9 Ways to get the most from your Recruiter

Tanya White, Senior Planning & Project Controls Recruiter

Are you aware that in the same way your company might operate a Preferred Supplier List, many of the best Recruiters have a ‘Preferred Client List’? It is these clients who quickly snap up their most talented candidates, with the scarcest of skills, leaving other hiring managers still looking. So, how do you become a Preferred Client of the UK’s top specialist recruiters and always receive first option on the best candidates?

We asked three of our most experienced Recruiters, with over 50 years engineering and tech recruitment experience between them, what factors they consider most when prioritising vacancies and clients. You’ll be pleased to read it’s not all about fees!

1. Invest time writing a carefully considered job description, specific to this hire. Generic / templated job descriptions are fine in org charts but are pretty much useless when used for recruitment. You and your Recruiter must both have complete clarity on what tech skills are mandatory vs. desirable, minimum qualifications, previous industry experience etc. You should also include a person spec, outlining the personality, behaviours and attitude you’re looking for, to ensure a good cultural fit to the rest of your team. It’s also a good idea to show how you will measure their performance through Yr1, so they’re clear on expectations and what they need to do to succeed.

2. Consider engaging a Recruiter exclusively. If you engage a dozen different Recruiters on one vacancy, each of them can see only a 1:12 chance of making a fee, so you can realistically expect a twelfth of the effort from each. Unfortunately though it’s even worse than that, since doing so unwittingly encourages a quick & dirty service from agencies, each rushing to be first past the post with any CV’s that might be a rough match, often (illegally) without even getting the candidates permission. Whilst this might work for commodity type recruitment (un/semi-skilled, retail, admin etc) it certainly doesn’t for scarce tech / engineering skills, such as P3M Solution Architects, who need to be hunted out as they’re not actively on the job market and their specialists skills (Unifier, P6/EPPM, Primavera Gateway,  BI Publisher etc) are in such high-demand.

To ensure a more thorough search, Employers should instead consider engaging just one Recruiter who specialises in that particular discipline, for a short, agreed period. They will not only commit more resource to the search but will then also be able to apply more rigour to the selection process, without being unduly rushed, ensuring you only see the very best.If you chose the right Recruiter, the increased accuracy and quality will far exceed your expectations.

3. Encourage discussion with Hiring Managers. Whilst good job descriptions (not generic ones) are a great starting point, an effective Recruiter will get so much more from a briefing directly with the Hiring Manager. This is an investment of your valuable time (maybe 30-60 mins), but it will undoubtedly save you many times that by ensuring you only review and interview truly suitable candidates. It’s preferable to do this face-to-face, so you can build on the relationship and understanding and so they can see the work environment.

During this meeting/call the Recruiter should be learning about the dynamic of the existing team, the opportunity for subsequent career progression, major projects in the pipeline, company growth, awards etc, all of which are missed from even the best job spec but are critical to entice the best talent. They will also question you to understand what your top performers look like and agree technical questions they can ask at initial screening to further improve the quality of your shortlist and save you time.

Before you break out in a cold sweat though, rest assured that you can easily manage this direct contact, to ensure you’re not unnecessarily pestered by the Recruiter, by sticking to agreed appointments. Be assured, the benefits far outweigh the time invested in such initial discussion.

4. Agree equitable fees in advance. It may seem harsh but you should understand that the best Recruiters do not need to discount their fees so will walk away from low fees (or at best, treat it as low priority), meaning the best candidates might be on their way to your competitors. By all means negotiate, but don’t squeeze so hard that you lose the best Recruiters who specialise in your domain or that it affects the quality of candidates and service you receive.

You should also take this opportunity to ensure your expectations are clear on what is / isn’t included in the headline fee. Do you need them to run background checks (criminal records, security, credit, global sanctions, DBS etc), take references, validate qualifications, skills testing, conduct personality profiling etc and is this included in the fee or an additional cost?

5. Clearly define your selection process and maintain momentum. Your diary time is precious so consider pencilling in dates for Recruiter reviews and first interviews when you first engage a Recruiter. This targets the Recruiters to deliver within the agreed timeframe whilst also sending a positive message to potential candidates.

6. Avoid Wild Goose Chases. Exhaust internal applications and employee referrals before engaging external Recruiters. If you do have candidates already in play, let your Recruiter know, at least they will then understand what they need to deliver to improve on your existing shortlist. It could be that you need external candidates to benchmark your existing candidates against, which is fine, as long as you’re open about it.

Professional recruiters working on a contingent basis (charging only for successful outcomes) are likely to shy away from roles that aren’t yet fully approved, as there’s a real risk of their work aborting without anything to show for their efforts. If you’re awaiting sign off, or maybe looking for CV’s for a tender, make your recruiters aware so they know what they’re dealing with and can prioritise accordingly. Don’t run the risk of alienating the best specialist Recruiters by misleading them. Otherwise, are they really likely to drop everything to support you when you next need them?

7. Ongoing, open communication by both parties. Your Recruiter should update you on their progress at regular, agreed points, also feeding back other valuable benchmark data and market advice. In return they will expect you to commit to regular communication also, regarding changes to your selection criteria, the job description, re-orgs etc.

8. Give meaningful feedback on CVs and interviews as quickly as possible. Not only does this allow your Recruiters to refine their search criteria and screening questions early on, improving accuracy, it also avoids unnecessary delays and once again reiterates to them, and their candidates, that you’re serious about securing the very best.

9. Treat your Recruiter as a Business Partner, tapping into their expertise for advice and guidance. Just as you are an expert in your field they should be true recruitment experts, with specialist knowledge of your sector – in my case Planning and Project Controls. Assuming you trust them and value their opinion, learn from their feedback on market conditions, salaries, how your company is perceived, what your competitors are doing and ask their advice on interviewing, how to make an offer etc if you wish.

Use these pointers to help engage and retain the most effective and well-connected Recruiters in your market. They can identify and secure the hidden talent that could really impact your business, whilst professionally promoting your company as Employer of Choice, saving you time and feeding back valuable market intelligence and benchmarking data.

For further information, please call +44 (0)1483 302211 to get introduced to one of our industry specific, trusted Recruitment Experts.