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How to Get the Best From Your External Recruitment Partners

How to Get the Best From Your External Recruitment Partners

Most of us have had the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ discussion. But, perhaps it’s time to lead that conversation with your external recruitment partners.

Are you regularly having some of these thoughts:

-       our PSL always used to deliver, but lately they’re really not hitting the mark

-       receiving a lot of duplicate candidates from our recruitment partners has become an issue and we stop getting new CVs after just a few days

-       we’re getting more offers rejected than we used to

-       I don’t feel I can always trust my recruitment partners and sometimes question if they have our best interests at heart

-       more candidates than ever are pulling out mid-process

-       our PSL recruiters are contacting hiring managers directly too much

-       we don’t seem to be able to attract the right calibre of technologists

-       we interview a lot of candidates who could perform the role, but they’re not a cultural fit, or they misunderstood the job, or they weren’t well-briefed about our organisation

-       we’re second-guessing candidate market information as our suppliers aren’t providing quality market insights

If too many of these resonate with you here are the 6 steps you can take to get the very best out of your recruitment partners.

Choose the right recruitment partners

This is a whole article on its own, so here are the headline points for consideration.

Ask yourself, are your current recruitment partners:

-       a cultural fit and are they capable of acting as a brand ambassador for your company’s talent attraction - this is really important as they’re effectively acting as an extension of your organisation out to the candidate community

-       quality driven and deliver an excellent, responsive and totally honest service across the disciplines required

-       invest time in developing relationships and want to understand the challenges you and the business face; contributing to the solutions

-       passionate and highly knowledgeable about what they do

-       specialist in the areas needed to fill all, or most of your positions, or your tricky niche roles

-       a concern when introducing them to senior stakeholders in your company, and are you totally comfortable with the way they operate and how that reflects on you 

-       an agency you like working with - you don’t have to like working with them, but a good relationship really helps 

If you’re selecting a new recruitment partner, get as many recommendations as you can from colleagues, peers and technologists already working in your organisation. Reputation is everything in recruitment, so go for new partners who come highly recommended. Do your research; websites and LinkedIn pages only tell you what they want you to know about them, so delve deeper on the likes of Glassdoor and contact your wider network to see if any concerns are raised.

Don’t use too many recruitment partners

Think using lots of recruitment consultancies will get you lots more great candidates and you’ll fill your job openings a whole lot faster, giving you more time for other things? Wrong! Here's why:

Keeping your suppliers engaged and motivated to work hard filling your roles is absolutely critical. The more suppliers you use, the more the opportunity for each of them is diluted and you’ll become less of a focus for them as a consequence. The good recruitment consultancies (in other words, the ones you’ll want to work with) will have exclusive client agreements, or will partner with other clients on very limited PSLs. Given that’s a proven model which works well for recruitment consultancies and clients alike, it’s unlikely they’ll invest time in truly getting to know you and your organisation. Consequently, supporting you on your roles simply won’t be a priority for them. Engaging too many recruitment agencies will probably lead to the consultancies that do choose to work with you passing your roles to trainees or a low-cost (lower-skilled) sourcing function. No one wants to considered a ‘B grade, silver, second tier, or a 4-star customer.

Also, consider:

-       the more suppliers you have, the more relationships you’ll need to develop, nurture and maintain, which done properly, to get good results, is very time-consuming

-       candidates are very sceptical and cautious of an opportunity if they’re approached multiple times by many agencies within a day or two

-       the fewer recruitment partners you use, the easier it is to construct and control the message taken to the candidate community and consistency in how your company is represented is key for your employer brand to work

Really good recruitment should be about quality over quantity. Every time.

Lead and facilitate excellent engagement

If you’re seeking the best possible representation in the market, a responsive service from your recruitment partners, and you want to beat your competitors in accessing the best talent, it’s imperative that you engage with your suppliers effectively.

Here’s how:

-       make sure your suppliers have visited your offices and met the TA team along with key recruitment stakeholders; when your recruiters are trying to activate those desirable passive candidates nothing sounds better than explaining what the people and company is like from having had a tour of your environment, meeting the team and experiencing the culture first-hand, as talking a candidate through observing a stand-up, seeing your Kanban boards and the restaurant, games room etc. really brings your culture and opportunity to life

-       it’s well worth the effort required to provide good quality and timely feedback as this will keep your suppliers updated and therefore motivated to deliver, and candidates well informed

-      if you’re serious about your employer brand, you cannot reject CVs or candidates after an interview without even a brief explanation; a great candidate experience will pay you back in the long run and your recruitment partners need to know where things went wrong to avoid future replication 

-       no matter how great a job description is, every good recruiter will appreciate a briefing call to discuss a new role: take the lead here and get these set up with the hiring manager, or with the TA team as 30-minute group call at the start of the process will save you days or even weeks as the process evolves

-       really good recruiters are passionate about their clients’ success as well as their candidates, so ensure they know what success is for your organisation and the role that they, as your recruitment partner, will play in its achievement - bring them on the journey with you as much as is practical to make them feel part of something that’s more than simply filling your vacancies

Offer less to get more

Unless you’re working at scale, when issuing roles try reducing the number of agencies you use. By working with just one or two of the right recruitment partners on a role by role basis, you should get a much better service and a higher number of quality candidates. Using too many recruiters usually leads to a frantic, competitive rush to ‘close’ and submit candidates. All too often this ‘fastest finger first’ style of recruitment will drive the detested throwing of mud against a wall to hope something sticks. Typically, after a day or two of recruiters contacting candidates to hear ‘you’re the fourth agent to call me today with this opportunity’, they’ll ease off the search to focus on something else. This means you’ll miss out on the candidates that can only be found through extensive searching and forensic market mapping. Proper headhunting in other words. 

Trial issuing roles to your partners for an exclusive pre-agreed period of time. If you’ve not done this before you should. Entrusting the right partner for, say a two-week period with exclusive rights on an opportunity, should deliver a much higher level of engagement, detailed market insights, more effective brand communication, and encourage a thorough search. The results will follow.

You get what you pay for

If you have a model that has a sliding scale for fees the better your recruiters perform, unless it’s with a master vendor, get rid of it. Your better performing recruitment partners should be rewarded more for doing well, not penalised. The efficiencies they bring through results are worth a little more and striving for a higher fee tier will motivate and drive performance.  

Pay fair rates for the service you expect to receive and the value you place on attracting talent into your organisation. There aren’t too many companies out there today that don’t position the people they employ as one of their most valued assets and differentiators. And be sure that any recruitment fees and terms your suppliers agree to work at aren’t being accepted begrudgingly. If they are, you’re only hurting yourself as your roles won’t be prioritised and focused on the way you’d like.

Encourage feedback

Finally, no one knows better how to get the best out of your recruitment partners than, well, your recruitment partners. They’ll know the unique challenges faced and can contribute to the solutions. Encourage their feedback and be seen to act upon it.

Drop me a line at if you'd like to have a chat or learn more about this subject, or if you'd like to know more about Talentspot Recruitment and how we help our customers with their tech talent attraction across Ireland.