How to train your recruiter.
All recruiters are not created equal. How do you find the right recruiter(s) for your company?
Bet you have asked this question. And bet you got a lot of different answers. That’s because there are so many different styles and needs reflected in the answer. There is a lot of confusion about what to expect, how they are paid and how to vet them. This post is targeted at employers looking to hire a recruiter or recruitment firm. The second post for candidates will follow soon. You will notice little overlap but both need to know about each other’s bar.
What is your objective? Are you looking for executives, individual contributors or middle management? No one firm specializes in all three, regardless of their claims. Ask for statistics on the levels of placements. Do not accept number of resumes on file, only actual placements. Discover if they use job boards or if they actually search for and vet candidates and have a long list of connections. Check references with those companies who have hired for the same job title you are trying to fill.
What kind of relationship? Are you building a long term business relationship or just a one shot? Do you want one or several companies sourcing candidates? How much do you want to pay? Do you want to negotiate fees by offering several placements?
Do you need a retained search firm? These firms typically have a deep bench and national affiliations. They are best used for the most senior executives only. They are also the most expensive and require partial upfront payment and complete payment regardless of where the employee came from. Your Board will often recommend or even insist on one. Be as careful qualifying a retained search firm’s representative as you would any other. Remember, when it comes to hiring, the buck stops with you.
Contingency recruiters are often the best resources for less senior executives and individual contributors. You pay only if you hire someone they source. Make no mistake, just because they are on contingency, they are no less professional than retained search recruiters. They often ask for and get exclusive recruiting assignments (meaning no other recruiters are used) and have long term relationships with both clients and candidates. They tend to know a huge population of people in your local community. Not all contingency firms are created equal. Look for their list of repeat clients as indication of the quality of their work. Talk to some of those companies.
Con-Tainer recruiters get a small retainer up front and are paid the remaining fee upon placing a candidate. They often have a strong local client base and cannot recruit from many local companies. If you have a target company in mind, make sure the recruiter has made no placements with that company for 12 months. If you are hoping to create a long term relationship with a recruiting firm who is proactive, you may want to create this sort of relationship with a contingency recruiter you trust.
Qualifying questions: Create a list of questions and hoped for answers and ask each recruiting firm/recruiter for their answers. Beware the company representative who gives you a great pitch and impressive statistics, then assigns your account to an account representative. Insist on interviewing that person. It is important that the company stats are good, but it is critical that your actual recruiter has impressive stats placing candidates in your specific job title as well. Even if you are working with a retained search firm, you can insist the recruiter has recent success placing candidates at the level and job title you have open.
Ask “How many of the people you placed as VP Sales (for example) are in those same companies after three years? What is the rate of turn on your candidates (especially important if you are hiring technical employees).” Don’t let them dodge this question. They know. Check a reference who has been a long term account of the recruiter and ask that question again.
“What do you require from me?” If they say they will write the job description, insist you want to participate. Most job descriptions are written to please you; they are not the actual marching orders for the job. They are often canned except for the company description and in no way reflect the actual deliverables the candidate will be expected to perform once hired. Since the job description becomes part of the hiring package, you must insist your requirements are listed and offer the recruiter what you feel are reasonable metrics for the proper candidate. Remember, this is both a company private and public document. Candidates will be given the job description and it will become part of their hiring package.
Also offer the recruiter your go/no-go list of requirements. If you want only local candidates, insist. If you require a minimum of three years in the last two jobs, include it. If there are technical or business requirements (Agile or ad sales, for example) make it clear these are non-negotiable. Be sure to list a few companies you feel the right candidates will come from and those to avoid.
Ask the recruiter in charge of your opening to role play the pitch they will give candidates. Don’t let them start with, “I would…” Do an actual role play. Then you ask the hard questions you suspect candidates will ask. Once this is accomplished discuss the results and make course corrections. Don’t expect them to be perfect the first time. This is an uncomfortable process but it delivers you an important element in your search for the right employee; assurance the company and the position are portrayed correctly.
Set expectations. Ask about their process. Not their work product, but what you can expect. Will they vet groups of candidates and submit them at once or individually as they are located? What sort of feedback can you expect? Who negotiates the compensation?
In the end, the recruiter works for you. You pay them. Many don’t get paid unless they find the right candidate, therefore, they are invested in ‘selling’ you the product. Don’t allow yourself to be sold. Know what your criteria are and the metrics by which to judge them.