In Defense of Exclusive Recruiting Arrangements

Last year, I was contacted by the VP of R&D of a medical device company who was growing his team and was looking for recruiting assistance.  After discussions and due diligence, he decided to work with us on an exclusive basis.

Best RecruiterThe result? The client company couldn’t be happier.  Over the course of several months, we’ve recruited and hired on several A-player candidates, who then recruited other top performing former colleagues, and I’m still recruiting for them.

I’ve written about exclusive recruiting agreements in the past – this is where a company who has a hiring need agrees to work with one recruiter exclusively for one or multiple searches.  This can be either through retaining the recruiter, or working with one recruiter or recruiting firm for a set period of time on a contingency basis (contingency means that the client pays only if the recruiting firm finds the candidate who is hired).  

In my experience and in the example above, exclusive recruiting agreements, when done right, work exceptionally well – and in most cases, work significantly better than working with several recruiters on searches.

Can you afford to work with only one recruiter?

Some hiring managers would never consider working with just one recruiter or search firm for their recruiting needs…especially for their hard to fill positions / searches.  I understand the logic, but I respectfully disagree and would submit that in order to find the A-player, especially for difficult searches, you have a much better chance when working with just one search firm.

The logic for wanting to use multiple recruiters on a search is that by casting more "nets", you'll catch more "fish". The flaw with this approach is that a hiring manager might ultimately see more candidates for their searches, but most of these candidates will likely be unqualified or lower performers.  The hiring manager will also likely spend a significant amount of time sorting through unqualified resumes and interviewing unqualified candidates.

The other problem with this approach is that recruiters want to focus their time and efforts on searches where they’ll be rewarded for successfully delivering the A-player.  Chances for success are significantly less when they have a low level of commitment from their client company and are competing against several other recruiters for the same role (and recruiters do know).  This means that a client may have several recruiters working on their searches, but they may stop receiving new candidate submissions after a short time from those recruiters as they move onto other searches.

Can you trust just one recruiter to deliver the A-player, hard to find talent for a role? 

I’m glad you asked.  The answer: absolutely.  BUT - it takes spending the time and effort up front to find the right recruiter, and ensuring that they know exactly what you’re looking for.   Good recruiters look for client relationships where they are a trusted partner – and knowing that a hiring manager has put their trust exclusively in the recruiter for their search or searches fosters a committed, consultative relationship and a very high sense of urgency for the recruiter to find the right person as quickly as possible.  This ultimately results in an effective recruiting strategy and a hiring manager who is thrilled with their team of top performers.

Here are some recruiting case study examples that show just how well good recruiting strategies put in action can work.  Want a client's perspective?  See what hiring managers have to say.