Fast track your recruitment

Working with a recruitment agency

You may not have the time or the resource to take on the full recruitment process in-house. Working with a recruitment specialist can be a quick and effective means of securing the right person for your business. Here is a brief guide to selecting and getting the best from a recruitment agency.

Choosing a recruiter

  • Work with an agency that specialises in the type of person or people you are looking for. Not all agencies do everything and some will be stronger in some areas, than others. You may find that an agency which may excel in finding your sales staff wouldn’t necessarily be the best in finding IT or senior finance professionals.
  • You can determine where an agency is strong by looking at their website and checking they are actively recruiting for your job title. You can also examine job boards for this information.
  • The agency you call should have a consultant who specialises further in the particular discipline in which you are recruiting. Test their knowledge; ask what specific roles they have filled recently that are similar to yours. If they have no track record in this area, move on.
  • Work with either one or few agencies. Usually committing to one agency will deliver a strong commitment from them. Adding more agencies to the mix may illicit a more urgent response, but may also compromise commitment. Companies that operate ‘Preferred Supplier Lists’ usually enrol no more than three or four agencies.

What you need to do before meeting your consultant

  • Know what your are looking for – if you follow the planning and job specification steps in this toolkit you will help the agency immensely.
  • Put time aside – good specialist recruitment consultant will know the market and how to source the best candidates in the shortest possible time; but they will need your commitment to review CVs and conduct interviews on schedule. A competent consultant should produce a recruitment plan and timetable for you.

What you can expect from your meeting

  • An initial meeting – the consultant should insist on meeting you. This is to ensure they can match the crucial culture and personality elements that are essential for any new hire. If they don’t suggest a meeting, you should request one. If they don’t want to meet you, move on, you need them committed to this process.
  • An understanding of your role – whether it happens at the initial meeting or in a follow up email, the consultant should clarify with you that they understand your brief and your job specification. A good consultant should challenge some elements and may ask for further details.
  • Meeting ALL the candidates they put in front of you – there are occasions where a recruitment agency does not have a policy around meeting their candidates, or the consultant might think it’s ok to just screen the candidate by telephone. This is not sufficient as they won’t be able to analyse if these candidates will gel within your organisation.
  • Appropriate checks on the candidate – as well as interviewing applicants, consultants must carry out compliance checks before recommending a candidate to you, such as checking their identity and eligibility to work in Ireland.

The recruitment process

  • The agency should produce a shortlist of qualified candidates – they should talk you through each shortlisted candidate and then arrange for you to meet the ones that are best. The consultant should recommend you interview three or four candidates if possible. The service should include a shortlist, not a collection of average CVs – the consultant’s job is to provide you with the most appropriate CVs to match your job specification, not everyone who has replied to the job ad. You can guide them by telling them the maximum amount of CVs you would like to review. Since the consultant will have met every candidate they think is appropriate for interview, they should explain the reasons if they are not able to produce the required amount of matching candidates for the job. Sometimes there might not be enough skilled professionals available on the market and the consultant should recommend the closest match.
  • The agency will schedule the interviews and make sure all the candidates are prepared – once you have chosen the applicants you want to interview, your consultant should arrange the interviews for you and confirm the times. They should also prepare the candidate for the interview: that includes the practicalities of getting there and how best to perform in the agreed interview format.
  • Feedback – be prepared to give and receive prompt feedback. You should receive candidate feedback from your consultant immediately after the interviews. Equally, you should impart feedback on unsuccessful candidates to your consultant who will pass it on. It is important for the candidate and will help bolster your own ‘employer brand’ as you want to encourage referrals from unsuccessful candidates in the future. It’s worth noting that sometimes a candidate can become disinterested in the job after the interview.
  • Next steps – agree on the next steps with your consultant, be that further interviews or moving to the offer stage. They should pre-arrange to call you, to discuss feedback and who you want bring forward for the second round of interviews, if that is necessary.
  • Let the consultant negotiate the offer – their primary objective will be to secure the best candidate for you and ensure the role is filled. They can mediate between the candidate’s expectations and what you can deliver.

Pre-start checks and follow up

Your consultant will liaise between you and your new employee both before, on and after the start date, to ensure all goes smoothly. Once the new employee is successfully bedded in, your consultant will cease this liaison role, unless you request otherwise.

What will I pay and how does that work?

Recruitment fees vary significantly. Search assignments for key executives can cost 30% + and will probably have a retainer element. Fees for professional staff will range from 15% to 30%. If you are a repeat customer or can offer exclusive assignments, you are in a stronger position to negotiate the best rates. Be very aware of selecting on the basis of the lowest fee. Recruitment is like any sector, there are low, mid-range and high prices. The right person can transform your business – what price can you put on that?

What to do if it goes wrong

Unless this is a retained, search based assignment, you only pay when your new employee starts, and there will be a rebate period covering the first two to three months, in case things don’t work out. This does happen, so be aware of what these clauses are. If it isn’t working out with your new employee, involve your consultant in the issue – they may be able to mediate.

Hints and tips

  • Get to know your consultant – give them time, take their calls and you will be rewarded with a committed and dedicated service. Keep them at arm’s length and you’ll get the same service in return.
  • Communicate by phone - email is dry and doesn’t give flavour or depth and doesn’t build relationships. Talk to your consultant and let them talk to you about the candidates.
  • Meet your consultant - you want your consultant to promote your role to the best candidates. They need to know you and your business to do this. The chances of an agency filling your role doubles if you meet them.
  • Be prepared to be flexible - if you are not seeing the right candidates, there will be a reason for this. Either what you’re looking for is very hard to find, or what you’re offering isn’t competitive. Your consultant should be telling you if this is the case. If they aren’t, you may need to look again at who you are working with.
  • Give it priority - a new hire can be the best decision you ever make. It can also be the worst. Give your time and commitment to getting it right.
Fast track your recruitment