An Honest Guide to Choosing a Recruitment Agency
Let’s face it – most employers are not enthusiastic about paying extra fees to find qualified candidates, are they? Even when they opt for third-party agencies to fill their positions, they often end up deeply disappointed with the level of service provided. The Manufacturing industry, in particular, has its fair share of unreliable staffing agencies, so it’s difficult to believe any of them can truly help you build out your team. However, when there are urgent, difficult-to-fill positions that need attention, many companies find themselves resorting to working with multiple external agencies out of desperation, hoping that at least one qualified candidate will come through.
Many hiring managers consider using third party agencies as a necessary evil, rather than seeing them as a trusted partner who can help them with their business growth. Why? The agencies they collaborate with have failed to earn their trust or establish any credibility in their efforts to genuinely assist them. These agencies are driven by profit, lack a comprehensive understanding of the hiring needs, and are primarily self-serving. Consequently, they inundate hiring managers with an overwhelming number of resumes, hoping that one will result in a successful hire.
While there are reputable recruitment agencies out there, finding one that truly deserves your time and attention can be an incredibly time-consuming task. Because we see so many hiring managers frustrated with the terrible recruiting agencies they already work with, we wanted to lay out an honest assessment of some things hiring managers should look for when deciding to use a technical staffing agency, how to identify those that can serve as reliable, long-term business partners.
So, What Makes a Technical Recruitment Agency Worth Your Time?
They Specialize in Placing the Type of Talent That You Need.
When you come across the term “technical staffing agency,” it’s natural to wonder what “technical” exactly refers to. It’s a broad term, with various sub-categories that can fall under its umbrella. If you are working with an agency that works every type of role that comes across their desk, the chances they’ll have a deep understanding of your specific market are relatively slim. You want to work with an agency who has dedicated recruiters who specialize in identifying candidates that use your specific tech stack. If they fail to grasp your requirements and what constitutes a strong candidate – you’re going to end up with a lot of irrelevant resumes in your inbox. Not good.
They Can Provide You With Market Knowledge.
One thing a lot of recruiters are unable to do successfully, is provide you with relevant market knowledge for your industry. If they are constantly speaking with candidates in your market, or regularly produce industry reports or whitepapers, they should be able to tell you what types of salaries other companies are offering in the area, what technologies are hot on the market, and the types of companies candidates are looking to work for. Moreover, they can shed light on the challenges companies encounter in finding suitable candidates and offer guidance on how to effectively attract and retain top talent. This turns a transactional relationship into a strategic, consulting partnership.
They Aren’t Desperate For Your Business.
This is a problem we’ve heard about too often from too many clients, and it’s something that unfortunately discredits what we do as a recruitment agency. It reflects poorly on our industry when some agencies, in their desperate pursuit of closing deals, compromise on rates, resort to exclusivity agreements as a means to avoid competition and agree to almost anything just to secure positions. If these agencies genuinely value their services and understand the hard work required to earn their fees, they wouldn’t be so quick to settle, as it means offering subpar service. An agency that values their business and the expertise they can bring to you, is not going to force their services down your throat but wait patiently for the moment that you decide you’re ready for their support.
They Can Speak Intelligently About Technical Positions, and Understand What You’re Looking For. They Don’t Rely on Buzzwords.
This falls back under the “specialized” umbrella, but here we refer to your specific needs and what exactly you are looking for. Amateur recruiters will miss things in their search because they aren’t able to identify a good candidate.
For example if a mandate for an Applications Engineer requires DfAM experience, and the recruiter only screens for the buzzword ‘DfAM’ in candidates’ resumes, they’re going to miss perfectly suitable candidates who perhaps didn’t include the keyword ‘DfAM’ in their profiles because it’s an innate part of their role.
Instead, a skilled recruiter, who knows what they’re talking about, will recognize that an Applications Engineer will DfAM experience will likely have software such as SolidWorks or nTopology in their tech stack, or other experience working with CAD. It’s important for the recruiters you work with to ask the right questions, and fully understand how to identify the right type of candidates, to ensure they’re not wasting anyone’s time and sending over irrelevant resumes.
They Don’t Just Rely On an “Internal Database”.
It’s pretty common for staffing and recruiting agencies to have databases of candidates that they can dip into, in theory, to turn around a shortlist in a short amount of time. Lazy recruiters will tout the size of their database as a key selling point, while in reality, their database is full of candidates the agencies haven’t spoken to in years, meaning that the resumes are often outdated, and many of the candidates’ needs or desires may have changed since their last contact with the agency.
Good, honorable recruiters will rescreen candidates in their database if they’re suspected to be suitable for your role but won’t rely solely on their database to produce a shortlist. They’ll headhunt, advertise and do their research to make sure that the shortlist you receive isn’t short of perfect. The quality of candidates received should speak for themselves…
They Don’t Spam Resumes.
Related to the above point, another thing that gives agencies a bad reputation is sending over way too many resumes. Sometimes there is a good candidate in the mix – but usually it’s due to luck.
If the recruiters you’re working with are sending you way too many resumes – they aren’t doing their job effectively or correctly. The reason you choose to use an agency in the first place is because you don’t have time to look through stacks of resumes or go through a ton of interviews to identify just one candidate. While it’s expected that not every candidate will be a perfect match, the recruiter should be able to provide a compelling justification for why they have chosen to send a particular candidate your way, showing that they’ve taken the time to get to know the professional.
Relatedly, it’s not been unheard of that some recruiters will send candidates’ resumes to companies without their consent! If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, one word should come to mind – shady. That’s not the agency for you.
They Actually Know Their Candidates and Have Their Best Interest at Heart.
Anyone can send over a resume, but it doesn’t seem worth it to pay for a service if the agency doesn’t know who they’re sending over. Sure, you can talk to someone over the phone, ask if they have Java experience, and send them on their way – but if the manager has specific questions as to what a candidate is looking for, the recruiter won’t have much to refer to.
Great recruiters will meet with every candidate. This is crucial to understanding how they will present themselves during an interview, understand their reasons for leaving, their employment history, their technical breakdown, and what type of role they are looking for. Recruiters are seen as ‘timewasters’ when they don’t know what the candidate is looking for and aren’t able to successfully match this to what the client is looking for. Not good.
Preparation is key, so if the candidate seems like they don’t really understand the role they’re interviewing for, this should be a giant red flag. You should question if the candidate wants to be there, and if not, why your recruitment agency put them in this position in the first place!
A responsible recruitment agency will understand that part of their job is coaching – the candidate and the client – to ensure the best candidate experience (alleviating any pre-interview nerves) and that the client presents a strong Employer Brand. Coaching can involve anything from making sure a resume reflects the candidate’s skills and achievements in the best possible light and is up to date, to helping the client understand what skills they should be looking for and why. So, if your recruitment agency is doing that, you’re onto a winner.
They Don’t Misrepresent Your Opportunity.
Numerous recruiters, driven by desperation to close a deal, resort to telling candidates and clients whatever it takes to secure an interview. They may promise candidates a higher salary than your company’s budget allows and attempt to sway them with the allure of the “opportunity.” While salary shouldn’t be the sole motivating factor for accepting a position, recruiters should set realistic expectations for candidates to avoid surprises down the line.
Moreover, recruiters who fail to represent your company to the best of their ability by focusing on superficial selling points like “we have a beer fridge” or “we have an on-site gym,” end up neglecting essential aspects that could genuinely pique candidate interest, such as growth potential and exposure to cutting-edge technologies. This approach could cause you to miss out on talented candidates who are looking for more substantial opportunities.
They Take Time to Recognize the Underlying Issues & Why You’re Struggling to Fill a Role.
When you decide to work with an outside agency, it’s a lot more than handing them a job description and sending them on their way. If the agency is okay with that and is willing to just “send the resume” – that should be a red flag. If their ultimate goal is to make the perfect match for both the candidate and client, they need to understand the whole picture. There is a reason you haven’t filled the role yet, so it’s important for the agency to understand your interview process, what you like/haven’t liked about candidates you’ve already interviewed, the timeline from the 1st phone call to the offer stage, and the biggest contributing factors that have resulted in your failure to fill the role. A lot of agencies spend too much time “selling” their services, and don’t take the time to understand what it’s actually going to take to fill a role.
Communication and Honest Feedback are Crucial on Both Sides.
It’s so important that the agency you work with gives both you and the candidate honest feedback throughout the interview process. On the candidate side, a lot of recruiters don’t like being the bearer of bad news. It’s not fair to the candidate and they actually do want honest feedback – whether it’s good or bad. At ADG, we’ve even spoken to candidates who never even receive feedback or hear from the agency ever again! Although it can be uncomfortable, using an agency that is direct, to the point, and truly wants to help both sides will let the candidate know what they need to work on, and specifics as to why a company does or doesn’t think they’re a good fit.
On the client side, it’s important that the agency gives you honest feedback from the candidate, as well as feedback on your interview process. It’s happened in the past that candidates come out of interviews feeling like they were unwelcome or their interviewer was having a bad day and was unengaged. It’s important to relay that to the client so they can make sure to represent their company to the best of their ability. Even if they feel the candidate is not going to be a good fit, it’s important that the candidate has a good interview experience – because people talk.
They're Not All Talk - They Actually Have Quality Candidates.
This should be a given, but when deciding to collaborate with a third-party staffing agency, they must demonstrate their ability to source the specific talent you need. You should be able to recognize when an agency is putting in a half-hearted effort.
Consistently receiving high-quality candidates from an agency is not a stroke of luck; it indicates that they invested time in comprehending both your needs and the candidates’ needs. This type of agency is worth establishing a long-term partnership with. Even if you’re working with multiple agencies, you don’t have to regard them all equally. If an agency’s service quality and candidate caliber speak for themselves, that should be sufficient reason to hold them to a higher standard.
They Actually Enjoy What They Do.
There are a lot of staffing agencies out there, and a lot of recruiters who are just looking to close the deal, but there are very few who actually enjoy what they do. There are numerous articles out there that delve into why both clients and candidates hate working with recruiters, and it’s usually due to the fact that they are self-serving, money focused, and only look at the short-term picture (i.e. closing the deal).
Great recruiters ENJOY speaking with their candidates every day, and keeping track of which technologies are hot on the market. If a company is working with the newest technologies and constantly keeping their tech stack up to date, it’s a definitely way more exciting to tell potential candidates about your position – and why they should be excited to work there! The best engineers are hungry to advance their skill set, passionate about what they do, and if we have a company that can offer an environment for those types of engineers to thrive – it makes our job very easy to do.
In general, if your company is considering partnering with an external agency to fill your positions, it’s crucial to be selective about who you choose to work with. Take the time to understand what sets the agency apart from others, their specific process for sourcing candidates, and how they can contribute to your business growth.
Remember, you get what you pay for, so if you prioritize finding the cheapest service, don’t be surprised if the quality falls short. Fortunately, there are reputable agencies out there who genuinely strive to establish a long-term partnership. It’s worth investing your time in collaborating with these agencies that are truly dedicated to assisting you and putting forth their best effort.
Here at Alexander Daniels Global, we conduct direct sourcing through targeted headhunting to access inactive candidates, alongside our database and extensive network of active candidates. To put it simply, your additive and advanced recruitment needs can be seamlessly handled by our specialist team – putting the right candidates in front of you when you need them most.
Alternatively, if you’re working in the additive or advanced manufacturing industry, browse our career portal to apply for our varied open job vacancies.
For more information about how we can help, contact our team of expert recruiters today. We also have a wealth of HR resources, such as our annual salary survey, to help you stay on top of hiring trends.
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