Working with a top recruitment agency is guaranteed to save you time, money and the stress of risking a poor hire. The most substantial benefit of working with a recruitment agency is the improved quality of hire which boils down to the agency's coveted talent pool. It takes several years for agencies to build out networks of great candidates. This is where they compete and differentiate amongst themselves and it's a critical indicator of the agency's quality. If you are recruiting for hard-to-fill roles or rare tech skills in this fiercely competitive space— which is likely why you're considering hiring an agency — you'll want to make sure your agency has a deep running network of stealth talent, the kind you'd never find on your own.
These networks have candidates that are not found on job boards, as they do not need to post their resumes. You hire the agency for their exclusive network of candidates that no one else can see. This is why it is worthwhile to pay a recruitment agency over a freelance recruiter, even if the cost will be more significant upfront. Time-to-fill will be shorter, and the candidate quality will be improved by orders of magnitude. These are the two critical hiring factors, and you cannot obtain them without the assistance of an experienced recruitment agency.
But how do you pick a recruitment agency? Choosing the right agency is an invested process; there's a lot on the line for you - don't rush into this relationship without doing your due diligence.
As an experienced recruitment entity, we know what to evaluate and look out for, so we've compiled a list of tips and information to assist you in selecting a recruitment agency partner.
Set up a team meeting to discuss your current hiring challenges and the problem you're attempting to solve by hiring a recruitment firm. Ensure that everyone involved in your company's recruitment process has the opportunity to provide inputs and feedback and share any concerns they may have.
To start on a firm footing with your selected recruitment agency, make sure your department has a deep understanding of the people and positions you are looking to hire. This will ensure your collaboration with the agency will be as fruitful and efficient as possible.
Answer these questions as a team to ensure that you don't miss any requirements:
After you've compiled your list of challenges and pain points, use a prioritization matrix to rank their importance. The resulting list can be your criteria when comparing prospective agencies. By fulfilling this process as a team, you're already ensuring that the agency you end up working with will positively affect your entire company.
Every Recruitment Agency has its own strengths and weaknesses which proves that not all agencies are at the same level and you need to ensure to choose the one whose strengths play well to your hiring needs. For instance, if you need to hire a developer or software engineer, hire a recruitment agency that specialises in placing tech talent rather than a general staffing firm.
When you hire a niche recruitment agency, you can be assured that they are well-versed in their talent segment and will waste no time familiarising themselves with the technologies and requirements outlined in a job description for a technical role. Hiring in tech is far too competitive and complex to be offered as an add on service to general recruitment services.
Instead, look for a Niche agency, which specializes in a particular industry or job type (e.g. IT roles, sales, executive, construction). Expertise is the core value they bring to their clients. The agencies you want to hire will have substantial networks, strong reputation in the industry they recruit for and in-depth field knowledge of the role-specific hiring challenges.
Most importantly, these recruiters already have a talent pool of prescreened, vetted talents that they can advance straight to interviews, skipping the sourcing and pre-screening steps that are often the most time-consuming in the hiring process.
Working with a niche agency means you're never starting from square one; and this is how they're capable of comfortably filling the positions much quicker than a freelance recruiter or general staffing firm could. Their laser beam focus enables them to know exactly where to find the best talent and ensure that they not only match your skill requirements but would also make a great addition to your team in terms of company culture.
Make a list of the specialized/niche agencies you would want to contact. The best way to do this is to ask people in your network if they can recommend agencies with whom they have previously worked. You should also take a look at the list of top recruitment agencies listed on social media platforms and read the reviews about those who specialize in placing for the role you're looking to fill. Again, it is essential to hire an agency that focuses strictly on that specific talent type. You can always reach out to the agency's past clients via Linkedin and inquire about their experience.
Consider the agency's expertise and track record in your industry vertical when looking for full-time, middle to senior-level placements. Look up the agency's executive management and recruiters on Linkedin and examine their professional networks. Examine their previous clients and make an effort to reach out to them and inquire about their experience working with the recruitment agency.
An important question is - How big is the agency's talent base? Take a note of the company's online presence as well - it can tell you a lot about their brand and company culture. Ensure to keep an eye on how they leverage media to connect with talent.
What sourcing strategies do they employ? How effective are they at engaging passive candidates online? Follow the company and connect with their recruiters on LinkedIn for more insight into how they handle and manage their business operations. Some key considerations when evaluating agencies on Linkedin:
You can see what they've achieved for past clients and get a sense of their strategy and approach to the recruitment process. Once all these steps are completed, set up meeting requests with the agencies you've picked so far.
When speaking with a potential agency, ask them to share some previous cases and successful placements for the roles you're looking to fill. Before proceeding, ensure that they have experience placing candidates for companies in your industry.
If you're looking to start pipelining candidates in one specific area of high growth, and the agency can share how they've done that for a past client, then shortlist that company. Ask the agency to include the recruiter or account manager responsible for that hire in your next meeting so you can probe them for more details of the placement execution.
An agencies time-to-hire is one of the most critical metrics of success. As mentioned before, niche agencies are able to speed up the hiring process because they already have talent pools of vetted, prescreened candidates they can advance straight to your shortlist. At Make it in Ukraine, we fill a position typically within 10-14 business days depending on the level of expertise the role requires. For entry or junior level roles, we the time to hire is often even shorter.
Also make sure to ask about the replacement time to hire, to know what to expect if for whatever reason something doesn't work out between you and the initial candidate. Time to hire is critical to measure from the point where the vacancy is briefed to the time you make the offer.
Another metric to take note of is the briefing to shortlist rate. Meaning how long it takes to get a shortlist from the time of briefing. Knowing these metrics can help compare agencies on their speed of procurement.
It also helps to have a clear understanding of these ratios for identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your collaboration process and being proactive in correcting them. It's important to note here that the jam could be on your side of the equation - if you're getting CVs on time, but the point of contact on your end is only getting back two weeks later, it will be a massive issue in such a competitive talent market.
Recruitment agencies mostly work on contingency and take between 15%-20% from the hired candidate's annual salary as their service fee. If the position is a notoriously challenging one to fill, like a CTO, Head of Engineering or Software Architect the costs may be higher, sometimes even up to 50% of the annual salary if the vacancy has been open for a long time. Other fee structures also exist, an agency can have a flat fee or monthly retainer or hourly rate, but this is less common.
The idea of hiring a recruitment agency is to save time, money, and mitigate the risks of a bad hire. But you want to make sure the CVs that make it to your desk is well suited for the role. If they aren't, make sure to communicate what requirements are getting lost in translation, so the recruiters correct it in their selection. Also, ask about the prescreening process and how many CVs you can expect them to provide.
All reputable recruitment agencies offer a one to the three-month grace period for their placements. Providing this assurance is part of the reason recruitment agency fees are relatively high compared to those of freelance recruiters. A grace period is a time during which the agency will replace the candidate at no charge if things don't work out. Make sure to always negotiate for a more extended guarantee period.
For example, if an agency says their grace period is a month tell them that you're only willing to consider agencies with a two month minimum grace period. Most often, the agency will agree to extend if you make it clear it is a critical factor for you. At Make it in Ukraine, we offer two-month placement guarantees and take great care to deliver on our value proposition. Our clients can trust us with their business, knowing there is little risk involved in hiring when you have a grace period and for candidate replacement.
After their time-to-hire stats, focus on the CV to interview ratio. This is how many of the CVs they send you make it to the interviewing stage of the process. This will make it easy to see if the agency is doing a good job prescreening what you're looking for and supplying a good number of quality candidates.
You want to aim for 50% CV to interview rate. Exceptional agency recruiters may be able to hit 90-100%. However, if it's more like 25%, you may have a problem. If this is the case when you first start working with an agency, don't panic and rush to switch agencies. It could just be the adjustment period for your specific requirements. Check in again for this later though.
This is the last vital metric to evaluate when choosing a recruitment agency. Your agency should be hitting the goal of securing three candidates for your second round of interviews. If you have three candidates in your final round of talks, there's an 80% chance you'll have a successful placement.
If there are only two people making it thru the final interviews, it's 50%, and then it drops to 20% if you end up with one candidate. Having a healthy interview to offer ratio is crucial because once the skills gap/(or any other reason candidates didn't make it to round two) has been identified and added for consideration for the recruiters going back to their search, they'll have an even smaller talent pool for selection. A Unicorn is hard to find.
Hiring great people is a definitive factor in running a successful business. Partnering with an agency to help you do it is a big step, and you want to be sure you've found the best firm for the job. Take the time for due diligence, research your prospects, understand what a successful partnership looks like and continue evaluating both your team's handling and the agency's recruitment ops to make sure you're maxing out your ROI and improving your odds of hiring a unicorn.