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How to select the best recruiter for your talent search

By Mike Pill

For a business to succeed I would prescribe a Business Success Cocktail (PIMS) consisting of:

  •     People – the means to expedite and create value
  •     Investment – time and money in working capital and assets
  •     Marketing – Accessing the market and customers
  •     Strategy/USP – A business plan, vision, strategy

Of all these essential ingredients, a good strong team of people provides THE transferable premium value of a business as a going concern.  Taking on staff is one of the most important decisions that a business owner will make. Getting the right fit can make an enormous difference not only to business operating performance but ultimately to the value of the business as a whole when the shareholders/ owners are looking to exit.

When looking for the best talent the right recruitment practitioner can make all the difference. There are a large number of excellent recruitment practitioners but who should you choose and what are the considerations to bear in mind in making the selection?

Here are my top tips for selecting a recruiter who will be a perfect partner for your talent search.

  1. Are their search and selection methods appropriate?
    Due to advances in technology there are a vast range of tools available to the practitioner who will have acquired an in-depth knowledge of how best to advertise, search and select. Whether it be selection of appropriate media (press, internet), job boards, writing effective advertisements, data bases to be utilised, networking, social media, headhunting or appraisal techniques, consider who can offer the most exhaustive, appropriate and comprehensive service.
  2. Is their sector experience a good match for your business?
    It is also appropriate to ask of the experience of and references on the practitioner in your particular sector or the functionality (engineering, sales, IT, marketing, finance etc.) you are looking to fill.
  3. Will they be a suitable ambassador for your brand?
    In appointing a recruitment agent, you are looking for an ambassador to your business who will be the public face to those who express an interest in your company. They must therefore demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and integrity in dealing not only with the successful candidate but also with all applicants who express an interest.
  4. What Fee structure is offered?
    Particularly in the current market, the practitioner’s fees and payment terms should be negotiable and consistent with the service level you require of them in a highly competitive market. A fixed fee is often more preferable than a percentage of salary as it can lead to more impartiality and comfort when negotiating the package on offer.
  5. Could you benefit from an Exclusive contract?
    Exclusivity is another consideration. As leading practitioners use similar techniques you should be able to negotiate a lower fee by offering exclusivity to your preferred choice or at least exclusivity for say the first month of the search rather than using a number of agencies from the outset.
  6. What happens if the candidate doesn’t work out?
    The question of indemnity should also be addressed i.e. what happens in the unlikely event that the candidate of your choice does not work out? Often an agent will offer replacement candidates free of charge for a period of time – the indemnity period – and failure to find a replacement should lead to a refund. Again, I would advocate negotiation as the current market is leading to increasing indemnity periods. The norm would appear to be three months with a declining refund schedule but if the position is critical to your business e.g. a senior manager or director, ask for an extension to six months. For Managing Directors and mission critical positions a one-year indemnity period is not unreasonable.

Negotiating a cost-effective service level agreement with your practitioner of choice makes good business sense; cutting corners in attempting to recruit could literally, eventually cost you a fortune.

Our newest associate Mike Pill is a highly experienced commercial executive with multi-sector, international experience and a discerning eye for finding and developing talent.  You can contact Mike at to discuss your senior talent search requirements.

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