Hitting the bullseye

When it comes to getting the right candidate for a job, recruitment agencies
are often the answer. But targeting the right one can be tricky.John Charlton
reports on a new online service that helps HR make the right choice

HR managers know there is only one outcome when recruiting via agencies –
getting the best person for the job. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But getting to
that recruitment nirvana has become increasingly complex with the spread of
recruitment through electronic media – principally the web – and the growth of
‘value-added’ services offered by many recruitment agencies.

Indeed, as the recruitment process has become more complex many recruitment
agencies now badge themselves as recruitment marketing agencies. This presents
HR managers with a challenge. How can they best manage their relationships with
recruitment marketing agencies so that all parties involved in the recruitment
process get the result they want?

The answer, in short, is to bring clarity and structure to the relationships
and agreements between HR departments and recruitment marketing agencies. For
example, if the HR department wants to involve a recruitment marketing agency
or agencies in its recruitment process it needs to consider what it wants from
them. This will help it to develop best practice.

Among the issues that should be considered at this early stage are:

– How much of the recruitment process should be handled by the agency?

– What range of services should the chosen agency be able to offer?

– Should there be a pitching process?

– Should top management be involved in agency selection?

– Should there be a pre-selection process?

– How much can be spent? What’s the value of the contract to the recruitment
marketing agency?

If the HR department already has a relationship and agreement with a
recruitment agency, it must decide whether it wants this to continue. This may
involve a review process. If so, this should be fair and above board and backed
by senior management. The agency must be notified of the review. Should the HR
department (the client) decide to sever the relationship prior to striking up
new ones, then the current agency should be informed. This will help ensure
existing contracts are serviced professionally.

Plan the pitching process

If it’s decided to go ahead with a pitching process, selection guidelines
must be applied. Consider the following:

– Decide what you want – such as services – from your preferred agency. Do
some market research and find those agencies which best match your criteria

– Involve departments that may be paying for the recruitment service

– Select no more than three new agencies for the pitch

– If the incumbent agency is to be considered make it four

– Advise the incumbent agency if it is not wanted

– Apply pre-selection criteria

– Consider whether you (your organisation) will help pay for pitches. They
can be time consuming and expensive to prepare and stage

– Draw up confidentiality agreements.

Once it has been decided to proceed with a pitching process, the HR
department must make sure it’s transparently fair. This is in the interests of
all parties. Competing agencies must be given the same level of information and
very similar if not identical briefs. A competent member of staff should deal
with the pitching agencies. If necessary, all agencies should be given access
to selected senior people who have a major input into the particular
recruitment decision.

Once pitch timings have been set they must be adhered to. For example, all
pitching agencies must have the same time to strut their stuff. And, when a
winner has been selected, the other contenders should be told face-to-face why
they didn’t win the business.

Making the relationship work

Once a recruitment marketing agency has been selected, it is clearly
necessary to ensure that a contract is drawn up that will ensure that the deal
works. In essence the contract must contain:

– Review points

– Payment details and mechanisms

– Expected performance levels

– Time limits and expiry dates

– Full details of services expected

– A service level agreement (SLA).

The SLA is a key document which, when properly constituted, will ensure the
relationship/agreement between HR department and recruitment marketing agency
runs smoothly and meets expectations.

In particular, the SLA should detail the level and content of services to be
delivered and specify penalties and rewards for under and over delivery
respectively. It must be agreed formally before the deal begins and contain key
performance indicators (KPIs).

KPIs can help client and agency monitor the performance of the agreement and
should cover quantitive and qualitative aspects of the contract.

How much clients pay for recruitment marketing agencies services can be a
bugbear. To ensure they are paying the market rate, clients can insist they see
the agencies’ charging books.

Many agencies run an ‘open-book’ policy, so don’t be shy in coming forward.
Every detail counts when you’re seeking the best.


To help HR professionals select the most appropriate recruitment
marketing agencies, Personnel Today’s publisher, Reed Business Information, has
launched www.recruitment-marketing.co.uk.  This site is an online directory, helping HR
professionals involved in recruiting staff to look for recruitment marketing
agencies that meet their needs. It’s easy to use and by following simple
criteria, the site can provide users with lists of recruitment suppliers which
meet their needs. It can even make comparisons between them.

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