Talent Acquisition

Agency Recruiters: 3 Powerful Questions That Can Set You Apart From Your Competitors

Whether you like (or believe) it or not, most Hiring/HR Managers don’t see a lot of difference between the various contingency recruitment agencies they deal with.

Sure, they may engage with you in a spirit of cooperation – but that is mostly down to either their supplier-management skills or their desperation in trying to fill the role they’ve just given you access to.

That’s because nearly all recruitment agencies say and do the same things. Generally, the only factors that set recruiters apart are either:

  • Their personality
  • Their track record in filling jobs or submitting high quality candidates to that particular company

Now, both of those are good enough platforms from which to build a more sustainable client/supplier relationship, however, what percentage of all the companies you ever speak to do those conditions exist? For the majority, that number is probably less than 20%.

That leaves around 80% of all your hiring company interactions dealing with people who’ve rarely, if ever, spoken to you before. And those are some of the toughest conversations you’ll have – once they’ve given you a role to try and fill.

What many of the better recruiters then do is:

  • Clarify some of the details on the job spec
  • Ask what else they’ve done to fill the job and how many agencies are involved
  • Pre-close for some interview slots

Then they join the race to find possible candidates as quickly as possible.

Sometimes this client/recruiter conversation is the result of a cold-call where the phrase “we have great candidates” has featured prominently, or “we are specialist in this field”.

And that was when the “these guys pretty much all sound the same” thought kicks-in to the clients brain.

OK, so what can we do to start changing the direction of that thought pattern?

Here are 3 questions that if asked (with the appropriate explanations and follow-up questions) will start to differentiate you from the other agencies. They may also help you fill more of these jobs you’re being given by these indifferent hiring companies:

Q1: Who have you previously met, worked with or interviewed, that you think might be the right kind of person for this job?

Q2: What specific companies have previously successful candidates and current staff worked for, before joining you?

Q3: Would you have any objections to me speaking to members of your team to get referrals to people they may know?

The first question sets the tone for the differentiation you’re trying to establish. Regardless of the answer, the person on the other end of the phone will start to take you more seriously because you’re already demonstrating your ability to think laterally and your desire to help solve their problem.

The second question acts as an information gatherer (assuming you don’t already know the answer) and continues to condition the Hiring Manager into thinking they may finally be talking to the right recruiter.

The third is the jackpot question – especially if they agree to the request, because once you’re able to talk to existing employees on the recommendation of the Hiring Manager (I don’t think may HR Managers will agree to this), not only do you have access to high quality candidate referrals, you also have access to high quality information about the job and the company. But more than that, what you’re really doing is leveraging the power of referrals, recommendations and other people’s networks.

Most Hiring Managers don’t do this themselves either because they’re too busy, don’t like doing recruitment or simply hadn’t thought of it before. Whatever their reason, most will find the logic of doing it inescapable and many will be happy for someone else to both do it, and follow up on it.

What asking these questions also does is connect with the single most powerful and cost-effective single recruitment tool there is – The Employee Referral Scheme.

Some companies have them (around 30% if my memory is correct) and of that 30%, most don’t work. They don’t work because the companies don’t ask for them – and when I say that, I mean nobody in the company approaches another employee face-to-face and asks them who they might know.

Employee referrals are incredibly powerful and many companies don’t leverage them properly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to.

You’d need to demonstrate your professionalism before many companies would give you official access to their employees – but if and when they do, they are clearly saying that they trust you and have more belief in you than their other agency suppliers.

Try it. It works.

Author: Mitch Sullivan – Recruitment Polemicist. Watches the Arsenal. Drives a Saab with tan leather seats. Hates bullshit and cats. Follow him on Twitter @MitchSullivan.

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