Getting the best out of using recruitment agencies; the facts, the law and dispelling the myths

It is a commonly known fact that recruitment agencies have developed a rather unsavoury reputation but as ever, it is important not to tar everyone with the same brush.  

There are some fantastic recruiters out there who do a wonderful and professional job for their clients. Perhaps one of the factors that has driven some particularly unwelcome behaviours is the fact that they are allowed to happen and inadvertently encouraged by hiring companies. 

In this blog, I explore the myths around engaging with an agency and how you can look to get the best out of your relationship with a trusted agency partner. 

When would you be using an agency

Generally there will be two types of circumstances when you would look to engage with an agency; 

Firstly you may have made a conscious decision to ask an agency to assist you in finding suitable candidates for a vacancy.  At this point you should have agreed Terms of Business so that all parties are aware of their obligations, fees and any rebates should things not work out.  

The second common scenario is whereby you receive a CV speculatively from either a known or an unknown agency and the candidate described looks of interest.  

Instructing an agency on a vacancy

Have you ever found yourself disgruntled with an agency because they just send through lots of unsuitable candidates that are no match to what you are looking for?  

This is another complaint that can be heard up and down the country but in some cases it could all be down to how the initial brief was taken.  

Some companies send out a blanket email with their vacancy to either a couple or several agencies and in doing so open the flood gates.  

The best recruitment agencies will seek to dig deeper in order to gain a better understanding of what the vacancy is, why it exists and what really matters to you about the candidates.  

The recruitment agencies that get a true understanding of the role and the exact criteria will stand a much greater chance of hitting the spot.  

Those who have never sought to understand your exact requirements and take minimal information are most likely to attempt the “spray and pray” method – in other words, throw enough mud and some of it may stick!  

What really needs to happen when receiving the same CV from two agencies

When working with agencies, one of the worst situations clients can find themselves in is when they receive the same CV from two recruiters and many think that they must work with the agency that submitted it first.  

This is a myth. 

As we know from the rabbit and tortoise fable, slow and steady wins the race and this is also true in recruitment.  

If you are going to pay an agency a fee for sourcing your next employee, value for money is critical. 

An agency that takes the time to thoroughly sift candidates, vet them accordingly, discuss your role at length and gain proper permissions to submit candidates is worth having in your corner and whilst this way of working may take a little longer it ensures quality over quantity.  

If you had two recruitment agencies where one just pinged over a CV they happened across and the other carried out the full process described latterly – which would you consider worthy of a fee and rather pay? 

The point of law

In order to claim an introduction fee from you, an agency has to prove that they facilitated the hiring of the candidate into your position which goes beyond just sending a CV.  

They would need to have organised the interview as a minimum but may also need to demonstrate providing details of the role and gaining permission from the candidate.   Many people out there really do not know where they stand and use the first come, first served method.  

If you have not instructed an agency on a vacancy and they send a candidate, you can simply reject their submission and walk away. 

If you are going to have a panel of agencies working with you it is a good idea to write a policy into your agreement that addresses this situation in order to ensure a quality approach.  For example, in the event of the same candidate being sent by both, you may suggest that the candidate confirms in writing which agency they wish to act on their behalf.   

How do you get the best from agency partners

If you want to avoid disputes and get the very best from a recruitment partner there are a few approaches that you can take.   

Firstly, be clear on who you want to work with and decide this from previous experience or a tender process and once this decision is made, make it clear that you do not accept speculative CV’s.  Naturally any supplier can be reviewed at set periods so that accountability and service remains strong. 

Ensure that Terms of Business are put in place, fully read, understood and agreed at the outset.  We often hear stories or how clients have paid high fees only to have had placements drop out soon after with no rebates issued from the agency.  

Before deciding to engage with an agency that you haven’t worked with before, seek references or chat to a current client so you can ascertain the values that they work towards.  This is particularly important if the fee that will be charged is sizable and the hire is critical to your business. 

The best relationships between recruiter and client are those that are transparent and respectful.  Being prepared to invest time in educating, coupled with rewarding a quality service will be reciprocated in exceptional candidates, fair terms and a hassle free hiring process.