The membership community has culturally tended towards direct recruitment rather than working with agencies whether as a candidate or client and I can often understand why. Recruitment consultancies traditionally have a reputation of being purely about the bottom line at best and at worst, negligent, thoughtless and rude. Too often we hear negative feedback regarding extortionate fees, no or little rebate period for an unsuccessful placement, not enough communication, too much communication, no candidate control, candidates not met by consultant, CV’s weren’t right, and too pushy for feedback. Despite all this, 15 years experience as a successful recruiter have taught me that there are consultants and whole divisions out there who genuinely take pride in offering a fantastic 360 service to clients and who see themselves as an extension of your internal talent acquisition and HR.

So how do you weed out the recruitment cowboys and establish a relationship that will work for you?

Do your research.

Don’t just respond to the first cold call you receive or ring everyone asking for a quote for fees. You need to establish which recruiters are best positioned to find the right candidate for you. Identify a specialist and remember that just because they say they are doesn’t mean that they are. Look at their website and LinkedIn and see what roles they are advertising and who is connected to them.  Consider whether you would apply to one of their adverts. Is it well written and appealing? Do they appear confident and knowledgeable and part of a network of relevant contacts?

Start a conversation.

Recruiters love to talk but start the conversation on your terms and with a clear goal in mind. The value of a face to face meeting cannot be underestimated in terms of assessing how comfortable you are with not just the company ethos but the individual consultant who will be responsible for managing your vacancy. Approach this meeting as the start of a relationship and be selective.  It is also crucial to getting the best out this relationship that you are transparent about the role, culture and how you work.

Remember it is a two way street and as much as you want to “audition” the agency you need to “sell” your organisation and role to them in the way that you want your organisation to be perceived by candidates. They will be able to position you as an “employer of choice” so invest the time in explaining as much as you can allowing them to create an exciting narrative for your prospective candidates.

Show me the money.

Financial decisions must be considered when you are spending members’ money on an external service but remember, cheaper doesn’t always mean better! You want your recruiter to be passionate about your organisation and invested in securing the best candidate for you. However, a good recruiter shouldn’t be just about the final invoice. They should be able to explain how they calculate their fees and have some room for negotiation but not so much that they appear desperate to secure the role. A good recruiter will be confident in challenging and defending their fee structure and able to explain its real value to you. This confidence comes from knowing that they have the best candidates in the market and a good reputation. Once you have agreed fees then ensure that you have an agreed process in place for the unlikely but possible event that a candidate doesn’t work out. I am always confident offering a 3 month full rebate or a free replacement, but an agency who has little experience in the market or who is only interested in one placement and not fostering a relationship will always argue this point. Stand firm and tell them that if they have confidence in their processes and service that their rebate should reflect this!

Like any decision you make on behalf of your members – be informed, be transparent, be prepared to negotiate and be committed to building a relationship that works for you and your recruiter.


This blog post has been provided courtesy of Hunter Merrifield (part of the Huntress Group). For an open and supportive discussion regarding your career or hiring strategy please feel free to contact or call in confidence on 0207 759 7929 / 07841419924

Image credit: Christian Bourdeau