How to Recruit a Top-Notch Recruiter

For a growing company, asking a recruiter to help you fill key jobs can be ideal, but how do you know the recruiter 'gets' your company? Here's how to vet a recruiter.

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By Erin Osterhaus

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If your business is growing, you probably don't have time to find the quality candidates needed to fill all those new positions. You might consider a third party recruiter.

But hiring one of these pros can be tricky. After all, you don't really know if they're any good, since their recruitment skills can only be determined based on their ability to deliver high-quality candidates to you. And that's something you won't know until you've worked with them for months.

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, you'll need to suss out their skill level early on. Beyond asking about a recruiter's experience hiring in your industry for the type of talent you need, try getting crafty with your questions.

Here's a sampling of clever and probing questions from three recruiting experts:

1. What's your recruiting firm's internal turnover rate?
If you want to gauge a recruiting agency's history of hiring dedicated recruiters, this is a somewhat sneaky way to shed some light on the question. The logic: if the agency vets its own recruiters well, they'll stay longer -- and that's an indicator the recruiting agency hires individuals who are passionate about their job, and who will be dedicated to finding you great candidates.

Related: Blue, Green, Gold? How to Manage Employees Based on their "Color" Temperaments

Julie Labrie, the president of BlueSky Personnel, a recruiting agency based in Toronto, says her goal when hiring new recruiters for her agency is "to find out first if they're passionate about what they do and if they really care. At the end of the day, I need to find out if they're going to dig for that person."

2. What is your sourcing strategy?
Recruiting is one of the most challenging tasks for any company, as most of the top candidates for any position are passive. In fact, only 10 percent of the relevant talent is actively looking for a job. A great recruiter will have to do more than use job boards and scan LinkedIn to access that other 90 percent.

Related: Quirky Startup Perks: "A Mating Call' for Tech Talent?

Excellent recruiters will have a system to source these candidates. Ask how they would locate these diamonds in the rough, and how they'd engage the candidates they find, suggests Jennifer McClure, the president of Unbridled Talent, an HR consulting and advisory firm in Cincinnati. She adds that once the recruiter finds a good fit for the job, it's important to ask the recruiter "How they connect with them, build rapport and how they sell them on the opportunity -- especially if it's a passive-type candidate."

3. How do you determine if a candidate will be a good culture fit with your clients?
The authors of Who: The A Method for Hiring found that "Not evaluating cultural fit was one of the biggest reasons for hiring mistakes." As such, you should find a recruiter who's able to determine a candidate's cultural fit with your company, since this is absolutely necessary for your (and their) success.

McClure further recommends asking recruiters what questions they'll use to judge a candidate's cultural fit. Things like: "Tell me about the best culture that you've ever worked in. What made it really enjoyable for you to work there? Where's a place where you didn't fit well and what was that like?"

And, you should assess how the recruiter will get to know your culture, since they'll have to understand it before they can gauge any candidate's compatibility. "Most third-party recruiters will probably go through a checklist or they'll spend some time with you on the phone or they'll do some research to get a sense of who you are as a company," says Jessica Miller-Merrell, the president and CEO of XceptionalHR and head-writer of the well-known HR blog, Blogging4Jobs.

Related: How to Hire the Right Employees for Your Startup

Finally, you, as the employer, will have to do your part too. Labrie notes, for recruiters, "What's important when we're trying to recruit for the company culture is that [the employer] shares everything -- absolutely everything -- with us."

What recruiting challenges have you managed to overcome and how? Let us know with a comment.

Erin Osterhaus

Erin Osterhaus is the Managing Editor for Software Advice’s Human Resources blog, The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management and leadership techniques.

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