There are two sides to this. Firstly, how can businesses structure their recruiting needs efficiently and secondly, how can they go about the hiring process in the best possible way? From a recruiting perspective, it makes it harder for an agency to sell a job to a candidate if the employer has clearly not thought about where the new person will sit in the organisation and/or the precise parameters of the vacancy in question. Not to mention, businesses could also be saving money! Equally, there is little to motivate an agency when their standard fees have been negotiated heavily and many of their competitors have also been briefed on the same job.

Pre-planning can save your business money:

When someone leaves your organisation, it is common procedure to call your agency and ask for a replacement. Before picking up the phone take time out, from a Managerial or HR perspective, to look at the individuals within your organisation. How effective are they in their jobs? Are they able to carry out their roles in the best possible way within the current organisational frame work? By making a few tweaks here and there, you might help your employees to do their job better and you might increase efficiency within the organisation. It in turn means that you will be more targeted in your approach when it comes to hiring. To use an example, a Client has a team of 5 PAs. All are paid the same, yet one is supporting the CEO and another is based on Reception. The PA supporting the CEO doesn’t have the experience required and the CEO is unhappy and the PA working on Reception has too much experience and doesn’t want to be based on Reception any more. The PA to the CEO is leaving and so is one of the other three PAs. This is a classic case for restructure. In this case, move the PA/Receptionist into the Team PA role and bring in a dedicated Receptionist at a cheaper cost to the business. At the same time, hire an experienced and more expensive PA to support your CEO, with previous experience at this level. The support network will run more efficiently and the team will be happier as a result. Also, there is no additional cost to your business. When you speak to your agency/agencies, they will be able to present a clear and structured picture to suitable candidates and introduce you to the most talented individuals for each job. Clearly, in some situations, there are HR related issues which means your hands are tied with what you can or cannot do.

How to recruit efficiently:

Firstly, sourcing your staff in-house (i.e. investing in an in-house recruiter) is not the answer. Yes, you are saving on agency fees, but there is a reason why there are a good number of recruitment agencies out there and that is because, on the whole, they provide a very good service that offers businesses value for money, despite their charges. There are many examples of businesses trying to improve efficiency by bringing recruitment in-house and an equal number who then revert back to outsourcing their recruitment. The difficulty is locating talent and the time spent to locate that talent. Agencies tend to specialise in compartmentalised market sectors and are experts in their given area/areas. They spend resources (both time and money) to make sure they are attracting good candidates on to their books. If they do not invest these resources, then they will not last long in the current marketplace. In short, should you brief the “right” agency on a job, they should be able to provide you with a targeted shortlist of candidates promptly (clearly turnaround times depend on market sector). They will set up interviews for you, take feedback and negotiate on your behalf. In short, they save a huge amount of time and the opportunity cost of using an agency generally outweighs the cost of recruiting in-house. I say “generally” because when businesses get above a certain size and have a large and dedicate recruitment team, then the in-house recruiter model starts to work. First tip then is use an agency and do not try to recruit yourself.

Select the right agency:

There is a lot of choice in the marketplace and choosing the right agency is vital. Personal recommendation is the strongest pointer to a good agency, but in the absence of that, do your research. Most agencies have developed websites. If you click on google and type “hire a ……..”, then a list of agencies should come up. Read through their websites and shortlist three or four that stand out to you. Then act as you though you are a candidate looking for a job that you are recruiting for and see what jobs the agency has listed on their website, the volume of jobs they are working on and the dates these jobs were posted. This information should lead you to picking up the phone to a couple of agencies confident in the knowledge that they have the expertise to help you with your recruitment. Spend the time to meet face-to-face with your agency so that you can speak further about your recruitment needs with them and have a clear idea of timelines going forwards. Understand how the agency sources their candidates, how are they screened (are they interviewed face-to-face?) and when will a shortlist be presented to you.

A few key tips:

  • Never brief more than 3 agencies on the same position. Market sectors are only so large and you do not want agencies to be speaking to the same candidates otherwise they will lose motivation.
  • Do not be afraid to use a sole agency. If you believe they have the credentials, then this is the most efficient way to recruit. You can negotiate better fees and refund guarantees on a sole agency basis. You also will only have to look through one shortlist of CVS as opposed to two or three. HINT: To protect yourself, you can always agree “sole agency” for a specific time period!
  • Do not negotiate too heavily on fees. If you push an agency to reduce their fees from 20% to 15% then you may lose out on the perfect candidate. For example, your top candidate may be interviewing at another business, through the same agency. If you both offer the candidate, then the agency will be motivated to place the candidate with the business paying the higher fees. Ok, the candidate will make their own mind up, but if it is a close call, a Consultant does have an impact. Also, if a Consultant is working to 15% fees with you and 20% with the rest of his/her Clients, then your needs will not be given the same priority.
  • Refund periods. There is a cost to using an agency, so you need to be sure that you will get a proportion of your money back should the candidate you hire not work out. Make sure you are clear about the length of your refund period and the terms and conditions to that. Pay particular note of the payment terms and remember, if you are briefing an agency on a sole agency basis then their refund period should be longer than if you were briefing them alongside others.

Author: David Morel is Managing Director of, a leading recruitment company in the secretarial/administrational arena.

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