How to select the perfect recruitment agency to fill your vacancy

 

So you're looking for staff, but not sure which employment service is right for you? 

With around 30,000 agencies in the UK, each varying in specialism and approach, picking just one can be difficult.

Need some help deciding? Then read on and find out what you should be thinking about when choosing a recruitment agency. 

 

What's the vacancy?  

Let’s start with the basics.

When deciding which recruitment agency to approach, the first question any employer should ask themselves is: “what exactly is the role I’m recruiting for?” 

This may seem obvious, but being clear about the vacancy will make it easier to choose the right service. 

Permanent or temporary? Junior or executive? Niche skilled or jack of all trades? 

All of these things have an impact on which recruitment agency you should work with, so take the time to consider what you’re really looking for.

 

What type of agency is right for you? 

Once you’ve settled on the candidate criteria, narrowing down the right type of agency shouldn’t be too difficult. 

 

 

Fundamentally, there are four different types of recruitment agency:

  • High street.
  • Industry specialist.
  • Temp.
  • Executive search.

Depending on the vacancy, some of these services will be more relevant to you than others. 

Need a team of packers at short notice? Maybe contact a temp recruiter. Looking for a KS2 teacher? Try an education employment agency. 

Of course, there are recruiting firms who will do all of the above, so you might want to look around and compare a few different agencies.

 

Should you use a headhunter? 

Headhunting, also known as executive recruitment, executive search or search and selection, is a form of recruitment that’s used to make senior level appointments.

The approach of an executive recruiter differs from that of a traditional agency, as they will look to engage with passive candidates (i.e. those who aren't actively looking for work). 

 

When to choose a headhunter

Headhunters are usually approached to fill c-suite, management or niche vacancies. So, if you need a managing director or a chief financial officer, then a headhunting service might be a suitable option.

Even though executive recruiters pride themselves on finding the perfect candidate, the process is typically more intensive and costly; this is something to consider before making your choice.   

If you haven’t used an agency before, or you just don’t want to take any chances, then a guarantee might be something to look out for.

If you don’t think you require a headhunter, then try a high street agency or one that specialises in your market. These offer equally good services and might be more suited to your needs. 

 

Do you need a local recruitment agency?

Depending on the nature of the vacancy, geography may or may not be relevant to your agency search. 

For example, if you’re looking for a permanent IT professional, proximity isn’t likely to be indicative of a successful placement.

Conversely, if you need a temporary team of labourers ASAP, then you’ll probably want to work with an agency in your area. 

As many agencies will recruit nationwide, irrespective of where they have branches, a lack of local presence shouldn’t be a barrier to using a particular service - but it may be something that’s important to you. 

 

Should cost be a factor when choosing an agency? 

Seeing as it’s the employer that pays recruitment fees, you’d perhaps be forgiven for trying to find the ‘cheapest’ service. 

As agencies tend to charge on a percentage basis, rather than a flat fee (although some do!), it’s less likely that your decision will come down to a price war. 

Regardless of the agency you choose, fees are likely to be around 15%-20% of the role’s salary. This could be 30% for executive jobs. 

You may want to shop around a little, but these percentages don’t deviate too much.

Bottom line: don’t make your agency decision a purely financial one.  

 

How do you choose a good recruitment agency? 

It’s one thing to narrow down your search, but how do you select a ‘good’ recruitment agency. 

There are around 30,000 recruitment agencies in the UK, each with their own USPs. While you can never guarantee that you’re going to pick the perfect service for you, there are a few signs that you should be looking out for. 

 

 

Are they members of a professional body?

The main recruitment bodies to be aware of are the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). While membership (or lack of) is by no means a sure sign of quality, agencies who join these organisations tend to tow a similar ethical line and are bound to certain guidelines. 

The REC currently has 3,500 member agencies and more than 10,000 individual recruiters. 

 

Do they offer any guarantees?

When making a new hire, there’s always a possibility you’ll take on the wrong candidate. While a recruitment agency will certainly lower this risk, you might just end up taking on someone who isn’t quite the right fit.

To give employers peace of mind, many agencies will offer a guarantee of some sort - perhaps a waived fee or a replacement candidate. Unsurprisingly, this only applies during a limited timeframe, usually 30-90 days.  

If you haven’t used an agency before, or you just don’t want to take any chances, then a guarantee might be something to look out for. 

 

Who else have they worked with? 

To get the measure of a recruitment agency, you only have to look at their clients. A good agency, even moderately new ones, should have a number of successful campaigns in their portfolio. 

As agencies tend to charge on a percentage basis, rather than a flat fee (although some do!), it’s less likely that your decision will come down to a price war.

You’ll usually be able to see this in the form of testimonials, with some agencies even listing companies they’ve worked with on their website. If you recognise any big names, competitors or businesses you aspire towards, then chances are, this is probably a credible agency.

Note, not all agencies are comfortable sharing their client list, and not all businesses are comfortable being shared as an agency client. This isn’t unusual, and in itself, isn’t a red flag.

  

Final thoughts… 

Choosing any recruitment agency is easy, but choosing the right recruitment agency for you can pose more of a challenge. 

If you want to search through thousands of recruitment agencies, all in one place, visit Agency Central. We are an online resource that can help you find the best service for your needs. 

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