February 11, 2021
November 23, 2020

How To Chose The Best Recruitment Agency For Your Business in 2021

Why Work With A Recruitment Agency

Working with a top recruitment agency is guaranteed to save you time, money and the stress of risking a poor hire. It's also an excellent choice for those with no in-house hiring experts in 2021. However, the most substantial benefit of working with a recruitment agency is the improved quality of hire you're getting and it boils down to the agency's coveted talent pool.
Agencies take years to build out networks of great candidates. This is what they compete and differentiate on amongst themselves, and it's a critical marker 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 thinking of 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 network of candidates that no one else can see. This is what makes it worth it 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 times better. Those are the two critical hiring factors, and you cannot get them without using an experienced recruitment agency.

But how do you pick a recruitment agency? Choosing the right one 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 IT recruitment agency, we know the things you should evaluate and look out for, so we've put together tips and information that will help you choose a recruitment agency partner.

Get the team on the same page.

Set a team meeting to discuss your current hiring challenges and what you're trying to solve by hiring a recruitment firm. Make sure that everyone involved in your company's recruitment has the chance to provide input 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 make sure you don't miss anyone's requirements. 

  • Are the jobs you're hiring for involve full-time, part-time, or contract-based work?
  • How long does your recruiting process usually take you?
  • What kind of candidates are you struggling to hire? 
  • Are you getting lots of applicants that don't meet the qualifications for the position?

Once you have your list of challenges and pain points, use a prioritization matrix to rank the importance of each. The resulting list can be your criteria when comparing prospective agencies. By getting this process done as a team, you're already ensuring that the agency you end up working with will positively affect your whole company.  

Look for specialized expertise.

Not all recruitment agencies are made equal. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and you need to make sure to chose the open who's strengths play well to your hiring needs. For instance, if you need to hire a developer or software engineer, hire an recruitment agency that focuses solely on placing tech talent, don't opt for a general staffing firm to get it done. 

When you hire a niche recruitment agency, you can be assured that they know their talent segment inside and out and will waste no time getting acquainted with the technologies and requirements outlined in a job description for a technical role. Hiring in tech is too competitive and complex to offer as an add on service to general recruitment services.

 Instead, look for what's called a Niche agency - these will specialize 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 kind of agencies you want to hire will have substantial networks, strong reputations in the industry they recruit for and 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 prescreening steps that are often the most time-consuming in the hiring process.

When working with a niche agency, you're never starting from square one; this is how they're able to fill the positions so 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 they match not just your skill requirements but would also make a great addition to your team in terms of company culture. 

Look For Social Proof. 

Make a list of the specialized/niche agencies you want to contact. The best way to do this is to ask people in your network if they can recommend agencies they've worked within the past.

You should also take a look at the list of top recruitment agencies listed on Clutch and G2 and read the reviews for agencies from that list that 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 on Linkedin and ask about their experience.

Look at the track record. 

For full time, middle to senior-level placements, you should consider the agency's expertise and track record in your industry vertical. Go on Linkedin and look up the agency's executive management and recruiters and look at their professional networks. Look at their past clients, and make a point to reach out to and ask them about their experience working with the recruitment agency.

How big is the agency's talent base? Also, pay attention to the company's online presence - it can tell you a lot about their brand and company culture. Please pay attention to how they leverage media to connect with talent.

What sourcing strategies do they employ? How well do they engage passive candidates online? Follow the company and connect with their recruiters on LinkedIn for more insight into how they handle business. Some key points to consider when evaluating agencies on Linkedin.

  • How do the agency's recruiters present themselves online?
  • Are they a part of groups where passive candidate can be found?
  • Do they contribute to the discussions going on in their industry? Do they sound knowledgeable?
  • Have they previously placed candidates in your industry? (this should be a definite yes before you advance them to this stage of the selection process) 

You may not be able to find info on everyone, but you'll likely find the recruiters and gain a better sense of the team's culture. Expert recruiters work hard to contribute valuable content and maintain a dominant online presence on Linkedin.

You can see what they've achieved for past clients, get a sense of their strategy and approach to the recruitment process. Set up meeting requests with the agencies you've picked so far. 

Speaking to Your Agency Prospects

When you speak to a prospective agency, ask them to share some past cases and successful placements for the roles you're looking to fill. Be sure to verify that they have experience placing candidates for companies in your industry before you proceed any further.

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, shortlist this 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. 

Questions For Evaluating A Prospective Recruitment Agency 

How long can it take to place a candidate for the role I'm looking to fill, and what is your average time to hire? 

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.   

What is your fee schedule? 

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.

What is your CV selection process?

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. 

What are your placement guarantees?

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. 

What is your Candidate CV to Interview Rate?

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. 

What is your Interview to offer rate? 

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. 


Want to know how a recruitment agency can help you hit your hiring goals? Let's talk

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