10 Bulletproof Steps to Selecting a Recruitment Partner to Support your Business

You need to recruit a critical leadership role for your business but don’t know whether to partner a database recruitment agency or a headhunter. Here are our 10 bulletproof steps to help your decision;

1. Database or Headhunter?

What's the difference? Generally speaking, database recruitment agencies work on a "success only” basis that seems attractive at first but there are pitfalls and it doesn't always guarantee the best possible candidate. Recruitment agencies tend to work from a database of individuals who are proactively looking for a new job - but those are not always the best people for your company. This approach can certainly offer a quick fix - but it's not always a long-term solution.

Using a headhunter can be a great idea and one that many companies don't even consider. Although you invest up front for the service, professional headhunters operate as your trusted advisors, spending time face-to-face to ensure they really know your business strategy, culture and the individual who will add value to your business. You must be prepared to invest time on an ongoing basis to reap the potential rewards but overall the costs are comparable to those of database agencies.

2. Check industry knowledge

Ask for evidence of experience in your industry and of appointing the senior level role you need to recruit. How robust is their network, do they already partner your competitors (if so how can they ethically partner you), do they have valuable industry insights and can they provide a creative solution to your need?

3. Evaluating a potential partner face-to-face is critical

Recruitment is a big investment, even bigger if you get it wrong and so you must meet potential recruitment partners. Ask them about their business, their experience and make sure they are asking you a lot about your company, your vision and values, the culture of the business and, of course, the role. Are they listening or just selling? Can you see them as your brand ambassador?

4. Check the level of service you are getting

No placement, no fee may seem attractive but if all your consultant plans to do on your behalf is a quick database search, a couple of phone calls and an email attaching 6 inappropriate CV's, then is it really worth the investment? At the very least, your consultant should have met their candidates face-to-face to qualify their skills, experience and interest in your company and the role you have on offer. 

5. Check you are getting a consultant who will really be a consultant

Don't pay to do the job yourself. If you are paying for a recruitment service to save you time and money, you don't want to be wading through CV's that are not relevant to the vacancy or sitting through interviews with candidates who have never met their consultant and who are clearly not suitable.  Look for a recruiter who wouldn't dream of putting candidates in front of you who has not been interviewed specifically for your role. Headhunters have no database so need to proactively approach potential candidates and ensure they 'fit' your company, both technically and culturally. You also need your consultant to act on your behalf, handle negotiations and give you advice. It should be a collaborative partnership.

6. Look carefully at fee rates

Assess what you get for your money. For example, will you be paying the expenses of the consultant as they rent interview venues and drive all over the country pursuing candidates? Are you expected to pay for advertising? Is the fee percentage based on basic salary or have bonuses and extras been included in the deal to give a remuneration package rate. Is the consultant adding value by including other services, e.g. psychometric testing, referencing, onboarding etc…

7. Do they have a mission statement, vision or values?

Look for indicators of a commitment to high performance and ethics in their own business. Do they align with your own?

8. Are they a good company to work for?

Recruitment as an industry has a bad reputation for high staff turnover, long hours and staff burn out. Check out the company you are planning to partner; do their values fit with yours? Do they value their employees and do they have longevity in the role?

9. Get testimonials

Have previous clients left testimonials in praise of the consultancy? Good recruiters will be happy to provide you with contact details from satisfied customers, and case studies from successful projects.

10. Experience of recruiting across the board

Are they able to partner you to recruit across your business, will they work with you to find the right people for board, sales, marketing, manufacturing or R&D or would you prefer to invest in a range of partners for each specific business discipline? What sort of level of seniority are they comfortable in, would they be good at board director level or middle management, or both?


Why not download our free briefing template, vital to developing an outline of the identification, attraction and engagement steps – critical to finding the right person for your business.