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How To Choose A Recruitment Agency


You have tried unsuccessfully to find the right candidate on your own and it’s time to broaden the options.

Choosing recruitment agencies can be as difficult, time consuming, and confounding as choosing an insurance provider or phone plan. The process can be a long, involved, and tedious experience. However taking the right approach and investing the time can pay off, not only in time and quality of candidates, but literally in thousands of dollars.

Start by taking into consideration several factors, such as:

  • Do you want one recruitment agency that services all roles, or specialist agencies per discipline?
  • Do you use agencies for all roles or only high level or lower level roles?
  • What do you want in a consultant relationship?
  • Do you want a longer list of candidates, or just a shorter list of three to five candidates?

Along with the obvious questions, other criteria in the recruitment process are more difficult to pinpoint, such as the cost of hiring the wrong person and then having to go through the process again. The cost could actually be several times person’s salary because,when you factor in replacement, re-training, lost productivity of the team as a whole.

Assuming you go with recruitment agencies for efficiency, keep these points in mind as you go through the process of selecting the right one for your organisational needs:

  • Check credentials. It sounds like common sense, but eliminating this one criteria can significantly affect your success with the entire recruitment process when using recruitment agencies.
  • Ask for reference clients AND candidates to talk to about their experience with the agency.
  • Are they well versed in your market? Are they committed to your particular niche in the market? Or are they trying to be everything to everyone?
  • How up to date are they with social media approaches for sourcing candidates?
  • Consultant retention rate. A high turnover can indicate poor internal issues that can extend to the quality of outcomes for you.
  • What percentage of their search is through paid and traditional sources e.g advertising on SEEK or print, and what percentage is from free sources, e.g, social media, referrals etc.
  • Find out what their fees are, and make sure they are willing to sign an exclusivity contract (this is usually 12 months from when the candidate actually begins work).
  • What criteria will they use to give you a shortlist of candidates?
  • Are their consultants or the consultant you are dealing with a thought leader in the recruitment community or your niche? e.g, published articles, blogging activity, etc.

Flexible Options:

There is a growing market of flexible options from recruitment service providers who are breaking away from the traditional fee based model. RecruitLoop is gaining global success by companies who seek to reduce their recruitment spend, but still enjoy the benefit of an external partner to source candidates.

When choosing or reviewing your agency agreements determine if they are willing to customise a service approach that suits your needs.

Conversely, signs that you may not want to work with particular recruitment agencies include:

  • Not being willing to sign a non-poaching/exclusivity agreement,
  • Not providing written Terms after giving a quote over the phone,
  • High turnover rate of their internal consultants.
  • Not demonstrating a complete knowledge of your market, and your company, and
  • Engaging in a phone blitz, after company news is published in media, but only really interested in getting names of employees.
  • Poor penetration or depth of social reach

Often agencies justify large fee percentages based on boasting large data base numbers, yet in reality rarely do they refer to database searches.

Time versus Quality

Recently I spoke with a recruiter who openly admitted they advertise on social media and job boards on behalf of clients,  and screen for the first 24-48 hours. “Any candidate that comes in after that we don’t generally look at. It also pays off for the candidate to call the recruiter as we will generally take notice of a candidate that gets in early”. She advised.

To me this represented a snatch-and-grab approach that was a gamble at the least. What if the ideal candidates hit the inbox on day 3, 5 or 7? Bad luck for the client, and the ideal candidate.

Studies show it takes between 5-7 days for job postings and advertisements to filter through and gain the time and attention of higher quality, passive candidates. Candidates who are not necessarily looking, but stumble across the job ad a week later don’t have a chance. Recruiters should be optimising the potential for higher quality candidates and not limiting it with a time frame that is too short. It left me thinking what is the point of claiming the benefit of a large database, or not screening for quality beyond the low hanging fruit, when the view held is that it is too time consuming?

Is the client employer getting value for money? Ensure you are drilling down on their process and how they source candidates. If they are doing a repeat version of what you have already done, it’s just a game of chances throwing up a different combination of candidates each time, instead of a strategic and deeply sourced approach.

Be thorough in your efforts to find the perfect recruitment agencies for your organisation. Use common sense and ingenuity when selecting criteria to judge recruitment agencies. Do your homework, and the recruitment process for your company can be more efficient by using the resources of recruitment agencies.

For more information on the recruitment process go to: (finding the right employee).