How to hire a recruiter

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 - career change, Employer, Employment, Job Application, job search, recruiters, recruitment, tutorial

How to hire a recruiter

army recruits small children

I was talking to a friend this morning, who asked if I would speak to 200 SME business people next year about how to hire a recruiter.

I thought this a quite simple and easy task which could be completed in around 30seconds, and not need a 30min slot accompanied by a projector and a customised power point presentation. Still, he does want to charge for this event, so perhaps better think about 15slides over 30seconds!

However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought: Well, actually, that’s just because you are in the business. What if you were outside the business?

So, here’s the insiders guide to how to hire a recruiter, for both the employer and the candidate

Employer recruitment

When I worked in corporate cost reduction finance, we always knew our core customer employed between 30 and 200 people. The reason was, above this point they probably had a purchasing team who thought they could do better than we could, at a lower price, or at least would have a go at the low hanging fruit before employing us.

As a recruiter, I know that any business below 50 people probably won’t have a full-time HR person, let alone “department.” Above that point, they may have, and I now know why they like doing recruitment over all their other tasks.

In the last decade, you will have noticed two things: the proliferation of SkyTV, and secondly the no-win, no-fee solicitor who after you have fallen over in your companies reception will sue them and make sure you gain all of your compensation. The two chnages comes together after 21:00 every evening, the result of which was as a cost reduction consultant, I had a client who’s employee liability insurance bill went from £50,000 to £250,000 in 18months, thanks to his employees suing him. This wasn’t a negligent employer or a poor employer, just an efficient manufacturer who hence told his HR department to sort the problem out. Today’s HR professional who has to be budget-proficient, has both hands around the throttle of the Health & Safety manual on a daily basis. Recruitment is hence a bit of light relief to the day job, and reminds them what they thought they joined the HR profession for!

Most HR professionals can do the bread and butter jobs – cleaners, secretaries, sales people, microwave engineers, SAP consultants who speak patagonian, etc. Its just that occasionally after ploughing through what looks like an interesting brief, they find they can’t find enough candidates where ever they look.

Here again, a thirds rule exists: one third of the candidates you seek don’t want to move; one third would move with the right job offer; and one third are known and can be found on a jobs board. What HR professional need to know is the size and scale of the market, and then find a recruiter who knows that market.

Scaling market size is fairly easy in the internet age:

  1. Create an account at LinkedIn
  2. Tap in the top two core skills you require and a reasonable commute distance
  3. See how many people appear

Applying a new thirds rule, you probably will find familiar faces from the jobs board, plus another group who have good jobs already. Before you approach any of these additional people and get accused of poaching, one last thought: unless its an IT technical field you are seeking to fulfil, then a majority of the candidates in the main two sectors won’t be there. But at least it gives you an idea of the scale of the market

Modern Recruiters

Modern recruiters are not generalists, but specialists – they know the known and the unknown/those that would move given the right offer candidates. This specialisation is a normal niching market reaction to the drive by jobs boards, which allow job seekers and employers direct connection without the need for a middle man.

Hence trying to be all things to everyone is out of the door for recuitment, and what you should look to buy is a specialist in that skills market. Think of it this way: if all they are going to do is use the same tools and techniques you are, what’s the value except time in getting the list? Hire a temp, and let them do the work if that is your alternative.

Want to test if they are a generalist or a specialist recruiter? Try these tests:

  1. Three candidates they have placed in the last six months in this field, who will reference them? Job seekers, replace this with three employers
  2. Are they members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, known as REC, the largest recruitment professional body in the UK? Established recruitment firms will be members of one of the specialist boards, while individual recruiters themselves should be members of REC (REC/CP, the basic qualification, costs less than £1000 and takes a week to complete)
  3. Have they spoken at a conference on the subject in the last 18months?
  4. Will they negotiate their fee below 15%? A good specialist recruiter will do the job twice as quickly with more candidates, but that will cost – at least 20%+

Tips for job seekers

If you apply the above tests, then you should find you engage with a good and reliable recruiter. However, always be cautious about handing your details over. Before you do, ask three further questions:

  1. Ask how marketable your skills are, and what are the key skills you have that the market presently wants?
  2. What your salary level expectation should be? Specialist recruiters know the market, and what required, so use their knowledge and hold them to it
  3. Finally, ask for a copy of both their standard candidate and employer terms and conditions, and how they will be paid under them if they place you at the defined fee level. Upfront fee’s tend to drive recruiters to send in large piles of CV’s, while later payments tend to drive a more client focused service

So there we are: how to hire a recruiter. Simple when you know how

Good Luck!


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