You Aren’t Using Recruiting Agencies Properly, and That Should Change

When I speak with an employer about using our employee placement services, I typically hear the following as if it’s a mantra about recruiting agencies.

  1. “Recruiting agencies are too expensive.”
  2. “ I have used them in the past and the candidates are poor quality”
  3. “ We are engaged with several recruiting agencies now and they haven’t provided anyone to consider.”
  4. “All recruiting agencies do is peruse Indeed and other websites. I can do that myself Why should I pay them?”
  5. “We hired several people from recruiting agencies and the candidates left within a year. It was a waste of money.”

I can help uncover some insight in the first 4 statements, but in full transparency, the 5th statement is not an issue of the recruiting agency, and I will cover it later in this article.

First, let’s back up a step and help you address the main issue before you ever engage with a recruiting agency.

The questions you should be asking about your team or company are the following?

Attracting: Am I having trouble attracting the right talent?

Converting: Are the right people interviewing and turning down our job opportunity?

Engagement:  Or are you hiring great people but they leave within a short period of time?

These are loaded questions, and I could write for hours on the topic, but in this article, I want to address the topic of attracting and converting on the right talent.

If you are having trouble with the first 2 areas referenced above, the issue may be one of the following.

  1. You or the people responsible for hiring are so busy growing the company you don’t have time to recruit the people you want. Active job seekers do not stay on the market long.
  2. The leaders of your organization may not have taken time to truly evaluate and establish the culture of the company and what they want it to be.
  3. You or other leaders may not have established a systematic hiring process.
  4. The right people may be applying or interviewing with your company but choosing other companies over yours.
  5. Taking time to evaluate your compensation structure through various online tools; this could be the issue, but it is very rare today.

The list of reasons why the right people aren’t joining your company may be endless; however if you can find the right recruiting agency to help you and your company, you will find the return on investment be extraordinary if you do the following.

Recruiting Agencies

Before engaging in a recruiting agency:

  1. Interview several recruiting agencies before engaging with any of them. Recruiting agencies may all have access to the same tools to identify talent, but it doesn’t mean we all are capable of recruiting them.

Anyone can watch a Bruce Lee movie but it doesn’t mean they know how to fight.

  1. Ask recruiting agencies for references from other clients of theirs who are hiring similar positions in the same market.
  2. Calculate your time cost value. This is the cost of your time spent recruiting in comparison to doing your job. The only way to know if you should outsource your hiring to a recruiter is to know if your time would be better spent on revenue-producing functions of your business.

Choosing the right agency means having clarity about what you need

Have a clear understanding of exactly what roles you are hiring for and provide the following to the recruiting agency:

  1. A detailed job description
  2. Non-negotiables for the job
  3. Who will be involved in the interviewing
  4. What is the interview process you and your company have established
  5. When do you ideally want to have the person start with you?
  6. What is the compensation range and how flexible are you for the right person?
  7. What is the history of this job opening? High turnover, a key player left the company, growth opportunity?

Be transparent

Once you have chosen a recruiting agency to use, you need to be transparent with them about your companies reputation or the reputation of who is doing the hiring, especially if you just had a few bad apples leave your company or you are trying to change the culture at this time.

Don’t treat your recruiting agency like an outsider

I know you have hired the agency to provide you a service, but it is the most important service your company will use. The service of a recruiting agency is dynamic and requires that you treat them like an internal department of your company or you risk having a major breakdown in the attracting and converting stages.

We are people matching people with people which is not as easy as it sounds.

Give constant feedback

As recruiters, we love getting the feedback of our clients. It may be difficult to slow down from your daily work, but it’s necessary. All new relationships have growing pains, but understanding more about nuances of your company and the open job is very important.

Keep in mind that your job description may be objective but once people get involved the process becomes more subjective, and this is where an expert like a recruiter can help.

Most recruiters work on commission

It’s important to know most recruiters work on commission because we have a motivation to help you get the right person quickly. If the job isn’t important to you to hire someone, then you should communicate this to your recruiting agency. Your recruiting agency will work at your pace, but time needs to be budgeted properly for everyone involved.

Consider candidates who have applied in the past

Times change, things change, people change. Even if someone has applied to your company years ago it is ok to consider them again from your recruiting agency. Keep in mind that the candidate may be better qualified today and it was through the efforts and promotion of your recruiting agency that you had the opportunity to interview this person again.

Poaching vs. Plucking

As defined by Webster’s dictionary:

  • Poaching: one that trespasses or steals
  • Plucking:  quickly or suddenly remove someone from a dangerous or unpleasant situation

I am treading on thin ice with this topic, but let’s just call it out. Many recruiters get the reputation or being poachers, which is unfair; however, most employers want to hire A-level talent who are not actively on the market. It’s a double-edged sword for your recruiting agency.

As recruiters, we have a duty to our clients and people as a whole to operate ethically in how we conduct our business, but calling someone who is a passive job seeker about an opportunity is not a crime or a low-level business practice.


The last time I checked, the term employee didn’t mean “indentured servant’, therefore people are free to choose where they work

Keep in mind that if you don’t engage a recruiting agency to pluck the candidates you want, then you will have to do it.

Don’t engage more than 2 recruiting agencies on a job at one time.

Most employers think if they engage every recruiting agency they will receive a higher number of qualified candidates and this just isn’t true. If you want to sell your home, you don’t engage with 7 real estate agents do you? To save you time and effort, slow down and partner with 1 or 2 recruiting agencies who invest enough in the relationship to represent your company and brand properly.

A recruiting agency who has an exclusive relationship with you will most likely offer a discounted fee and will be more motivated to help you.

Stop telling your recruiting agency they are expensive

As a recruiter price is the number one thing I hear about our service. Most companies get sticker shock when they finally have to pay the fee for hiring someone from a recruiting agency, but have you ever stopped to evaluate everything that went into getting you the right candidate?

  1. Multiple licenses to lead generation services
  2. Time screening and vetting candidates to narrow it down to the 2-5 that showed up on your desk
  3. The months of time spent prior to the engagement with candidates who trust the relationship with the recruiting agency so they are ready to interview once your job opens.

The reality is that most high level jobs take 30-90 days to fill. If you paid the recruiting agency a weekly or month stipend at the beginning of the engagement you would find the sticker shock to be easier to swallow.

Everyone wants what they want, when they want it, at a price they want, delivered with the highest amount of convenience. When your recruiting agency provides candidates to you within hours of engaging with you it means a prior investment was made so they could deliver so quickly.


I didn’t forget to address bullet 5 from the beginning of the article.

Many companies blame the recruiting agency for a bad hire which is why they request a guarantee period. I understand that life can be unpredictable, and a new employee who started 30 days ago may have to suddenly leave because of an ill family member.

However, as an employer, if you use a recruiting agency to hire an employee who leaves after 100 days it would be wise to evaluate why that person left. I highly doubt the recruiting agency and the job candidate conspired to fool you into hiring an unqualified candidate. High employee turnover is like cancer to an organization and should be inspected internally, not externally.

Patrick Sirmeyer