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Starting the search - 10 questions to ask before choosing a Search firm

Starting the search – 10 questions to ask before choosing a Search firm


As the economy recovers, many companies are getting back into hiring people. While plenty of businesses choose to tackle the recruitment and hiring process on their own, others seek out the advice of recruiting companies and search firms.

If your business is thinking of taking the leap and hiring a recruiting firm, here are 10 questions you should ask during the process:

  1. How long have they been in the Search industry? You want to select an experienced recruiting firm that has a good reputation and has been around long enough to have the ability to source quality candidates; not only candidates ‘on the market’ but a knowledge of candidates ‘in the market’ in which you operate.
  2. What type of clients do they represent? Asking the recruiting firm to describe its typical client will help you better understand the firm’s focus. Does it align with your own company’s plan of action? Always ask a potential firm for client references who can speak about the quality of the firm’s service. Do they have any case studies on their website?
  3. How do they check the qualifications of prospective candidates? Determine how a firm customises its candidate search process beyond reading CV’s. Find out if it conducts face2face interviews, reference checks and employment background checks or skills testing when screening candidates for their level of qualification.
  4. Do they have available candidates? Get the firm’s success rate in placing candidates with companies that are similar to your own. Be transparent about your budget so you can get qualified candidates within your salary range.
  5. Will they come meet my staff? Recruiting firms are often removed from the immediate decision-making and hiring, so it may be helpful to get some face-to-face interaction with the recruiter to help that person understand your staffing needs. Have the firm meet you on-site and check out the workplace dynamics of your office.
  6. How collaborative are their recruiters? Some firms give recruiters specific company assignments, which means you may get job candidates from an individual recruiter’s candidate list rather than from a company-wide list.

Once you know how collaborative and integrated a firm is, you will be able to better assess how its relationships with clients and job candidates are managed and assigned.

  1. What’s their time period for placements? Ask the recruiting firm for time estimates. How long will it take before you see qualified CV’s and get a candidate you can hire? Does the firm provide a guaranteed period for job placement? Is that time frame reasonable and binding?
  2. What is their placement success rate? The length of time a new hire stays in a filled position often reflects the placement success of a firm. Ascertain whether the firm has filled more temporary job positions or more permanent positions. The more permanent positions, the better that firm’s success rate.
  3. What is their exclusivity policy? Some recruiting firms require that you do not use other agencies for your staffing needs. That may be fine if the firm offers a strong network of available candidates, but consider your time demands and other needs before agreeing to an exclusivity agreement or contract with a firm.
  4. What is their billing process? Recruiting firm fees usually vary by the type of position you want to fill. For mid- to lower-level positions, the recruiting firm will could bill you once an offer is made and charge you a percentage of the candidates 1st year’s salary.

When filling senior or high-level positions, a recruiting firm are likely to charge you a larger percentage of the candidates 1st year’s salary.

This article is adapted from a column than originally ran in the Washington Business Journal.