Secret Tips to get the Best out of a Recruitment Agency

Refined Art Vs Jack-of-all-trades?

The first thing you have to make a decision on is the type of recruitment agency to use. Do you choose a specialist in the sector or a generalist?

You might think I will go with the cheapest option at the outset but that will not always save you money in the long run. Take a simple car analogy for example; if you wanted to get your car fixed, you are unlikely to take your BMW to a local garage. Instead, you would find a specialist who knows the car and its likely fixes. Well, the same goes for your recruitment agency. I would look out for a specialist in the sector who would know more about the market and can tell you so many more things a general recruiter cannot.


Create a list of shortlist agency’s you would consider using. Ask around, who do you know who have used them before, they could recommend one and advise who to stay clear of? Which ones catch your eye? Are any of them a member of the REC, the better ones tend to be? You are more inclined to take somebody’s advice if they have been backed with a recommendation.

Become a detective

Take a look at their website and social media streams. The best ones will be doing a great job of these. There should be information about their company, their staff, their specialisms and testimonials from customers.

First Impressions?

Contact them and see how they handle your questions, this is a key moment as they don’t know who you are and it would be interesting to see how they treat you. Customer service is key, even if no business comes out of the call.

Haggling can hamper

It needs to be said most recruitment consultants are paid on a commission basis when they place a job applicant in a role. That might seem obvious but remember they will have a number of roles to work on at any one time and if you try to push back on fees they will work on the roles which will give them the best return. The consequence of this is the role you are desperate to fill will drop to the bottom of the pile. The other thing to consider is the best candidates will have a choice and any good agency will be offering them that.

Quality costs

The agency will charge a fee to place a candidate with your organisation. These fees are usually a percentage of the starting salary plus a car and other benefits the job seeker may get. There may be additional costs for things like advertising in the press. A recruiter will explain all this in detail and there should be no hidden costs. The actual amount you pay may depend if you give them exclusivity on the role. This may only be for a few weeks but it should get you their full focus.

If nothing is coming from the agency, handing the role to a number of agency’s at the same time might seem like a good idea at the time, but the reality is it’s more likely to send it to the bottom of their to-do list. Make a value judgment based on what services the recruiter provides and do not assume that cheapest is best. It seldom is.

Communication is key

Tell them what you need. Don’t hold back, it’s no good trying to hide things or not giving the recruiter the right information. Recruiters need all of this to find you the best person for your vacancy. A good recruiter will want to have a full understanding of your circumstances and needs.

If you have issues you need the person to solve in your organisation, then tell them. Help them to help you. Be honest about your circumstances and why you are recruiting. Everyone has particular requirements and a good recruiter will tailor their services for you. The last thing everyone wants is a poor fit with a candidate as they are not likely to stay.


From your fact-finding at the beginning, you will already have some idea of how the recruiter is going to find that ideal candidate. Find out how many ways they resource for roles. The best recruiters will already have an idea of who is in the market and who could fit your organisation. Do they offer psychometric profiling and referencing? In today’s world, these are both a must.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Work on a recruitment plan with them; understand your timescales and when you need the person in the role. If the vacancy is for a senior role then the candidates might have to give three months notice, add that to an elongated recruitment process and it might take five months to get someone in a role. As part of the plan, share your full recruitment process with the recruiter and pencil in all the key dates from the beginning. This means when they present candidates to you, they can check they are not going to be on holiday for second interviews or a look and see day.

If you are having problems creating a recruitment plan, check our recruitment blog.

Synergy is crucial

My final tip is about what happens from now on. It really helps if you think of you and the recruiter as being on the same team. You are working in partnership to find a candidate who will offer your organisation the best fit. You’ll be more likely to succeed in doing that if you work closely together and we look at how that happens in another of our top tip guides, “Working with your recruiter”.