7 Things to Consider Before Engaging a Recruiter

By Paul Slezak - Oct. 6, 2016
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Editor’s Note: This post is by Paul Slezak, Cofounder and CEO of RecruitLoop – the World’s largest marketplace of expert Recruiters and Sourcers available on-demand.

I’ve been in the recruitment game for my entire career. That’s over two decades now.


While it’s true that as far as recruitment goes I’m (RecruitLoop is) doing things very differently now compared to how things were done back in the mid-90’s. But trust me whether in the 90’s, naughties, or ‘nows’, I’ve certainly heard my fair share of comments about what people really think about recruiters (and our industry).

Fortunately I’ve got very thick skin.

Sure there are times when your recruiter might not have been able to find you that needle in the haystack; that diamond in the rough; the perfect candidate. But if you were to dig a bit deeper, you might actually discover that in fact it wasn’t your recruiter who couldn’t find what you were looking for. It’s that as a business owner, employer, internal recruiter or HR specialist, you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for in a recruiter when you set about engaging them in the first place.

1. What’s their background?

Of course I am not talking about whether they’re an Aussie, Yank or a Brit! You should definitely find out how long they’ve been recruiting. If they are still relatively new to the game, perhaps they’ve come from your own industry sector; or even held a role similar to what you’re after now. Believe me it pays to find out as early as possible.

2. Are you looking for a generalist recruiter or a specialist recruiter?

If you have the budget to engage an external recruiter, the big question then becomes whether you want to work with a generalist or a specialist?

That’s entirely up to you. But when you’re not feeling well do you make an appointment to see a General Practitioner or a Specialist?

A generalist recruiter is one who works on a variety of accounts, recruiting for a wide range of job functions, industry sectors and locations. On the other hand a recruitment specialist focuses on a particular job function, industry or location and typically recruits up to higher-level jobs within a niche with less transferable skills such as accounting, legal, graphic design, healthcare, manufacturing, architecture etc.

The main difference between a generalist and a specialist recruiter is in the quantity and quality of candidates they deliver. Specialist recruiters should be able to produce superior results for you.

3. Does your recruiter have a proven track record?

A good recruiter will have a solid reputation around town and amongst their peers. They should also have a demonstrated track record of successful placements in their field of specialisation (ideally roles similar to what you hope they will recruit for you). It shouldn’t be hard to find out, because if they do, they will no doubt be happy to share their past success stories with you.

Your recruiter should be tapped into their area of specialisation. They should be able to answer with authority any questions you might ask them on the subject. They should be familiar with the industry terminology and know all the key players. In fact, they should know many of the same people you do. Knowledge is power and that’s especially true in recruitment. The more you know about your subject, the more accurate your decisions will be and the more positive results you will achieve.

4. What’s their recruitment process?

There’s a common misconception that when you brief a recruiter they will just do a quick search on LinkedIn, skim through their database or throw an ad up on to a job board. This couldn’t be further to the truth (in most cases anyway!). But it’s up to you to find out exactly how your recruiter of choice plans to work on your brief.

Never assume.

Ask them questions; probe; leave no stone unturned. Yes … you should almost interview them before you let them interview on your behalf.

A detailed recruitment methodology will ensure that a transparent and unbiased recruitment and selection process is followed; one that results in the appointment of the best candidate, based solely on merit and best-fit with your organisational values, philosophy, and goals.

5. Do they already have candidates in mind?

Your recruiter should have strong relationships with their top candidates, as these people are their bread and butter. Your recruiter should know what makes their candidates tick, what their general likes and dislikes are, their motivations, and temperaments. By knowing their audience your recruiter should also be able to quickly highlight the aspects of your position that they know will appeal to their best candidates.

However if they don’t already have candidates in mind you need to ensure they have a robust sourcing strategy.

Knowing how to effectively source talent is now more important than ever before.

Sourcing is so much more than simply specialized résume search and candidate name generation. Sourcing has turned into a specialised field of its own, and if your recruiter can’t explain the fundamental differences between their sourcing and recruiting strategies, this should ring alarm bells.

6. How well do they really understand your needs?

Before they can possibly find someone to work in your business, your recruiter must have a good understanding of your organisation’s structure and its goals. If they have successfully filled similar vacancies in the industry before, then they will know instinctively the kind of employee you are looking for. Does your recruiter actually intend to take the time to meet with you in person?

And of course …

7. How much is it all going to cost?

What’s your recruiter’s fee structure? Are they going to ask for a portion of the fee up front? Are they charging you a fee based on a percentage of the successful candidate’s salary? Are they offering any guarantee in the event the candidate doesn’t stay for whatever reason?

Perhaps they’re charging you an hourly rate where you are paying purely for their time and expertise as opposed to the outcome? (Yes this is certainly an option!). If so, can they estimate approximately how long the process will take?

Sure there’s a lot to uncover before engaging a recruiter. But rest assured finding out up front will save you a lot of angst in the long run.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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