WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR ... AND SOME SMART QUESTIONS TO ASK
The world is full of recruiters, but if you're a company founder, you've probably noticed that they could do better at serving the needs of innovators and start-ups.
In truth, most serve corporate and multinational clients' needs, and their business offering is structured to reflect that. As a founder, this can be frustrating, so here is some context to help you understand how to choose and interact with agencies and some tips in the form of questions to ask a recruiter before engaging with them.
STRUCTURE: A typical recruitment firm has multiple offices and many recruiters - mostly junior - often in their first year in the industry. They hire for sales skills and attributes (not service delivery), which reflects their business development and remuneration model. They have a high turnover of staff.
HOW THEY SEE YOU: Start-ups are seen by some recruiters as low-value, price-sensitive and high-maintenance clients, compared to corporates with high volume and predictable recruitment needs. You will be low on their priority list.
HOW THEY ARE INCENTIVISED: Agency recruiters have high billing targets and are expected to pick up many jobs, hoping to fill enough (30-40%) to meet their targets. They compete directly with other agencies on the same roles, so candidates may be contacted by several agencies for the same position, leading to ugly disputes over candidate ownership.
NECESSARY EVIL OR VALUED PARTNER?: Recruiters are often opportunistic - an approach that can work for corporates, who favour their in-house recruitment teams and see agencies as a backstop when all else fails. However, as a start-up with limited resources, you need a much higher fill rate from your recruiter.
ADVERTISING OR SEARCH?: Because of their high volume and low percentage fill approach, agency recruiters tend to rely on advertising more than search. They use 'blind' advertising (they don't mention your company by name) as a defensive move to keep competitors at bay rather than for your benefit.
FEE STRUCTURE: Recruiters typically base their fee structure on percentages of salary packages. This model works for high-volume corporate clients where salaries are predictable. However, for a start-up, there may be a wide variance in compensation for a particular role leading to uncertainty around where the final fee may land.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR RECRUITER
As a start-up founder looking for a recruiter to help you source talent there are some good questions to included on your briefing process:
Will you fix a fee? This clarifies exactly what the hire will cost you, irrespective of the package the candidate ends up taking. Also don't be afraid to ask for staggered or flexible terms if this helps you with cash flow as a small business.
What are your refund terms? Be clear to understand what you will get if the candidate is unsuitable or pulls out early. Make sure to keep track of deadlines for refunds so you don't get caught out.
What search methodology do you use? This will help you understand to what extent the recruiter will be pursuing multiple channels to find candidates and not just posting an ad and hoping for the best. You really want to know that they are actively precision-targeting candidates on your behalf.
What percentage of your jobs do you fill? This can give you some indication of how committed they are to filling your role proactively rather than just running a desk with lots of prospects and oping that some of them will work out.
How will you present the candidates to me? Just resume? Resume and report? Video of the candidate? Make sure you know what will help you determine if the candidate is suitable for your needs before you commit the time to interview them.
Have you worked with start-ups before? This will give you some insight into whether they understand the challenges that a start-up faces when recruiting and whether they know which candidates will thrive in a start-up environment.
Who will be working on my job? Make sure you know which team member is going what are the recruiter end. Make sure you are dealing directly with the person that you brief and not a sales person who will pass the role onto someone that does not understand your needs.
How will you sell my business to candidates? You want to know that the recruiter will positively reflect on your business and employment brand. Make sure they have supporting material to share with candidates.
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Dr. John Bethell has 28 years experience in health and life sciences recruitment. He is co-founder of two successful recruitment firms employing over 100 staff and delivers training on setting up recruitment systems for start-ups.