ left to discuss e.g. will you be expected to contribute towards any advertising costs on top of the agreed fee?

Provide a proper brief

Without full details of who you’re looking for, no recruitment agency could be blamed for not finding them. Make clear what skills, qualities and/or experience are essential, what are desirable and what are optional. Then get the agency to put in writing their understanding of your requirements so that you can agree with their interpretation of your brief or give more direction as necessary.

Agree the process and timelines

Agree the timescales the recruitment process should follow, working back from when you want someone in place and set key dates, such as receiving the candidate shortlist, holding interviews, etc. You need to follow the timetable too, so make sure you keep sufficient time available to read through CVs and block out the days when you plan to interview.

Give feedback

Give your consultant constructive feedback at every stage of the process – from the CVs submitted to the quality of the candidates put forward for interview. And always link your feedback to the brief you supplied - this is so valuable in assessing whether the recruitment strategy is working or whether it needs to be adapted.

Over time, and if you choose to keep returning to the same recruitment agency, you will build a good relationship with your consultant and the process will get easier each time you need to recruit. What could be better than feeling confident that your recruitment requirements are in safe hands and that you can trust implicitly the decisions your consultant makes on your behalf.

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