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Hiring superstars: You find, they’ll seek

The key to your success is the people you employ – so how do you find them? Ian Hardy, managing director of Onyx Recruitment, explains the value of using a recruitment agency.

If you already know several superstars with relevant experience, who are falling over themselves to join your business, then hiring is easy, isn’t it? But what if you don’t know where to find people with the experience and, importantly, the attitude or personality that you want? Or what if you have identified the superstars who you are convinced in hiring, but they are not interested in joining you?

hiring superstarsSo you’re going to tell me to use a recruitment agency, are you?

Possibly, but not necessarily. It’s amazing these days how you can reach out to a wider audience than ever before, through social media and job sites. So, depending on your network, how specialised the role is and, importantly, how much time you can allocate to the search, you may identify and employ your new superstar quickly and painlessly without any help from anyone.

So why would I use a recruitment agency then?

Two words; outsourcing and expertise. It’s not right for every business all the time, but just look at the number of rapidly growing outsourcing companies there are today, such as Capita and Serco, along with many smaller ones who specialise in hiring superstars. Business owners have recognised that their time is most efficiently used by concentrating on their core business. When you recruit, it is easy to underestimate how long it can take and how frustrating it can be. So, rather than do it all yourself, you may decide your time is better spent on looking after your clients, and appoint someone externally, who specialises in recruitment as their profession, to run the exercise for you.

My business is small, and I worry that the best candidates may want a more established environment. How would working with an agency help me to attract these people?

The agency you work with is representing your company, your brand, and you as an individual, so it is imperative you only appoint one you are convinced will do this to your complete satisfaction. Assuming this to be the case, the consultant then acts as a broker, looking after the interests of both client and candidate, and ensuring a positive and successful outcome for both parties. This process starts with the consultant understanding exactly what it is you are looking for, and why, and continues with the consultant communicating your vision to candidates. Importantly, the consultant should also be giving you support and advice about the way you and your company become a compelling proposition that the candidate can’t refuse if you offer them the job. This requires an article of its own, but is all to do with engaging with the candidate through inspiring them, selling them your vision, explaining how it will be executed, what authority they would be given to achieve these goals, and making them feel valued.

So how do I choose a recruitment agency to work with?

Get recommendations. You must know people who have used agencies, and you probably go to networking meetings where you can ask about your peers’ experiences.

Should I use an agency that specialises in my sector or in the type of staff I want to hire?

Yes! If you are going to pay a fee to an agency for hiring superstars, apart from the argument that it will save you time, the other important factor mentioned was that it gave you access to experts. Therefore, only work with an agency you are convinced understands you, your business, and one that has a proven track record of finding people with the type of skills you are looking for.

What fees should I pay, and do I have to pay up front?

Unless you are recruiting a very highly paid executive position on a “retained” basis, you would normally only pay a recruitment fee when the candidate the agency introduces starts their new job with you. This is called recruiting on a “contingency” or “success-only” basis.

Most specialist agencies have standard fees of 20% – 25% of the salary for the role being recruited. In reality, you will end up paying anywhere between 15% and 22% depending on a number of factors, including the level of the opportunity, how difficult the agency thinks it will be to provide you with the solution you are after, and also your negotiating skills. However, remember that, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and if the agency is not 100% committed to finding you the best candidates (rather than placing them with your competitors), then that wonderfully low fee you have negotiated is counterproductive.

How can I be sure the agency is getting me the best candidates?

The agency would be pretty stupid if they weren’t doing everything in their powers to put the best candidates in front of you. They don’t get your money until they have introduced a candidate you are happy with after all! If you don’t trust them to be entirely transparent with you about both their ability to source the type of individual you are looking for, and how the process is going, then don’t work with them. You should look at them as a trusted advisor and partner in the process, and if you don’t feel confident in them, then walk away. There are plenty of recruiters out there who want to give you a professional and positive experience when you work with them.

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