What Staffing Agencies Really Want From Corporate Recruiters

recruiter hellAfter writing about what corporate recruiters really want from staffing agencies, it only seemed fair to turn the tables and discuss what those on the other side of the aisle really want from those of us in corporate. So, if you’re working in house, listen up.

I mean, look, I get it. Many of corporate recruiters still seem to think of staffing agencies as some sort of black mark, a red badge of dishonor on an otherwise stellar hiring record, a source of hire best kept secret. But the fact of the matter is, staffing agencies represent a viable and necessary partner in many situations (and requisitions) where you’d be screwed without them.

It’s also important to note that not every third party recruiter is a slimy, money hungry whore willing to beg, borrow and steal their way to a placement fee. Sure, there are some on the agency side whose business model seems predicated on dishonesty, deception and duplicity. But then again, the same holds true for those recruiters who happen to reside in-house, too. I’d caution anyone who thinks all agency recruiters are cut from this mold take a moment to remember where most corporate recruiters first got their foot in the door. That’s right – most of us (myself included) initially entered the industry from the agency side of the aisle.

I recently took some time to speak with some colleagues currently working at staffing agencies – and to reflect on the five years I spent doing temp, contract and contingency recruiting in the agency world.

4 Ways To Stop Sucking At Working With Staffing Agencies

After much reflection and reminiscing, I came to up with a few conclusions and overall observations about what it is, exactly, agency recruiters really want from their corporate counterparts.

PS: To all those trolls out there, go ahead and get your snide remarks and snark ready for the comments section. 

1. Be A Conduit, Not A Barrier.

listYour partners aren’t just looking for a copy of the job description or some URL linking to the posting you’re working on. Instead, they’re looking for real details – and real insights – into what you’re really looking for. These insights include things like why the role is open, what the growth potential looks like, and maybe even a crash course on the specific business unit or function for which you’re hiring.

What can help even more than answering these fundamental recruiting questions is – **GASP** – giving your third party partners access to the hiring manager or team actually responsible for making the decisions. Sounds crazy, I know, but why the hell not?

You have a job that you need filled, and whatever the reason was for finding an outside partner in the first place might have been, from having a requisition that’s just too hard to fill or simply having too much else on your plate, you’ve already acknowledged that you need help. The job of agency recruiters is to make your job easier, so if you’ve already brought them into the fold, ENGAGE them and ensure that they have access to the information they need.

Seriously. Stop being so damn secretive and protective of your hiring manager. Many corporate recruiters treat internal clients like jealous girlfriends, but ultimately, you’re only cheating yourself by adding unnecessary challenges and complexity to your staffing partners’ process. There’s no need to be jealous; if you manage the relationship correctly and establish the parameters of communication ahead of time, you’ll be just fine. Remember: be a conduit, and not a barrier.

Your hiring manager and agency partners will appreciate you for it. And, of course, if those parameters are violated, then you’ll actually have justification to take action – but preempting this in the first place is simply counterproductive (and unfair). If you trust your agency partners enough to engage candidates on your behalf, you should trust them enough to do the same thing with your clients and coworkers, too.

2. “Not A Fit” Is Not Feedback.

staffing agenciesLook, no matter what you think of the agency model, third party recruiters almost always rely on commissions and placements to make money, and you have to respect that. Not all agency recruiters even make a salary (and those that do often make little more than a pittance), which means that they’re entirely dependant on making draws and/or commissions to make ends meet.

Much like you’re competing against other companies for the affection and admiration of candidates, so too are your agency partners. The difference is that, unlike corporate recruiters, they’re representing multiple companies and clients competing for the same finite pool of qualified candidates and top talent.

Time is money to agency recruiters, and time kills all deals. That’s a fact of life, no matter which side of the house you’re on.

That’s why if you’re a corporate recruiter, it’s so important to set clear expectations upfront about how quickly your third party partners can expect to have feedback at each stage of the process, and deliver as promised. If there’s a delay in obtaining feedback on your end (which is often inevitable), then at least give them the common courtesy of an update and heads up on when they can expect that feedback. If you’re having difficulties getting any modicum of meaningful feedback from a particular hiring manager, it’s imperative to at least keep them honest – they need to know if they snooze, they lose.

Bonus Points: Giving updates is one thing, but giving actual feedback is another thing, entirely. Saying that someone is “not a fit” is NOT feedback and won’t lead to better or more qualified candidates from your partners. It’s really that simple. In recruiting, the definition of insanity is expecting different results from submitting candidates who get rejected over and over without providing constructive feedback. This is your cross to bear. Own it.

3. Good Faith is Good Business.

serviceLet me save you the trouble of negotiating up front: no staffing agency is going to slide their fee scale down to 5 or 10%. It’s just not happening. While most will be willing to negotiate some terms, such as non-solicitation or exclusivity agreements from each other, terms of payment and the like, don’t try to gouge your agency partners.

Sure, you’ll maybe be able to knock a few percentage points of the placement fee, or bargain your way into a sliding conversion scale, but in recruiting, as in all else, you’re going to get what you pay for.

Think back to your days on the agency side. Would you rather work on a req where the perm fee is 20% of $100k or 8% of $60k?

Hell, you don’t even have to have agency experience to answer that question. It’s a no-brainer – and you’ve got to have no brain if you think that nickel and diming staffing agencies is going to actually equate to recruiting ROI.

Pay agencies what they’re worth and always, always act in good faith. This approach will lead to better rapport, better relationships and, long term, better candidates and more flexibility the more that they work with you and know that you’re a client that they can count on – and one who’s really looking out for their best interests, too.

Agency recruiters (or the good ones, anyway) want to build long-lasting, successful recruiting relationships, too, because then, we all benefit.

4. Stop Playing The Field.

orgyOne of the biggest frustrations for agency recruiters is to accept a search and start reaching out to a number of candidates, only to discover that dozens of other firms have already contacted them about the same position at your company.

You’re looking for a menage a trois, not an orgy, after all, and this professional promiscuity kills any incentive most agency recruiters have to work on that particular requisition – particularly when they have dozens of other open jobs to work on already sitting there.

Now, understand I’m not insisting on exclusivity every time you go external, but it’s imperative to let third party providers know up front about any competition they might be up against from other agencies.

Being transparent about partnering with multiple agencies probably won’t preempt them from working on a position – hell, you’re not going to be successful as a recruiter if you’re not ultra-competitive, anyway (generally speaking…take it easy, haters), so this should actually be a carrot instead of a stick.

I normally try to give my preferred agency of choice a 2 week window before opening the search up to others. I’m also very selective with staffing partners, and only work with a few agencies with whom I’ve built long term relationships and a track record of success.

Personally, I prefer to work with only a single agency at any one time, since engaging an agency ultimately means more work for me to manage, and trust me, like most recruiters, that work is already more than enough, thank you very much.

The Golden Rule of Recruiting

Aretha-Franklin2I hope the irony – or the relevance – of my previous post isn’t lost:

“We live in a very delicate ecosystem where we have an interdependence on each other to do our jobs sometimes – like it or not.”

That statement rings just as true for corporate recruiters as it does with staffing agencies – no matter which side of the house you sit, we’re really all in this together.

While it’s difficult to develop a reputation as an employer of choice, the kind of place where everyone wants to work at, it’s incredibly easy to build up a reputation as the kind of company every staffing agency wants to work with.

Remember: if you’re in recruiting, chances are you got your start at an agency. Chances are even better that at some point down the line, you’ll have to engage one as a third party partner. Either way, it’s important to remember that no matter which side of the house you happen to sit, we’re all recruiters, and we all know how tough a job this can be.

We need each other to build our careers – and enhance our professional reputation. We’ll never build respect from our clients, colleagues and candidates if we can’t respect each other. And that’s something every recruiter needs to respect.

This post originally appeared on RecruitingDaily on Jan 5, 2015.

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