In an ideal world, recruiters wouldn’t exist. Every business would have a steady stream of experienced, driven future employees, all queuing up outside the Managing Director’s door, ready to get to work.

All companies would have fabulous career paths that their employees would never want to leave. In fact, they’d probably all be like a family at the end of it. They’d all spend Christmas and summer holidays together. Magic!

And you, Mr or Mrs Managing Director, would operate like a smooth MI5 agent. You’d know every step the competition makes, and every direction the markets are heading in. You’d have a market research team, focused with dagger-like precision on getting you the relevant information – because after all, knowledge is power, right?

Now time to wake up…

It would be nice if it was really like that, wouldn’t it? Sadly, it’s not. The reality is that people leave their jobs all the time. Businesses often struggle to recruit the right staff. And Managing Directors, such as yourself, find themselves bashing their heads against the nearest wall, wondering just when they’ll find the time to sort the situation out.

This is why a great recruiter is so invaluable. It’s their job to save you time and money. They’re also a dab hand at limiting risk – the dreaded risk of a dud hire. As you know, hiring the wrong candidate is distinctly bad for business, but sadly it’s all too easy to do without the right expert help. So why do so many decision-makers, hiring managers and Managing Directors struggle to see the value that a recruiter can bring? After all, you’re not a recruiter and it’s probably not your area of specialist expertise. That’s not your business, and it’s unlikely, in all honesty, that you’re much good at it (and why should you be?)

The appeal of a specialist recruiter

A specialist recruiter is right in the thick of your industry. They operate in your circles, they associate with your people, they reside in the same business world. Specialist recruiters spend more time talking to your competition than you ever will. They know the salaries, the employees, the products, the services. They know why people stay and why people leave.

Most importantly, they have a deep understanding of what your company does and how the market perceives it. They know what the market is saying about your company, your people and what you’ve got to offer. Simply put, recruiters are your eyes and ears. They’re your top spies in the field. They undertake valuable daily market research that money simply cannot buy. And best of all, this market research is hot-off-the-press and bang up to date, and it doesn’t cost you a penny. Your recruiter has all of this tucked up his or her sleeve, and if you work with them, you can have it too.

Understanding candidates

Even better, recruiters, like sheriffs in a Wild West movie, know the difference between the good, the bad and the downright ugly. They can spot the perfect candidate for your job a mile off, because they know your industry and its requirements inside out. They know exactly why the bad guys get fired, and they have an eagle-eye for a CV that’s shot through with holes.

They’ve also got the inside story. They know why a particular candidate is now looking for a job. How do they know? Because they’re the ones asking the questions. They’re in a perfect position to pose the all-important questions. What do you want? Why? No really, why? How much? No really, how much?

They’re a bit like a free career guidance counsellor, in fact. Good recruiters get to the heart of everything. Indeed, the have to if they value their reputation because their career depends upon their outstanding performance. That’s not to say they’re flawless – sadly, in real life, no-one is. But it does mean that a good specialist recruiter will leave no stone unturned, and will ask the questions that you can’t.

The inside scoop from your recruiter

By now, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of just how much a recruiter has their finger on the pulse and this has other advantages too. They can know what’s going on in your business before you do. They know when your good guys are being poached or headhunted by other companies. They know if your favourite employees are starting to get restless and are looking to hop out of the nest and into another one. Now they can’t tell you this kind of information as it’s just not cricket, but if you listen carefully to what’s happening, you may find there are signals…

Crusading for your company

In addition to keeping you up-to-date, policing candidates and giving you valuable insider knowledge, recruiters are also amazing brand ambassadors. Get them on side, and they’ll ride out into the market place, armed with techniques to overcome any negative objections the market has about your business. They’ll battle poor press, combat negative news that terrible hire is spreading, and they’ll do it all in a really neutral, unbiased way.

They operate as a natural extension of your HR department, spreading the love and sharing your success stories. They’ll be singing your praises, and they’ll make sure that potential future candidates hear it.

Selecting the right recruiter

A good recruiter offers a lot more than just a simple introduction to some good candidates – and the question to ask is: can your company afford not to have a really good recruiter relationship? After all, they probably know as much about your business as you do, and they’re more likely to know just how happy your staff are too.

However, it’s important to take the time to sniff out the great recruiters, the ones that’ll add real value to your company. Here’s how.

1) Do your research.

You’ll get called by young, enthusiastic recruiters all the time. Our advice? You can’t really benefit much from them. Tell them (kindly) to call back when they’ve had a chance to build up a few years of valuable experience.

When you get called by someone who sounds like they know what they’re doing, jump on to LinkedIn and check them out. If they operate in your industry and have done for some time, they’ll have a good network – your future network.

Also – don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your peers, particularly if they’re doing well!

2) Get prepared.

When your recruiter calls, make sure you’re able to take it and give the call the time it deserves. If they don’t call, remember that you can call them instead! Planning ahead is music to a recruiter’s ears. Of course, you’re busy… aren’t we all! However, I assure you, recruiters have no interest in wasting your time. Schedule some time to speak properly, preferably when you’re relaxed and can speak openly. In the car on the way to work is a good time, or when you’re sitting on the train. Recruiters never sleep, so don’t worry about anti-social hours, chances are they’ll take your call.

3) Ask questions.

It doesn’t need to be the Spanish Inquisition, but a few good questions are certainly advisable. Find out why they recruit, why they operate in your space and how long they’ve been doing it. Ask if they attend industry exhibitions, how they go about filling difficult roles, how quickly they get results and which companies they work with. You’ll swiftly build up a picture – and you’ll soon get a ‘feeling’ whether or not you can work with them.

4) Put them to work!

Now, I’d like to emphasise here that whipping your recruiter for better results isn’t generally a good idea. However, it’s important to give them a clear well-defined role. Provide them with a deadline, and give them a reason to work for you. Don’t play hardball on fees – they’ve got a set fee in mind, and it’s probably justifiable, given the amount of work involved. Give them exclusivity and the chance to deliver.

Remember, a good recruiter will want to prove they’re a valuable and trusted business contact. They want to build a long-term relationship. They want to be the only recruiter you ever ring when you need help. You win, they win. It’s as simple as that.

5) Build a long-term relationship.

I’m not necessarily saying you need to be best buddies with your recruiter and invite them to all future family events, unless of course, you want to. However, what I am saying is that it’s worth building up a strong business relationship with them. This means that when you call them, they already know you. They know your business. They know exactly what you’re looking for. This saves you a lot of time and hassle in the long-run.

Think of your recruiter as a tomato plant. Regular watering and a bit of TLC here and there, and you’ll yield a great crop – in this case, of exciting, qualified candidates. Neglect it, and you’ll find it tricky to get more than a few uninspiring CVs – without a lot of hard work getting things back on track.

Pick a good recruiter and spend time talking to them. Keep them in the loop. Tell them all about your business. Explain about the sort of people you hire, your company ethos and what you look for in a good candidate. This will help them to be constantly on the look-out for future stars, which they’ll immediately let you know about whether you’re recruiting or not. Who knows, they might just call you with a little gem right when you need it.

Is it time for you get a specialist recruiter on speed dial? At the very least, it’s worth getting a good one on your Christmas card list!

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

About Dave Hume

Dave Hume is a specialist recruiter with over 14 years’ experience in the industry. Having founded his own successful independent recruitment consultancy in 2011, he went on to found Seriously Connected which comprehensively supports experienced recruiters who want to take control of their careers, work for themselves from anywhere, full or part time and enjoy the rewards their skills deserve.

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