Vanderbilt Search Group: Reflecting your need for quality people
Assessing Recruiting Firms
"Assessing Recruiting Firms"

From The AMS* Report (* Accounting Management Solutions)
Organizations looking to hire middle and senior level professionals, ideally within the shortest time, have a greater chance of success when they partner with a recruiting firm to streamline the process. Here are key questions to ask before engaging a firm.

How does it get compensated? Recruiters work in one of three ways: 1) On contingency-and get paid only if their candidate is hired; 2) On retainer-in which they conduct the search on an exclusive basis for a defined period, and get paid whether or not a candidate is hired, although it usually leads to a hire; and 3) Exclusive search-which combines the exclusivity of a retained search, but with payment made only after a hire is made.

Contingent searches are a bit risky. Since clients often ask several contingent search firms to fill a position, those firms compete to get their candidate hired first, since that is how they will get paid. This means they often don't take the time to fully vet their candidates.

Does the firm work in your field? Many firms specialize in recruiting for a specific function, such as accounting and finance, and not by industry. A life sciences company, for example, seeking a controller is better off hiring a firm that specializes in accounting and finance than a firm which recruits, say, operations personnel for the life sciences. A good search firm looking to find a controller for a life sciences company will ensure that its candidates know the industry.

Is the firm located in the area? Good recruiters will meet with prospective candidates before referring them to a client. Therefore, location is important, since, for example, a recruiter based in Denver is unlikely to meet with candidates looking to work in the Boston area. Being local means the recruiter also knows the local market.

Does the firm know its clients? A recruiting firm can only make the right match by understanding its client's culture and business goals. The only way to learn that is by visiting the site where the successful candidate will work. If the recruiter doesn't ask to visit your office, you don't have the right firm.

How does the firm recruit? Effective recruiting for middle and senior level positions starts with primary research. Often, this is done by sourcing candidates through personal contacts and networking. The firm will then meet and vet potential candidates. If a firm relies only on Internet-based search engines, it's not adding value (other than saving your time), since clients can do the same thing.

Is the firm reputable? A reputable recruiter will be known within its field of functional expertise, such as banking, or accounting and finance, and will provide references. Ask those people: Was it easy to work with them? Did you like their people? Did they keep you informed throughout the process? Did they present well qualified candidates? Did they help with negotiations?

Is the firm technology savvy? Being current with technology enables a recruiting firm to expand its reach to find the best qualified candidates. While your recruiter should not rely just on the major, Internet-based, resume-driven search engines, it should be familiar with the new social and business networking websites.

Does the firm offer a guarantee? The best recruiters, almost by definition, don't have to offer a guarantee because they deliver what their clients need: i.e., a solid professional who fits the company culture. That said, your recruiter should offer to undertake a replacement search if its candidate that you hire leaves your company within a specified amount of time for reasons related to performance.