What to Consider When Selecting a Recruiting Agency

We live in a fast paced environment and like many of you, when I need something done; I leave it to the professionals.

Here are a few scenarios we can all relate to:

  • When we need our mortgage shopped around, we hire a mortgage broker;
  • When we need to renovate our home, we hire a contractor;
  • When it’s tax season, we hire an accountant;
  • When we are selling our home, we hire a realtor;
  • When we require legal assistance, we hire a lawyer;
  • And when we need to hire a new employee, we hire three recruiters….


Whoa! Wait, say what? Three recruiters??!!

In each of the aforementioned situations, the goal is to build a relationship based on trust and expect that the work will not only be completed, but it will top priority for the professional we have hired.  More often than not, we hire a professional based on a referral, credentials, previous successes, similar work or qualifications, and we expect this individual (or company) to take the necessary time to fully understand our needs.

Now, I am not sure when it happened or why our industry has developed this stigma, but the market and hiring managers often feel inclined to hire multiple recruiters to find an employee. After 12 years in the recruitment industry, this mentality still baffles me!

Let’s think about this for a moment. Really, would you hire multiple realtors or lawyers? Not likely. (Bearing in mind you typically can’t; their terms of business and contracts usually prevent you from doing so).

If you are considering partnering with a recruitment firm for your next hire, it is important to understand that not all searches (nor search firms) are created equal.  Here’s a quick break down for those who are new to working with a recruiter.

The three most common types of ‘permanent’ searches (meaning you are not hiring a temporary employee) are as follows:

1) Contigent Search

Client has the choice of working with one or multiple firms and the successful firm is paid only upon a candidate being hired (contingent searches can be non-exclusive; one or more firms are asked to find a candidate or exclusive; only one firm is asked to find a candidate).

2) Retained Search

Client works with one firm exclusively and pays one third of the fee upfront, another third upon candidates being submitted for interviews and the final third installment upon the position being filled (typically utilized when hiring at the Executive level).

3) Engaged Exclusive Search

Similar to retained in that the client and firm are exclusive to one another, a percentage or small flat fee is due upfront (generally 5-25% of the total fee).  The remainder is due only upon the recruitment firm successfully filling the vacancy.


All three types of searches have their unique benefits depending of course on the organization and the position being filled. For those you have worked with recruiters before, let’s focus on the seven benefits of an Engaged Exclusive Search:

1) Top priority

Partnering exclusively places the client in a position of priority. Recruiters are willing to dedicate more time and resources because they respect the loyalty of the partnership (and let’s be honest, most recruiters work on commission and everybody likes to get paid for hard work!). When you engage several search firms, chances are they will pitch your star candidate to several clients. They will focus on the highest bidder rather than your vested interests.

2) Consultative vs Transactional Relationship

Recruiters work to uncover the nuances of the clients’ company culture in addition to the technical requirements of the position. The client and recruiter work together to establish a thorough analysis of what is needed to make the relationship work. (It becomes a partnership rather than the recruiter working only with a job description).

3) Value Adds

Tools such as psychometrics tests, one-way video interviewing, and customized processes with premium advertising are always available in an engaged exclusive search. 

4) Confidentiality and Consistent Messaging

When clients solicit the help of multiple firms, they open the door to less effective communication which can result in recruiters delivering inconsistent messages. When several search firms are involved, nobody is held accountable and confidentiality goes grey. Working exclusively with one recruiting firm means there will be one consistent message delivered to the marketplace regarding brand, company representation, and position description accuracy.

5) Avoid Negative Marketplace Perception

If you work with several search firms, your company will be represented to the marketplace in different ways. An engaged recruiter becomes a client’s brand advocate, helping attract top talent.  When an ‘A’ Candidate is approached by several people about the same job opportunity, clients lose credibility and the candidate loses interest and declines the opportunity.

6) Candidate Quality

Because an engaged recruiter has worked to establish a comprehensive understanding of the clients’ needs, they can expect to see only the most qualified and most well-suited candidates. The recruiter knows they do not need to compromise quality for speed (the recruiter will not skip steps in order to try and beat out another firm for the fee!)

7) Shared Risk

The client and recruiter share the accountability for a successful hire. The client has made an upfront investment with a willingness to partner and communicates effectively. The recruiting firm will not receive full payment unless they deliver the “right” candidate. Keep in mind, once you have hired the candidate, this candidate will become off-limits to the successful firm (meaning the recruiting agency will not headhunt this person again as long they are employed by you). Using multiple search firms will not give you this peace of mind. The firm that did not place your candidate will likely begin to headhunt from your organization.

Hiring is not an easy task for any company. There are pros and cons to all types of recruiting methods. Do yourself a favour the next time you hire a recruiting agency, just hire one! Make certain it is one you trust, one who has the credentials to deliver on your requirements and one who wants to work with you, not against you.