How to Select the Right Recruitment Agency for Your Business

By Tom Mornement

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Whether with spouses, friends, teachers or colleagues, the partnerships that we depend on in our lives are the most compatible with our needs. A paediatrician is going to be a better choice to help your sick child than a doctor who focuses on the geriatric population, just as a mathematics teacher can aid your understanding of the subject more effectively than an English teacher.

Selecting a recruitment agency is no different.

The best relationship a business can have with its recruitment agency is rooted in true partnership, which makes the time you spend on selecting one all that more important.

1. Discuss your business needs and hiring challenges internally

Before you begin searching for a recruitment agency, meet with your team to discuss your business needs as well as hiring challenges. Management and everyone who has a hand in the company’s current recruiting process should have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation at some point.

We will go into more detail on candidate profiles in next month’s post, but the better you know the people and the positions you hire, the more cohesive your selected recruitment agency will be with your department.

  • Are your job openings permanent, interim, contract or a mix of each?
  • How long does your typical recruiting process take?
  • Is your company experiencing high turnover?
  • Do you have a goal that you would like to get the average time to fill down to?
  • Is there a particular job or role that you have the most trouble hiring?
  • Do you need a better way to organise and track the applicants and candidates for your jobs?
  • Are people applying to your jobs, but only a few are qualified for the position?

Once you have decided on a list of your challenges and needs, rank them by priority. This will serve as your evaluation criteria when deliberating on prospective agencies with your team. By creating this criteria together, you are ensuring that no stone was left unturned and that the agency you select will have the most impact on your business as a whole.

2. Enquire for case studies on comparable clients

Research the agency’s leadership, management and recruiting personnel to see where their professional networks are concentrated. Some agencies post bios of their leadership and management on their corporate website.

The information you find on LinkedIn will vary depending on the individual, but that is a good place to start for finding additional information about their company and to research their recruiters. Many strong recruiting professionals and leaders treat LinkedIn as the social media hub for their online presence. Accordingly, these profiles are usually up-to-date and specify what they have achieved for past clients and the strategy they took (beyond the company’s branding).

Raise the topic in direct conversation, as well. If one of your goals is to begin pipelining for candidates in an area of high growth, for example, and one of their Directors can tell you about how they’ve done that for past or existing clients in your industry, then that is a company worth looking deeper into. Request for that account manager to join this meeting so that they can go into detail on the recruiting execution.

It’s also worth asking people that work in the role that you’re looking to recruit for, if they have any recommendations of agencies they’ve used in the past. This could be current employees, friends, family, online forums etc.

3. Look for specialisations

Not all recruitment agencies are the same. As with any competitive industry, each business has its own approach, methods and philosophy on talent acquisition that may or may not be aligned with your company’s brand, goals or values.

One type of recruitment agency that has been growing over the recent years is the niche agency. Niche agencies specialise in a particular industry or job type (e.g. HR roles, entry-level, executive, engineering). Expertise is the core value they bring to their clients. Strong niche agencies have substantial networks, history in the industry they recruit in and possess great insight regarding the demographic they are recruiting for. Their focused resources and knowledge enable them to know where the purple squirrels are and how to recruit them.

There are many ways that agencies differ and separate themselves from one another. What matters, is identifying the attributes that are most compatible with your company and hiring goals.

4. Join their online networks

An agency’s online presence can tell you a lot about their brand, how they leverage new media to connect with talent and how successful they are in engaging passive candidates online. Follow the company online and connect with their recruiters on LinkedIn as well to see how they interact with candidates, their networks and audience.

Some items to consider:

  • How do the agency’s recruiters look online?
  • Are they active on social media networks?
  • Are they a part of any professional associations, such as the SHRM?
  • Do they contribute to the discussions going on in their industry? Do they sound knowledgeable?
  • Have they previously worked in your industry before?
  • Did they graduate from a local university?
  • When you search the agency’s name on Google, do you see any postings? If so, where?

Think of selecting a recruitment agency in terms of buying a new house. Looking into their online presence is akin to scoping out the location and features of the property before taking a tour of the house itself. Would it allow a shorter commute to work and the places you frequent? Are there enough rooms to accommodate your family and guests? Is the location and neighbourhood well-matched with your lifestyle?

If you only looked at the house itself and ignored those other factors, you could find yourself driving 90 minutes to work, listening to road noise at night when you want to relax from the day and spending time remedying frustrations (big and small) that you could have avoided before signing the deed. In terms of this metaphor, the perfect house with the perfect property is out there, but it may take some digging to find it.

5. Try before you buy

When you find an agency that you like, ask if they have a pilot program or would recruit for a couple of current positions your team has been working on so that you can “test” them out before committing to a long term contract. From their perspective, they are at the cusp of gaining a great new client, and so they are more motivated to accept those terms than refuse them. If they insist on a long term contract without a certain period of time that gives you the option to work with them first, then you may want to reconsider.

To provide the best opportunity to see how an agency performs for you, and how the two of you gel, look to work with them exclusively. Trying to assess and build relationships with multiple agencies at once is problematic, both for you and them. You’re unlikely to see the best from them when they’re rushing to compete with other agencies, and it will take up more of your time having the same conversations with multiple suppliers. Chances are you might get presented with some of the same candidates from different agencies too, which is a waste of your time and frustrating for candidates too when they’re being approached about the same opportunity from several different agencies.


Hope these tips have been helpful. Stay tuned for the next instalment of How to Successfully Work with a Recruitment Agency, looking at briefing your chosen agency on the role/s you’re looking for their help with.



Written by Tom Mornement, Director of Purple House HR, a niche recruitment consultancy specialising in the placement of Human Resources professionals. If you’re looking for a new HR position, or need to hire an HR professional, then get in touch:

0117 957 4100


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