How to work with a recruiter

This post is the first in a two part series that answers a common question from both employers (Part I) and candidates (Part II): How do I work with a recruiter?

Employers – are you in need of new talent, but tired of sifting through online resumes?  Are you not sure why you can’t fill an open position after months of interviews? You are likely reading this blog because you need a lifeline, and are starting to wonder what it would be like to work with a recruiter. Read on, my friend! This post offers insights on how your business can get the most from an executive search firm.


Does the recruiter understand your business?

First and foremost, employers should consider a recruiter an extension of their hiring team. A close connection develops much faster when you engage a recruiter that specializes in your industry. Technology businesses are complex and require a deep understanding of the skills required. Look for an agency with a proven track record in your industry.  Don’t be afraid to ask prospective recruiters about their experience, how many people they have placed in the same role, or if they understand the requirements you list. As a human resource manager, it often makes sense to include a technical hiring authority in the meeting, so they are familiar with the agent you are engaging, and feel good about their services.

Business people chatting in lobby

Does the recruiter ask the right questions?

A good recruiter will ask employers a series of questions that will get the process moving in a positive direction, quickly. Be prepared to answer some tough questions, such as:

  • How have you tried to complete this search thus far?
  • Why hasn’t your current search been working?
  • Is there a major problem to be solved by the new employee?
  • Why would a person leave their current position to come and work for you?

For a recruiter to do their best work they need to create an in-depth job description profile and understand the culture of your business. This helps them accurately represent your culture and team. A sense of urgency needs to be created as well. The recruiter should understand who in your organization is feeling the pain of the position left unfilled. If a recruiter says they are ready to get to work and they haven’t asked many questions or spent any time understanding your culture and needs – be afraid!


Quantity: Narrowing the field

All the business questions a recruiter asks initially will help them thoroughly qualify candidates, and not waste anyone’s time. Upon completing the business interview, a good recruiter will place 50 – 100 candidate calls per day! From their vast contacts, a recruiter will personally interview their top picks at least 3 times, screening for hard and soft skills, compensation qualifications, location, and counter-offer risks. Only then will the recruiter pass on to the company the top 3 – 5 candidates from their search.

A recruiter should not throw things at a wall to see what sticks. If your recruiter simply hands you a fat stack of resumes for you to review and sift, that’s not recruiting! That’s why sites like CareerBuilder and InDeed exist – for you to do the work. Don’t let your recruiter give back the stress you felt when you sought their help in the first place.

Quality: Passive recruiting strategies

Recruiters can do something employers cannot – proactively network with passive candidates. The ability of a third party to contact top talent that is currently employed is one of the biggest benefits to hiring a recruiter. This is critical in today’s candidate-driven market. A recruiter can expose your open position to an untapped pool of top talent. This sort of contact may be perceived as unethical between prospective employers and candidates who are employed – however the best recruiters are always networking and communicating with top talent, ready to make connections when the time is right. If a recruiter understands the “sizzle” of your company, then they should be prepared to “sell” reasons why a prospective candidate would be willing to quit their job and come work for you.

Making plans for the weekend

Recruiter Cost

At this point you are probably asking, “How much does it cost to use a recruiter?” Every agency works differently. Odyssey Pursuit has two approaches, depending on the urgency of the open position. If you are in a desperate situation and require a recruiter’s full attention immediately, there may be an upfront fee. For more routine efforts, a contingency relationship can be established that costs the employer nothing until a candidate is placed. Most recruiter fees are based on a percentage of the candidate’s salary.

As you weigh the option of using a recruiter, it’s important to understand there is always a cost associated with an open position – it’s either not saving you money, or not making you money. An efficient recruiter will quickly fill open positions that have a far greater cost to the business than a recruiter’s fee.

Job Recruiting

Pro-Tip: Avoid job listing overexposure

It’s important that your recruiter evaluate your exposure. Maybe one of the reasons you cannot find high quality or passive candidates is that your job listing is everywhere. Some hiring managers mistakenly believe it would be most efficient to engage multiple recruiters at once. This gang-busters approach usually ends up backfiring on your placement effort.

In niche markets or regions, it’s very easy for a candidate to see your listing in multiple locations, or to have multiple agents trying to reach them for the same position. This leads to your company appearing desperate. Candidates may be suspicious about why no one has wanted to take the role with your company. For the same reason you would not have multiple realtors listing your home, it’s best to have only one highly skilled and connected recruiter engaged in filling your open position at a time.


The white-glove experience

If you selected the right recruiter, you should experience what is referred to as a “white-glove” process. Be ready for a much more intimate experience compared to large staffing firms. An executive recruiter will provide weekly updates on progress, as well as valuable feedback obtained from candidates that you do not normally get when working directly, or through the job boards.

A good recruiter will not overwhelm you with candidates. Instead they will provide you with a small handful of highly qualified candidates. Some employers find the results to be so good that they struggle to choose between the few candidates. This is where the recruiter’s industry experience shines again. You should be able to consult with your recruiter and rely upon their experience, from the time you craft the job posting to the difficult choice between highly qualified candidates. As one satisfied Odyssey Pursuit client put it:

“The second time we used OPE we started with their standard assessment. Afterwards Tim told me, respectfully, that he felt I had the wrong role for my company! He asked if he could work outside of the specific margins I had set. I reluctantly agreed. Again, Tim brought me two candidates. One for the role I thought I needed (a stellar option) and one for the role HE thought I needed. As it turns out, Tim knew exactly who and what I needed. I hired that person for the alternate role and I am winning as a result.”

Your recruiter should also handle many of the post-selection steps that can be difficult and time consuming. Expect your recruiter to follow up with the non-selected candidates in a professional manner, and also rely on them to address last minute compensation issues that may arise with your selection, dealing with counter offers they may have received, etc..

Is the recruiter willing to walk away?

You should not expect a recruitment search effort to last more than a month. The placement could happen within 3 – 6 weeks of interviews, depending on the complexity of your internal screening process. However, not every search effort ends up a win. An experienced recruiter will know to call it quits early and consult with you on why. Maybe the job requirements are too high given current market conditions, or maybe the recruiter does not have a large enough network in your industry. The best recruiters will not waste your time.  As Tim Burkhart, COO of Odyssey Enterprises puts it, “I would rather turn you down, then let you down.”

Shaking hands

Pro-Tip: Thank your recruiter

An often-overlooked step to successfully working with a recruiter is a simple thank you! A relationship with a good recruiter is an asset that can last a lifetime. Be sure to show your appreciation and keep the lines of communication open. The optimal recruiter will keep you posted about new top talent, even when you aren’t actively seeking.