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How can recruitment agencies be used effectively?

How can recruitment agencies be used effectively?

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by Dan Matthews, LaunchLab

Recruitment agencies exist to help employers find the best possible job candidates. But when should you use them and how can you get the most out of your recruitment spend?

Going down the agency route
Many businesses simply don't have the time or internal knowledge required to hire the best staff, especially if they're recruiting in a new location or for a newly created role.

Agencies give you the opportunity to hand this responsibility to experts who, in return for a fee, will aim to bring you candidates matching your exact requirements.

They tend to operate on a ‘no win no fee' basis. Meaning if they don't supply a suitable candidate, you don't have to pay. There is nothing technically stopping you advertising the same role with 100 agencies and letting them fight to fill the role, although it might get a bit difficult to manage the process.

You have the choice between generalist agencies who can offer you candidate volume, or smaller niche agencies that attract more specialist candidates.

However, as with any form of recruiting strategy, there are some downsides:

  • Using an agency is often more expensive than recruiting independently.
  • Agencies operate in different ways, so you have to do your homework before you find the one that matches your needs.
  • If you don't brief you agency properly, you may actually spend more time dealing with unwanted candidates.

Finding the right agency
There are questions you need to ask yourself before deciding which agency to use:

  • Has the agency recruited for similar positions before?
  • What are the credentials of the consultants that will handle your account?
  • Can they supply testimonials from previous clients?
  • Do they comply with recruitment industry standards?
  • Does the agency have a clear pricing structure?
  • How do their fees compare with the industry average?
  • What background checks will the agency perform on candidates
  • What role will you be expected to pay in the process
  • How much contact will you receive from the agency?

There is no right answer to many of the questions, it depends what's right for your buusiness.

Making the relationship work
Researching your chosen recruitment agency thoroughly before you enter a contractual agreement will save time, money and tears later on. But even if you choose well, you must put in the effort to get the most out of your relationship.

Always make sure you provide comprehensive briefs. If you haven't provided your agency with the exact details of what you're hoping for in the perfect candidate, then they can't be blamed for not finding them.

Make sure you let them know which criteria are mandatory, which are highly desired and which are optional. It's better to provide them with too much information than not enough.

Give regular feedback on the candidates your agency supplies. If they are not good enough, explain why as early in the process as possible. Be specific in your reasons, and always relate it back to the criteria stated in your original brief otherwise your agency may not understand where they're going wrong.

If asked to contribute towards advertising in trade journals or other media, discuss the expected impact of the advertising and have an expected return on investment agreed with your agency.

You'll also want to let them know if you have managed to fill the vacancy so they can stop any activity that has been planned.

As with most businesses, recruitment agencies benefit from economies of scale so if you have plans to expand your workforce in the future, discuss them with your agency. The more roles you are able to offer them, them more you will save when it comes to paying commission.

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