There are plenty of fish in the sea, and there are plenty of recruitment agencies. Some work well, some, well, do not. How to spot the difference and how to know if you spend your money wisely?First, let’s analyze what could make cooperation bad from the Hiring Manager’s perspective. Statistics do not show a rosy picture:

  • 61% of Hiring Managers do not believe recruiters understand the role well
  • 77% of Hiring Managers think that screening is inadequate to the role
  • 42% of Hiring Managers would prefer recruiters to build a “talent pool”, so the company doesn’t have to start over every time

Source: iCIMS Hire Expectations Institute™ survey, a sample of 375 hiring managers and 600 recruitersIf those opinions are popular, there probably are SOME decent reasons for them. It also points out the gravity of the problems with building teams that companies face - many managers dislike agencies. Why? In short - they do not feel recruiting is a priority, the candidates’ agencies send do not fit requirements, project updates are rare or useless, agencies go silent after the first couple candidates are a miss. Despite all of that, companies still need those services very much and use them.But this junky form of relationship is not a necessity - it is an option. We want to show you how a bad structure of incentives and some questionable practices can stop your company from scaling up fast using a staffing agency.

Understanding the company and the role

Recruiting is essentially building relationships - and none will be more important than the one a recruiter has with the company and the hiring manager. Making a great hire is a team effort, and you simply can’t do it alone.So anytime you begin recruiting cooperation, be a bit more demanding. The fact that you hire an outside expert recruiter does not mean you should be kept in the dark about what steps will come next (and why!). A reasonable standard should be a well-ran Kick-off meeting, with a broad range of questions about your expectations, the role, and the company and its culture. These are, after all, crucial to separate a very good candidate from a perfect one. Make sure to have a direct line to the recruiter, and to get an explanation about methods the agency will use to find and reach candidates.

Understanding the company and the role: How it works
  • Brief or non-existent Kick-off meeting.
  • Unstructured Kick-off meeting.
  • Recruiters spend little time getting to know your company and its culture.
  • Crucial communication is lacking or goes through the Account Manager.
  • Your company does not know precisely what means will be used to reach the candidates.
Understanding the company and the role: How it should work
  • 1-2 hours in-depth kickoff meeting.
  • A kick-off meeting is prep list is given to the client with topics and questions that will be covered.
  • HR department and the Hiring Manager are both engaged
  • Constant communication with the Lead Recruiter
  • A detailed recruitment efforts plan presented at the first meeting

The recruitment process

Again, there is a good balance here to be found. As a hiring manager, you do not want to micromanage and waste time. However, losing oversight can be just as harmful, as over time, lack of direction may lower the chances of a good hire.Recruiting is dynamic - new data, new needs, and new candidates can change the whole picture. To know when to react, you should have the ability to check the process performance frequently, which means getting updates more often than once a month - which, for many agencies, is still the standard.Do not settle for sporadic email communication with the recruiter only. Ask for data and an explanation of what it probably means. The process, as set in the beginning, should not be set in stone. A good recruiter can (and should) be your business partner, who, thanks to experience, can propose new solutions and tweaks - or to straight out suggest your assumptions may be wrong.

The recruiting process: How it works
  • A short report once a month
  • Email communication only or ad hoc via telephone
  • Low recruiter responsiveness to Hiring Manager queries
  • Reactive approach
  • Rotating or no Lead Recruiter
The recruiting process: How it should work
  • Quick channels of communication
  • All-you-can-eat data reporting
  • Radical transparency
  • Agile and evolving process based on 360° feedback
  • Only one, constant Lead Recruiter
  • Best tools on the market

Employer Branding

Attracting talent depends on having a strong Employer Brand - that fact has probably reached most managers out there. But the truth about recruiting’s relation with building that brand is still missing from many great business minds.Companies go to great lengths to show how fabulous and unique they are - and that may even be true! But for future employees, it is not the Career page on your website or your Instagram account that will make the strongest impact on their opinion about the company. Yes - you need to take care of those, absolutely. But it will be the first real touchpoint - when a recruiter presses that “Send” button on whatever channel - that truly matters.If you care about people as the website probably claims, you can’t treat people like their story does not matter. You need to show you care to get to know them, that you want to build the relationship the right way. If you are such a revolutionary, dynamic, fun and modern startup - how on earth are your recruiting messages so bland?A professional agency has both the means and the skills to save you from that early disappointment. Be sure that the messages sent out in the name of your company are interesting to read and are targeted at the right people and personalized. A good recruiter makes sure that candidates are aware of what your company represents early on, and that the scope of the challenge that awaits a candidate is clear.

Employer Branding: How it works
  • Cookie-cutter, CTRL+C/CTRL+V type messages to candidates
  • Zero or little message personalization
  • Message not tailored to what the company represents
  • Unattractive, vanilla messages without a “twist”
Employer Branding: How it should work
  • All messages strongly personalized
  • Messages built to reflect the company and its unique challenge
  • A genuine attempt to make the message interesting

Recruiter’s technical expertise

Would you take your Startup Ferrari to a guy who repairs… “cars”? Or would you want to check first, that that person at least knows how Ferraris are repaired?(Hey, I never said I’m above cheap analogies)Although clearly recruiting and cars are not the same, similar logic applies. What you pay for is what you get. Information Technology nowadays is a ridiculously broad industry, where fluency in different tech, programming languages, management methodologies, role descriptions, etc. is necessary to recruit really well. And that is the only recruiting you want.Probably the biggest asset an agency can have is a bunch of recruiters who are well versed in IT. Trained over and over again, such recruiters may not be able to put together a good string of code, but they understand the industry to the core. Dozens of sessions with industry experts, hundreds of calls with hiring managers to find out what they really need, thousands of messages exchanged with IT professionals from all walks of life. This is “actionable insight” in its purest form.So whenever you use an agency, ask about the recruiters - what they know, and how they know what they know. What projects they usually run, and whether they know the business and workplace reality of the role they will recruit for.One final point - the harshest critics of recruiters are candidates themselves. Would you like to receive an offer that makes zero sense for you? As a manager, you probably get such completely missed sales pitches every day to your inbox. So when a candidate receives an irrelevant offer because a recruiter can’t differentiate between technologies? That is spam. Spam = bad candidate experience. Enough said.

Recruiter Technical expertise: How it works
  • Recruiters are mostly generalists
  • Recruiters are not continuously educated in technical and programming issues
Recruiter Technical expertise: How it should work
  • Recruiters specialize in IT and technical positions
  • Recruiters are constantly trained in-person by top-level experts

Sales process and cooperation type

First up, ask about the cooperation models - as there are key differences between them. In our opinion, working on Success Fee only may create bad incentives, and there are agencies that take advantage of this. Taking way too many projects, and then barely investing in the process is, unfortunately, still a thing.If the baseline cost of the recruitment is not covered, you just can’t expect the agency to invest a lot in an uncertain process. After a while, those companies simply stop putting in resources and the process basically stops. It would be wise to ask some more about what investment will be put into the project by the agency, and will it last.There are two more extremes which can make your cooperation a little nightmare. First, some agencies (or overworked freelancers) combine recruiting and sales roles - that is, a recruiter also has to be an account manager and spend time looking for new clients and manage the current ones. This may or may not work in practice, but keeping the recruiter focused on recruiting is usually worth the ask.The second possibly deficient model puts you in direct touch almost only with an equivalent of a recruiting project manager (or Team Leader) - and the specific recruiter is hard to get to. Again - there may be some fantastic companies doing just that - but in most cases, this leads to worse communication and inadequate understanding of the company and its needs by the recruiter.A good solution is something in between - a thorough research of what the company needs, where you have both the recruiters and salespeople available, and the recruiter is free to fully focus on your project.

Sales process and cooperation type: How it works
  • No project selection - i.e. agencies take every available project and don’t advise about the role, technology or market situation. They don’t, as they do not have specific know-how!
  • A single model of cooperation only
  • High fees that compensate for higher risk
  • Recruiter doubles as a salesperson
Sales process and cooperation type: How it should work
  • Providing rich market insights, challenging and fine-tuning your recruitment assumptions and offer verification
  • Lower fees due to decreased cooperation risk on agency site
  • Cooperation models that are flexible and adjusted to your needs and volume of hiring

To sum up - there is more to ask for than vanilla recruiting. There is little reason to go for standards lower than your company deserves. Communication, expertise, and partnership should be a staple of your work with a recruitment agency. After all, companies like ours exist to make recruiting easier and better. You should hold agencies to that promise - and expect better.