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What Companies Should Know About Working with a Recruiting Agency

By Tom Verzuh

What should companies be aware of when working with a recruiting agency?

If a company is going to take full advantage of the benefits of working with a recruiting agency, there are a number of things they should know before beginning the relationship as well as during the recruiting process.

Different Types of Recruiting Agencies
First, it's important to understand that not all recruiting firms are the same and not all are in the best position to help your company. Some specialize in their own geographic area while others focus on specific industries. The former are similar to an employment agency. These types are a great resource when you are looking for office or low-level administrative help.

But if you are looking to fill a high-level position, then it is in your best interest to pick an agency with security industry experience.

Unfortunately, too many recruiting firms have gravitated to the security industry without really knowing the industry. In recent years, recruiting agencies that have specialized in industries such as telecommunications and IT have lost business thanks to a hard hit economy. Because those industries are not currently hiring, these agencies have expanded into other industries. So be careful. These firms might tell you that they specialize in the security industry. But if you do a little research, you might find they have merely switched (or added) industries.

Interview the Recruiting Firm
It should go without saying that you shouldn't choose a recruiting firm at random. Interview them. Ask them for references. Find out how they work and the methods they use. Make sure they truly know and understand the security industry and then ask what level of positions they work with within the industry. Ask whether they will recruit from your firm if you become a client (and get it in writing that they will not do so for a specified time). Find out what happens if the person you hire doesn't work out. Finally, ask them what their success rate is.

If you don't trust the recruiting firm, don't use them. If you wouldn't invite them into your office and introduce them to all your employees with confidence that they wouldn't recruit them or do anything else to hurt your business, don't do business with them.

Retainer or Contingency
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 won't have to pay the firm until you hire from them. Most recruiting firms work on a contingency basis.

Obviously some people might be concerned about working with a retained firm. What if it doesn't work out after you have paid them? On the other hand, the recruiting firm is working for free until your company hires someone they suggested. There are pros and cons on both sides.

Here's an example: A company from the east coast asks a recruiting firm to find them a sales rep on the west coast. The arrangement is on a contingency basis and the recruiting firm spends two weeks diligently searching for the right person. The company hasn't paid the firm a dime - all they have done is sign a paper saying that if they hire someone from the firm they will then pay the firm. After two weeks, the firm comes up with three great candidates. The money is right, they are highly qualified and are exactly the type of people that the company requested.

Unfortunately, the company tells the recruiting agency that that they have decided not to hire anyone. Believe it or not, that happens constantly.

The recruiting firm has just wasted its time and has nothing to show for it. Why should a recruiting firm work really hard on a search unless there is a benefit to them down the road?

That's also why using more than one recruiting firm is not beneficial. If you have more than one firm doing a search - and it's on contingency - what are the odds of getting a placement? None of the agencies will be devoted to your search.

Realize that the effort the firm puts in is in direct correlation to the odds of a successful placement. The greater the odds and the more serious your company is, then the greater an effort will be made. That's why I recommend using a good recruiting agency on a retainer basis for a high-level, critical position.

Typically, the fee that your company pays the agency is based on a percentage, which usually ranges from 25-30% of either the person's base salary or total earnings.

But keep in mind, cheaper doesn't mean better. The resume mills (firms that simply throw resumes in your direction) are usually cheaper. And a firm with bad ethics can very easily place a person; get paid and then 90 days later pull that person out of your company. It's a trick that goes on all the time. Lower priced firms have a tendency to only look at things from a transactional basis without establishing long-term relationships.

Let the Recruiting Agency Guide the Process
Once you choose the agency, they should guide the recruitment process from the first interview through the compensation plan and even into background checks. A good firm not only knows the industry but also has the experience in the process. By letting them do their job, you'll save time, energy and additional expenses.

As you work together, open up to them and be honest. Fill them in on things they need to know about such as the compensation plan and what's happening within the organization.

Then be responsive. Return phone calls and make a decision when the time comes. "Yes" is okay. "No" is okay. But "maybe" is not acceptable. Needing more information or requesting another interview is certainly valid but simply stalling is not okay. When companies don't make a timely decision, then they inevitably lose both the recruiting firm and the candidate.

Make sure all decision makers are on the same page and don't allow the human resources department to be the only contact for the recruiting form. The hiring manager must also be involved. Otherwise, the recruiting agency will be at a severe disadvantage. They need direct contact with the decision makers before the interviews to understand exactly what their needs are, and what they are looking for. This insures that during the interviews both the client and candidate are on the same page. It also helps after the interviews to make sure everything is going well.

Built Upon Trust
Ideally, you should work with one good agency that you trust implicitly and put all your faith into them. To sum it up - if it is a high-level recruitment agency, the level of service you'll get is directly proportionate to the level of responsiveness, dedication, exclusivity and focus that you give the recruiting firm to help you.

Think of a recruiting firm as an extension of your company. A good firm will work with you and establish a relationship that will go beyond simply placing a person in your company.

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