Maybe you’ve never used a recruiter to hire before. Or maybe you have, and haven’t had the best results. Here are our tips for how to get the most out of the relationship—and make it one of the most effective tools in your hiring toolbox.
In theory, hiring should be a simple task. Or, at least, as simple as ads for job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter would have you believe. You post a job. Watch qualified candidates roll in. Select a short list. Interview. Make an offer. Close the hire.
But anyone who’s worked in the trenches of hiring in 2022 knows how quaint that image is. Hiring in this market is not for the faint of heart—especially so in high-demand areas like Supply Chain Management and Procurement, which are our wheelhouse here at Argentus. Companies are getting to the offer stage with candidates, only to lose out to competing offers. Others just aren’t seeing candidates, with jobs sitting open for months. Sometimes a great candidate comes in, and ghosts the company completely after two or three interviews.
If any of these experiences have happened to you in your own hiring, read on.
Most hiring managers (and almost all HR professionals) have some understanding of how agency recruitment works. An agency recruiter will learn the details of your job, go to their network of candidates, and forward you 3-5 strong resumes for you to choose from. A specialized recruiter, which is even better, will already know several candidates for the role. They have boots on the ground. They know people who are looking. And, even more importantly, they have established relationships, and foster the kind of open communication that closes the hire.
As the client, you don’t pay anything until the candidate is placed—typically a set percentage on top of the candidate’s first year salary, with a replacement guarantee if the candidate doesn’t work out. (The fee structure for hiring contractors is slightly different, but works out similarly).
Working with a recruiter takes risk out of the hiring process. It speeds it up. If you’re working with a specialist, it also offers useful insights into the candidate market that you don’t get from a more passive approach to hiring.
Of course, as a recruitment firm, we’re biased. But we also wouldn’t have been recruiting for 20+ years if we didn’t believe it. In our opinion, having a specialized recruiter acting as your agent in the talent marketplace can be tremendously powerful.
But working with a recruiter is a two way street. There are certain things you can do to maximize your results.
So today, we want to give our top tips for hiring managers who have never worked with a recruitment agency before. These are also tips for those who have worked with an agency, but who—as is sadly too common—haven’t had good results.
1. Find the right partner
The recruitment industry has grown up over the past decade or so, but it’s still—unfortunately—full of too many fly by night outfits. The fact remains that anyone can hang up their shingle and declare themselves an expert recruiter. You need to do your homework and find possible partners who are established, with a significant track record of placements similar to your needs. When speaking with them, ask for references from companies similar to yours, so you can see what others’ experiences have been like.
2. Work with a specialist
Finding a recruiter with the right specialization is another major aspect of finding the right fit. The industry is full of multinational companies who are jacks-of-all-trades and masters, in most cases, of none. They can be a good option as a managed service provider for large numbers of nonspecialized roles. But beware of generalist recruiters masking themselves as specialists.
Supply Chain, for example, has emerged as a very hot area of hiring. It’s easy enough for massive agencies to say they now “specialize in supply chain,” but you might find that they lack the expertise in the industry. (If your recruiter needs you to explain basic terminology, for example, run in the other direction). These large, generalist companies are also going to offer a similar experience to internal HR teams—they’re using the same automated applicant tracking systems and job boards you are—and are less likely to have the established relationships and personal touch that a more boutique player provides.
3. Establish open communication early, and keep it open
Open communication is the secret to successful recruiting—especially when you’re working with an agency. In fact, it’s part of the more intangible benefits that recruiters provide. When we speak with candidates for a role, we can pass on all the details that don’t make it into a job description. We have candid conversations with them about their career goals, salary expectations, whether they’re pursuing other opportunities—all the details that tend to scuttle placements for internal recruiters because they don’t come up early enough in the process. Many of our candidates are people we have worked with for years.
All this adds up to less risk for the client. When we forward a resume, you know that not only is that person worth interviewing, they’re also going to actually take the job if they’re a fit. Throughout the process, the recruiter is going to facilitate feedback, and give you insights about the candidate’s feeling around the role that you don’t always get with internal recruiting.
But to get these benefits, you need to be open with your recruiter from day one. Tell them everything about the job—why is it open? How long has it been open? Why? What aren’t you seeing in the candidates who are already applying? What’s the growth potential over the next two years? The recruiter will exercise discretion when telling this information to candidates—and working confidentially is another major benefit, if it’s a confidential role—but it can be invaluable in honing the search.
Going forward, be clear about your expectations, and how the candidates you’re seeing compare. Every search is a process. Requirements can change. Internal candidates can arise. Tell your recruiter about everything that’s developing on your end, and you’ll be more likely to make the hire.
4. Keep your ears open
This is a separate but related point. A recruiter who’s been working exclusively in a certain specialty for many years has lots of insights about the marketplace for talent. These are hard-won insights, based on experience—often experience which has been frustrating to the recruiter. These insights are also infinitely more valuable than a Google search about salary ranges, or than the data you get from job boards. A skilled recruiter can tell you if your salary range is too low, or if there’s wiggle room. They can tell you that a permanent role would be better as a short term contract. They can tell you when your experience requirements are too stringent (and not realistic), or when they’re not specific enough.
A recruiter is your eyes and ears, with deep penetration into the community of professionals you’re looking to hire. They can tell you how your company is perceived in the marketplace, which is much more valuable than Glassdoor reviews.
A recruiter wants to close the hire just as much as you do. That’s the only way to earn their fee. They want you to find someone who will thrive in the role, so that you call them back and say “we love this candidate, find us someone just like them!” and become a client for years to come. Their incentives are well-aligned with yours. All of which is to say that you should listen to what they have to say, even if it’s hard to hear. That market intelligence is worth its weight in gold.
5. Be patient, be flexible, and collaborate
When everything comes together with recruitment, it’s a beautiful thing. At Argentus, we still talk about all the times where we took on a job, had several top candidates lined up, and went to a successful job offer within a week. But in a job market as tight as this one, it doesn’t always run smooth. Sometimes it takes multiple interviews for a client to realize that they need a completely different skills profile. Sometimes the candidates just aren’t there at the right salary, no matter how deep we dig into our network.
But there’s always a way out. Every search evolves. It’s not a static process. If you aren’t seeing candidates, or aren’t seeing the right candidates, have a candid conversation with your recruiter about why. You might need to change your skills requirements, or offer relocation, or find a candidate who works remotely, or who comes from another industry. There are a hundred creative solutions. Or you might be hard and fast with those requirements, in which case patience is a virtue. But that patience pays off.
We’re diligent. We’re tenacious. And there’s always a way to find the right person.
Recruiting is an art as much as it is a science. And there are so many factors that go into play to make it a success. This advice is just scratching the surface, but we hope you find it useful, whether you’ve worked with an agency before or not.
And if you have any hiring needs in supply chain management or procurement, and find yourself curious about how an agency can augment your existing hiring processes, reach out to us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and one of our specialists will get in touch.