How to Evaluate Staffing and Recruiting Firms

Business professional working on laptopYou have to hire, but you don’t have time to devote to the hiring process. It’s a common problem, as most business owners can attest to. Even with my very small company’s hiring needs, sorting through tons of resumes and doing lots of interviews seems like an onerous process.

This is where staffing and recruiting firms come into play. Professional recruiting firms help speed up the hiring process and possibly bring you better qualified candidates through their wider sourcing efforts. But which firm do you use? How do you find a recruiting firm that will provide real long-term value to your company?

This issue is close to my interests, as I actually run, which provides a way to find recruiters and staffing firms. I also used to work at a recruiting firm myself, so I’ve seen things from both sides.  But software tools won’t ever really help you with the hardest part of the equation, which is how to evaluate prospective vendors once you have identified them. Here are a few tips!

Practices and Process: When you discuss the procedure that a recruiting firm uses to identify and assess candidates, it’s easy to be “wowed” with Powerpoints. Any larger firm is going to have a neat presentation outlining their standard procedures. It will have all the depth and rigor of a Six Sigma manufacturing process. Reality, however, many times gets in the way. Try to develop a simple checklist that the recruiting firm will follow. Get their guarantee that they will follow a few simple rules (your rules will follow your individual practices).

Some examples include:

1. Always meeting every candidate.
2. Following up with any candidate that you reject.
3. Background screening candidates upon job offer.

Experience: As when finding a recruiter to help you find a job, the depth of the recruiter’s particular exposure to your industry is quite important. You want the recruiting firm to understand one of three aspects of your particular business very well – meaning: Industry, Job Type, and/or Local area. For example, if you are recruiting for a software engineer and you’re in the insurance industry, you want a recruiting firm that specializes in technology and that has clients in the insurance industry. Perhaps you are hiring local sales reps – you want a recruiting firm that works a lot in your specific 10 mile radius area and has deep local connections. The best match for a recruiting firm will have all three covered, meaning that they often recruit for that particular job type, have current clients that are your industry competitors, and work in your local area.

Terms and Pricing: Before you start working with a recruiting firm, ask to see their contract. Look for straight forward terms that don’t overreach. If they are providing direct hire recruiting services, look for rates that are similar to industry averages and a decent refund policy if the employee doesn’t work out (such as a 3 month guarantee.) If they are providing staffing services, pay special attention to Contract to Hire/Conversion date schedules and how they treat indemnifications and insurance for themselves and for your company. You may also ask to see their contract that they use for candidates if they are providing a staffing service. With these candidate contracts, you may wish to ensure that they do not unfairly abuse the employee or hide fees, etc.

When selecting recruiting firms, many large employers and government entities perform formal RFP’s (Requst for Proposal) with lengthy approval processes. These practices many times discourage innovative, new, or simply very busy recruiting firms. These RFP practices tend to favor recruiting companies with highly defined practices and sophisticated marketing language. These are attributes that will not likely help your company get the best service. To find a great recruiting partner, you just have to ensure that they know your business, have decent agreed upon recruitment practices, and use a contract that is fair to both parties. Beyond that, I would simply recommend that you work with recruiters that give you a good gut feeling and work hard for you. Good luck out there!

Miles Jennings is CEO and Co-Founder of offers the easiest way for job seekers, recruiters, and employers to reach each other. Started in 2010, is now one of the most popular career resources on the web.

Miles Jennings
Miles Jennings
Miles Jennings is CEO and Co-Founder of offers the easiest way for job seekers, recruiters, and employers to reach each other. Started in 2010, is now one of the most popular career resources on the web.

See all posts by Miles Jennings
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