Using Recruiters: The Difference Between Success & Failure

09 Feb 2015 | Naomi Marshall

We all know the challenges of recruiting new employees.  It’s distracting and done incorrectly fraught with a high risk of failure. Is there a better chance of success if you use a good recruiter?

In my experience, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the time you take to hire and the chances of landing a brilliant candidate.  The less time you take the greater the chance you will be unhappy with your selection in the long run.

Poor selection processes are amplified in small business environments where there is no room to hide and the propensity for damage is greater.

The Recruitment Consultant

Enter the recruitment consultant.  For a large part of my career, I thought recruiters were a waste of time and money (I might also add I felt the same way about personal trainers until I turned 40!).  Why would I engage a recruiter to do what my HR department should be doing? It was only through experience that I learnt that HR professionals don’t necessarily make the best recruiters.  It’s a bit like asking a nutritionist to cook your dinner.  Just because somebody understands the fundamentals of a healthy meal doesn’t mean they know how to combine the ingredients into something edible.

I discovered the benefits of using recruiters about 10 years into my career.  Time poor and focused on managing a business, I finally gave in to my inner voice and engaged a recruitment consultant to assist with backfilling some difficult roles.

I was initially surprised when the consultant insisted on coming out to visit our office.  “Surely you can take the brief over the phone?” “Absolutely not” – came the terse reply. “I need to get a feel for what I am getting my candidates into”.  Although I felt it unnecessary at the time, nowadays I wouldn’t engage an agency that didn’t have a deep understanding of my business, the staff and its culture.  If you want a recruiter to write the kind of killer ad that would lure the best staff from your strongest competitors then it had better stand out.  A recruiter needs to be able to walk the talk and you can only get this from on-site experience.

Make no mistake crafting a great advertisement to attract the best possible candidates is an art form.  Good recruiters know how to write great ads.  SEEK and others offer limited opportunity for your ads to visually stand out, so the choice of words matters.  If the ad isn’t SELLING the job and your business then you’ve probably engaged the wrong agency.

Once the ad is placed and the responses start rolling in then the real work begins.  Years ago it seemed a great covering letter could make a difference.  Nowadays they seem almost superfluous to needs.  Most recruiters worth their salt will jump straight to social media to ensure that a candidates backstory matches their CV and determine whether there is likely to be a cultural fit.

I’ve never been one to make a hiring decision solely based on skills and experience. If it’s a line ball call I’ll take attitude and energy over a lesser skill set every day of the week.
I insist that my recruiter meets the short listed candidates in person before sending them for interview.  If they live out of town, get them on SKYPE. I expect candidates to know as much about my business as we know about them.  It’s a recruiters job to ensure that candidates are fully briefed.  Most good candidates will do their own research, it’s a  recruiters job to fill in the gaps.  If a recruiter isn’t meeting the candidates in person they’re not doing the job your paying them for.

By the time I meet a prospective candidate I expect that they can do the job.  That should be without question.  I’m interested in ‘how’ they will do the job.  It then becomes an issue of cultural fit and individual personality.  Will they fit in with the team? Will they add a new dynamic? In a small business, look  for a broader skill set – beyond the job description, something that will enhance business performance and add that slight edge.  Candidate selection can be a very subjective affair.  I never interview with a list of pre-existing questions.  I prefer the process to be organic.  What makes the person tick? What drives them? What makes the job appealing? Candidates can become pretty adept at rote learning responses to typical Dorothy Dixers.  Encourage them to lower their guard and you might be surprised what you learn.

Successfully hiring the right candidate is a challenge at the best of times, but using a recruiter should take a lot of the guess work and time out of the process. A good recruiter should not only be submitting candidates to you, but consulting with you, your team and the candidate throughout the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page and no nasty surprises pop up last minute (or worse, once the candidate has started and you’ve invested your money into them).


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