How to get the most out of your recruiter

An industry that prides itself on its ability to acquire and retain individual customers needs to look seriously at applying the same kind of strategic thinking to its employee relationships. The fact is, heavy competition exists for the slim talent pool...

An industry that prides itself on its ability to acquire and retain individual customers needs to look seriously at applying the same kind of strategic thinking to its employee relationships. The fact is, heavy competition exists for the slim talent pool in direct marketing. Yet, too many DM companies and agencies overlook the importance of long-term strategic human resources planning – an irony, to be sure. As a whole, the industry must become more forward-thinking and strategic in its talent recruiting methods.

To that end, here are some recruiting tips to help get you moving in the right direction:

1. Develop an employee A&R (acquisition and retention) strategy. Identify your keepers, keep your compensation program competitive, train like fury and build professional development opportunities for your people wherever possible.

2. Build a strategic alliance with a recruiting firm that reflects your own ethics and staffing philosophy. Make a commitment to that firm so that you get ongoing access to their energies, resources and candidate network.

3. Demand that the recruiter work exclusively for your firm, and not for your competitors. If you belong to a bigger firm, choose two or three partner recruiters to help you search for people with different skill sets.

4. Use your recruiters as valued strategic partners and bring them into your annual business planning sessions. Reactive hiring does not get you the best candidates; it merely gets you whoever is available at the time. Start investing in the process of relationship recruiting – it’s the way of the future.

5. Insist on fixed fees with the recruiter, and don’t lowball. In the service industry, you get what you pay for. Get a commitment from your recruiter to keep their hands off for at least six months and a guarantee that they’ll complete their assignments. If you can’t get that, move on.

6. Make sure you know who is doing the recruiting for your firm. Often the person who is selling the recruitment service is not the one who actually delivers the service — build the relationship with that person.

7. Articulate your expectations in terms of recruiter involvement. Find out how recently the candidate has been interviewed by the recruiter, the length of screening interview, whether behavioural interviewing techniques are used, whether resumes are augmented with additional data, whether candidates are briefed and assessed thoroughly before you see them, and who does the reference check. Monitor these items informally with candidates as you see them. Give feedback to the recruiters.

8. Make sure you keep your side of the bargain. Develop a job description and be clear on your requirements prior to hiring. Prepare your own staff in interviewing techniques, ensure they are available for interviews, and provide feedback to the recruiter in a timely fashion. Finally, ensure that your compensation package is competitive with the market.

9. Honour your existing employees by sticking close to your existing salary ranges. There is no quicker way to lose existing staff than to pay out huge sums to new employees.

10. Let your recruiters be part of your staff activities. The more they know you, the better they represent you in the marketplace. Remember, you’re both on the same team in the ongoing battle for talent and you should both act that way.

Marnie Keith-Murray is president of the Keith-Murray Partnership, a Toronto-based executive recruitment firm.