How to Use Recruiters Effectively to Search for Job Candidates

Recruiters can be an invaluable part of your employee candidate search arsenal. If you know how to maximize their services, recruiters can more than pay for themselves. Using outside recruiters has several key advantages:

  • Outside recruiters generally have access to a large pool of applicants. After all, it’s their job to continually locate quality candidates.

  • They handle such cumbersome administrative details of recruiting as placing ads, evaluating skills, and conducting preliminary interviews.

    In the course of their evaluation process, the best recruiters check selected references from their candidates’ past employers to gather skill proficiency information and job performance history. Employers should perform their own reference checks as well. A preliminary check may or may not reveal all the information you want to consider in making your final decision.

  • A recruiter who knows her stuff often can help you identify whether you need a contingent worker, full- or part-time employee, or a generalist or specialist. Recruiters also can provide feedback on what the market looks like right now to find the applicant you need. They can be particularly helpful in identifying passive candidates who may be interested in working for your firm.

Who does what?

If you at times have difficulty determining what makes a headhunter different from a recruiter and an employment agency different from a search firm or staffing firm, you’re not alone. All these sources fulfill the same basic function: They find job candidates for client firms for a fee.

The difference between the various specialists in this large and growing industry is primarily how they charge and on which segment of the labor market they focus.

Employment agencies and staffing firms

You engage these companies to find job candidates for specific positions. What they all have in common is that you pay them a fee — but only after they find you someone you eventually hire. These firms recruit candidates in virtually every industry, and companies call on them to fill positions at all levels of the corporate ladder.

If you want to hire a full-time employee, they typically charge you a percentage of the new employee’s first year’s salary, though it can vary.

Employment agencies and staffing firms typically differ in the types of positions they help you fill. In most cases, employment agencies are generalists and focus on entry-level and midlevel jobs in a range of industries, whereas staffing or contingency search firms focus on mid- to upper-level positions.

Specialized staffing firms can find you the people you need in a shorter amount of time than the generalists because their candidate pools are focused on a particular field or profession — finance or marketing, for example. In another usage, a staffing firm can refer to a firm that provides contingent workers, whereas a recruiting firm places full-time employees.

Executive search firms or headhunters

Executive search firms or headhunters focus on higher-level executives. Unlike employment agencies, most search firms charge a retainer regardless of whether they produce results. You can expect to pay, in addition to expenses, a commission of 25 percent or more of the executive’s annual salary if the firm is successful in its search.

The main value is if you’re seeking someone for a high-level job that’s most likely to be filled by an executive who’s already working for another company. A good search specialist usually has the contacts and the expertise to handle very targeted, high-level searches.

Should you use recruiters?

Most companies that rely on outside recruiters to fill positions do so for one of two reasons:

  • They don’t have the time or the expertise to recruit effectively on their own.

  • Their recruiting efforts to date haven’t yielded results.

Using an outside recruiter involves an extra cost, but bear in mind that, handling all aspects of recruiting yourself may not be the best use of your time in your HR role. Evaluating résumés, in particular, has become exceptionally labor intensive because of the amount of applications received from Internet postings. Perhaps most important, recruiters typically have wide networks they can tap on your behalf.

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