How to work with Recruitment Agencies – and get the best value out of us….

Yesterday I was fortunate to be invited to an agency briefing with an incredible business that I have worked with extensively before. It is many years’ since I have found myself in a room with 25+ other recruiters and it was quite an eye opening experience. The room was populated with people who are niche in their own fields, offering specific recruitment solutions to a business with a varied workforce both in terms of technical skill set and geographies covered.

After a presentation outlining the business journey, value proposition and recruitment strategies, we were asked to provide feedback on how the business engages with us. This was an amazingly refreshing position to be in. In many years of recruitment, I am seldom asked by a business to provide feedback on how they are engaging us, the agency. And yet, in my opinion, we are their first customer.

A good recruitment agency should be an extension to the in-house HR and recruitment function. Acting as an ambassador to your business, they should complement your EVP and position your brand to an audience that might not have previously known about you. This is often the case where the business is not necessarily a ‘high street’ brand.

The other benefit a good recruitment agency should avail you with, is the reality check. Being ‘inch wide and mile deep’ in their specialist area, they truly know the market and will be able to challenge you that x, y and z skills are not available at xx price point. Understanding that you have a wish-list of 10 things the perfect candidate must have, a good recruiter will whittle this list to 3 or 4 and understand the compromises you can and can’t make to secure the best possible talent into that role.

Allowed to operate in this manner, any specialist recruitment agency should be able to service your needs well, ensuring your speed to hire and cost implications are kept to the minimum. However, a relationship that works well, needs two parties to be aligned in their thinking on what a partnership is. Yesterday’s experience, I am sad to say, is all too rare.

More commonly, to ensure businesses have gone through the appropriate procurement process, recruitment agencies are being asked to compete with each other. The behaviours that this situation creates, mean neither the business nor the recruitment agency come out as winners. In a competitive situation, it is often a ‘first come, first served’ policy that dominates the process meaning recruitment agencies get into a CV race.

The opportunity to do our job well by positioning your business as an employer of choice goes straight out of the window. Those who do this, will lose the CV race. Instead, as the client, you end up with a bunch of mismatched CV’s, whereby the candidate has not bought into the opportunity in any depth and the ‘spray and pray’ mentality reigns.

If you are in a position to influence how your business partners your recruitment agencies, please value the benefits that working with one specialist agency per function can offer you. Our desire to do an amazing job will be high, we love being an extension to your business and truly act as an ambassador for your business – and we’re very good at it. If you’d like to hear more about how we do this, please don’t hesitate to speak with us.


Jen Gaster

Founder and Director of HR Heads. Passionate about the innovative and successful recruitment of HR talent and creating strong, lasting networks built on trusted relationships. Industry specialist for the Hampshire region

Connect with me on LinkedIn here