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Erin Osterhaus

3 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Recruiter

Thursday, April 18, 2013

If you're a small business owner, you've probably experienced the difficulty of trying to find the best possible candidate to fill an open position. It's hard, to say the least. That's why many entrepreneurs eventually decide to hire a recruiting expert. It saves time, and in turn, it saves money. But that's only if you find a great recruiter who can put a talented individual in that empty office seat.

So, how do you ensure you've found a great recruiter before you hire them? The basic parameters aside--experience hiring in your industry for companies like yours--Software Advice interviewed three recruiting experts to uncover questions you should ask when interviewing your prospective recruiter.

The experts:
  • Jessica Miller-Merrell is the President and CEO of the HR consulting firm, XceptionalHR. She is also the founder and head writer for the well-known HR blog, Blogging4Jobs.
  • Julie Labrie is the President of BlueSky Personnel Solutions, a Canadian recruiting agency based in Toronto. She's worked in the staffing and recruiting industry for over 14 years.
  • Jennifer McClure is the President of Unbridled Talent, a consulting and advisory firm providing services to clients in the areas of HR strategy and recruiting.
1. What's your recruiting agency's internal turnover rate?
Does the agency you're thinking of hiring have a history of employing dedicated recruiting professionals? You should probably find out. The logic: if the agency thoroughly vets its own recruiters--individuals who are truly passionate about their job as recruiters--they should stay on quite a while. It then follows, if the recruiters are dedicated to the job, they will in turn be dedicated to finding you excellent new employees.

According to Labrie, when she hires new staff for her recruiting firm, she says she tries "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. How will you find qualified candidates?
Passive candidates--those not actively searching for a new job--make up approximately 90 percent of relevant talent for any given position. With only 10 percent of qualified candidates sending in resumes, an outstanding recruiter will need to have a more proactive strategy than merely posting jobs to job boards or scanning LinkedIn.

Labrie, a recruiter herself, says, "We don't always get the candidates we want through the postings, so we have to be very good researchers and diggers to get the information."

How do you determine if the recruiter you're interviewing has these skills? McClure recommends asking how a prospective recruiter typically finds talent, and then--possibly more importantly--how they engage them. "Once they find people, how do they connect with them, build rapport? Do they understand what the candidates are looking for to make a move? And how do they sell them on the opportunity, especially if it's a passive type candidate?"

In addition to being excellent researchers, Miller-Merrell says "Good third parties are looking at relationships that they have invested in, especially if they're really specific in a segment. You want to work with a recruiter who has been in the industry for a while and knows who's moving, who's not moving, and knows who to pick up the phone to call and who to ask." A good way to determine this: ask how long they've been in the industry, and how they've successfully placed candidates in the past.

3. How do you determine if a candidate is a cultural fit with the client?
"Cultural fit" has been a buzzword in the recruiting field in recent years, and perhaps with good reason. From the employers' perspective, the authors of Who: The A Method for Hiring found that one third of the CEOs they interviewed said "...not evaluating cultural fit was one of the biggest reasons for hiring mistakes." On the employees' side, Glassdoor found that "jobseekers cite company culture as their second-highest priority, 'almost tied with salary.'"

With that in mind, it's best to ensure that any prospective recruiter gives cultural fit the appropriate consideration. But how?

McClure says to ask a recruiter for the specific questions they will ask to assess whether a candidate will be a good culture fit. She recommends questions like: "Tell me about the best culture that you've ever worked in. What made it enjoyable for you to work there? Where's a place where you didn't fit well and what was that like?"

Finally, it's important to note that you--the business owner--will have to do your part, too. Labrie, who has worked with many clients over the years says that, for recruiters "What's important for us when we're trying to recruit for the company culture is that [the employer] shares everything with us, absolutely everything. When it comes to who their hiring manager is, his or her style, it's very important for us to understand that."

Ask these three questions of your prospective recruiter at the outset, and you'll almost certainly find a recruiter who will be able to source great people for your business--and with their help, you'll be able to focus on what you do best, and keep your business growing.

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About the Author:
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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