What to Look for When Finding and Working with a Recruiter – Part 1

If you're a hiring manager and have ever needed hard-to-find talent, chances are you have worked with a recruiter, and if you have -- I sincerely hope it has been a good experience.

I've heard anecdotes from my clients about experiences with recruiters ranging from stellar to disastrous. If you are one of the unfortunate people to have had a bad experience, or you just want to be proactive and ensure your recruiting success, well, this post is for you.

Finding a recruiterWorking with a headhunter is critical when you're searching for hard-to-find talent. A good headhunter can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find and hire the right person. They should also be able to help you identify who is (and who isn't) the A-player, with a thorough and rigorous interviewing and reference checking process.

Today we'll talk about tips for working with a headhunter to help you find the best talent for your organization in the least amount of time.

Tip #1: Do Your Due Diligence When Choosing a Recruiter

Ask your network for recommendations. Look for recruiters who know your industry and have a successful track record – and also have a strong cadre of client references who you can contact. Partnering with a recruiter who won't quit until he/she successfully completes your search is imperative. 

Tip #2: Offer Your Recruiter a Time-Bound "Exclusive"

If possible, consider working with one recruiter exclusively for a certain amount of time – say, six weeks. At the end of this time period, if you're not satisfied with his/her performance on the search, you can engage another recruiter.  Another option worth considering is a retained search where you retain their recruiting services by a retainer, such as 1/3 of the estimated search fee up front, another 1/3 upon a milestone, and the last 1/3 upon completion of the search.

Giving your search to a large number of recruiters is typically not a good idea. As with anyone, recruiters don't like wasting their time.  They want to maximize their chances of a happy client, successful outcome and get compensated for the work they do. When a recruiter gets a search on which several others are working, they're most likely not going to spend much time or effort hunting for candidates – the odds of being successful are just too low... which brings us to tip #3.

Tip #3: Choose a Hunter

Make sure your recruiter is a hunter. When you set your sights on finding the A-player, you want a recruiter who is truly going to hunt for “passive candidates”. Passive candidates are those aren't actively looking and typically don't have their resumes posted – but are open to hearing about new opportunities that might be better than their current role.

Much of my recruiting focus is in the medical devices and diagnostics industry – where specialized expertise and talent is in extremely high demand. Let's say you need an R&D Engineering Manager with heavy Class II medical device experience in Austin. The pool of qualified candidates at this level is relatively small, and the number of A-players (top 10% of performers in this pool) is even smaller. To attract the A-player, you need a recruiter who will actively work to find and recruit them.  Actively recruiting means sourcing (or identifying names of potential candidates through all means available), approaching candidates, and being able to generate interest in the opportunity by presenting a compelling value proposition - and in a talent market that is heating up like it is, this is critical for your success in winning the war for talent.

I hope that this provides you some insight on which you can begin acting immediately.  In our next installment, I'll go into more details on what to look for in a recruiter and how to ensure your recruiting and hiring success.