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Eight Tips for Working with a Recruiting Firm

By Tom Verzuh

The executive vice president for a large regional systems integration company with multiple branches asked our recruiting firm to conduct a search for a commercial sales manager for their entire organization. We went through an extensive process including interviewing a long list of candidates. Our client was ready to make an offer and the candidate was willing to relocate. All that was left was one final interview with the CEO.

Unfortunately, there were some mixed signals because the CEO really wanted a sales manager who would only handle just one branch. With the different position, pay scale and responsibilities, the candidate chose not to accept the offer.

The bottom line is that a lot of time, energy and expenses were wasted, not to mention that the process left the candidate with a bad impression of the company.

If your company is going to take full advantage of the benefits of working with a recruiting firm, or headhunters as we are commonly called, there are a number of things you should know.

First, companies hire recruiting firms. That means that recruiters work for the client company and their main obligation is to find an employee for the company, not to find a job for a candidate.

Also, the search for the right candidate is strictly confidential. Companies often approach a recruiter to replace an existing employee. Some companies (or candidates) might not want it known in the marketplace that they are looking.

Following are eight tips you can follow when working with a recruiting firm. Some are appropriate for your own searches even if you don't use an agency.

  1. Interview the Recruiting Firm
    There are different types of recruiting firms so treat the recruiting firm like a potential employee. Ask for references, the methods they use and their success rate. Some firms will throw as many resumes your way as possible - even if the candidates have not been thoroughly qualified. Make sure the recruiter knows the security industry and then ask what level of positions they work with within the industry. Find out what happens if the person you hire doesn't work out.

  2. Always Have a Signed Fee Agreement
    It's always a good idea to have a signed agreement so you know all costs and policies beforehand. Most recruiting firms will work on either a retainer or contingency base. With a retainer, you will pay some money upfront, some money during the process and then the balance once the hire is made. Contingency means that you don't have to pay the firm until you hire from them. Most recruiting firms work on a contingency basis, which is why you shouldn't use more than one firm.

  3. Define the Job
    Everyone involved in the hiring process should meet beforehand and defined the scope, responsibilities, accomplishments and compensation of the job. They should also be one hundred percent in agreement on the specifications before beginning.

  4. Have a Firm Compensation Plan
    A detailed compensation plan should be in place including price range, ideal salary, benefits, commissions, bonuses, perks and a relocation package. Plan ahead on how flexible you will be on each point.

  5. Don't Present a False Impression of the Company or the Position
    Don't present a false impression of the company or position just to lure a candidate in. It will eventually backfire and won't take long for employees to see what the company is really like. As you might suspect, employee retention at those companies is very low.

  6. Be Responsive
    Return phone calls so the recruiter won't have to track you down. When discussing candidates, be honest and tell the recruiter whether you are interested in the person they suggest. Even if you haven't made a decision, let them know you haven't decided and when you will make your decision.

  7. Make a Decision
    Candidate's lives are disrupted the most in the recruiting process - more so than the employer. Changing jobs is one of the most stressful and critical decisions we make in life. Once you've made contact with a candidate and indicated to them that your company is interested, don't leave them hanging. Many good candidates drop out of the picture simply because the company never makes a decision.

  8. Let the Recruiting Agency Guide the Process
    Once you choose a recruiting firm let them guide the recruitment process from the first interview through the compensation plan and even into background checks.

We once presented a number of candidates to a company but excluded one particular candidate, although he was in our database. However, another recruiting firm presented the candidate we had left out to the company. Even though we strongly suggested that this wasn't a good fit, the client hired him anyway. The day before he was to start, he took another position and never showed up for work.

Maybe the company chose to ignore our recommendation because they thought we were worried about our fee. In any case, we had to start the search all over again. We did find someone else to fill the position. That person has produced millions of dollars in sales and has been promoted twice.

Looking for the right person to fill a position is not always the easiest task so take advantage of the recruiting agency's experience and knowledge. Think of a recruiting firm as a strategic partner. Work with them in the right way and you'll get top quality candidates, the vast majority of which you would never find on your own.

Tom Verzuh is president of SCW Consulting, Inc. An industry veteran for over 15 years, he has worked for some of the major CCTV and Access Control manufacturing companies in the Physical Security Industry. SCW Consulting, Inc. recruits and places candidates for mid to senior level positions within companies, both nationally and internationally.

Tom may be reached at 720-542-0500 ext. 12 or by e-mail at