So you’ve decided to work with a staffing agency – now what?


There are a lot of reasons that an organization might decide to start working with a staffing agency: perhaps they don’t have the time or resources to properly vet all of their candidates; maybe they realize it makes more financial sense to outsource finding candidates; or all their candidates they’ve been finding and interviewing are just simply not good enough.

Whatever the reason, deciding to work with a staffing agency to address the hiring or retention issue your company has been experiencing is an important step. However, it’s not as simple as picking an agency and then waiting for them to send you candidates. You want to get the most out of your working relationship with this staffing agency, and in order to do that, you need to know not only what you should expect from them, but what they expect from you.

What to expect from your staffing agency

For business owners and decision makers, it’s important that you are getting your money’s worth in everything that you do. So when you decide to work with a staffing agency, you want to make sure that you are spending your money wisely, and getting a good return on the investment. Of course, you can’t do this without knowing what your staffing agency should be providing.

For starters, your staffing agency should always provide you with clear communication. If they are unresponsive to your emails and phone calls, don’t keep you up to date on tasks, or don’t answer your questions well, then you have a problem. A good staffing agency will always keep the lines of communication open, as well as be responsive to your needs and questions.

After that, you want a staffing agency that is better at sourcing and screening candidates than your company is. This means having a guaranteed, repeatable, and scalable search process that allows for a wide reach of both active and passive job seekers, as well as more efficient tools and technology to evaluate them. A good agency’s search process should allow them to work referrals, personal networks, and large databases to uncover the candidates you’re looking for. If a staffing agency is using the same methods that you were using, you’re probably not getting much value from them. Talk to your staffing agency about specifically how they find and evaluate candidates to ensure they’re using the latest methods and technology to do so.

Finally, at the end of the day, you want a staffing agency that delivers you quality candidates for job positions in which they can flourish. Gathering a pool of great candidates doesn’t help you much if the ones they send you are not a fit for the job. If you find that the candidates you are receiving from your staffing agencies are not up to snuff, it might be time for a change.

What your staffing agency expects from you

In order to serve you well, your staffing agency expects certain things from you. If you discover that your relationship with the agency is not going well, it’s important to consider that the problem may be on your end. The best way to avoid this is by knowing what they expect.

Just like you expect to have clear communication from your staffing agency, they expect the same from you. If you’re slow to answer your recruiter’s questions, or do not provide them with enough information, you are going to make their job difficult. We know your days are busy, but you should always make communicating with your staffing agency a priority, to ensure you are getting the right candidates into your business.

Additionally, the best candidate your recruiter presents to you typically has a short shelf life – after all, your company is likely not the only one they’re engaging with. If you take too long to provide feedback to your recruiter, you could lose out on the candidates, while also making your agency look bad (since they have nothing to report to the candidate from you). Feedback doesn’t need to be difficult; just include a simple yes and your availability to meet with the candidate to interview, or no and why you elected to pass on them. After a while, your recruiter will eventually come to understand what exactly you’re looking for through the feedback you provide.

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One of the first things you’ll do after deciding to work with a staffing agency is to provide them detailed job descriptions so they can get started on filling your open positions as soon as possible. The more information you give the agency about what the job entails, the better they can match someone up with it. Be sure to focus on the core competencies of the role, or the “must haves,” and then the “nice-to-haves.” If your job description is vague, the agency will have to guess if someone is a fit, and you may end up with someone who doesn’t work out, ultimately wasting your time and payroll. In addition, you want to make sure your job description matches the pay for the job. Staffing agencies will have a hard time filling the role if the position demands extremely hard-to-find skills without appropriate (higher) compensation. If necessary, always as your recruiter what the marketing is demanding for whatever position you’re trying to fill.

Besides the description for the job, also detail what you are looking for in a candidate. This means experience level, education, skills, and more. Again, the more details you provide, the better. Staffing agencies typically have a lot of candidates to choose from, so the more details you give on what you’re looking for, the more precise their matching becomes. If you’re unsure of what the ideal candidate looks like, start by discussing the work, projects, and deliverables for the first 3 to 9 months.

Finally, your agency needs timely feedback. If a candidate they send you works out, let them know. If the candidate doesn’t work out, let them know that too. This will help them to refine their process going forward, and send you better candidates in the future. If the staffing agency doesn’t know how they are doing, it’s hard to improve their process, so be sure to let them know in a timely fashion.

What your staffing agency CANNOT help you with

As we mentioned earlier, staffing and recruiting firms operate on the basis of maximizing your ROI and minimizing your time invested; your recruiters are taking sourcing and screening candidates off your plate so all you have to focus on is interviewing and ultimately making a decision from a short list of capable and qualified candidates. Staffing and recruiting firms typically work on success fees and need to help you secure your desired outcome before they earn anything.

That being said, staffing agencies cannot magically fix any inconsistencies or hiccups your hiring, interviewing, or on-boarding process may have. There are some employers who erroneously believe that headaches with hiring or employee retention can be remedied by having an outside agency do everything for them, but that’s never the case. If the agency you’re working with suspects that your hiring methods are potentially broken, they should suggest some recommendations to make the process flow more smoothly.

The beginning of your relationship with your recruiting agency, the time where you’re each getting to know the other, is also the best time to be completely candid. For instance, if you need help developing a new position’s job description, absolutely let your recruiter know. That way, together you can decide on what duties, responsibilities, and skill/experience requirements should be included. The last thing you want to do run to Google and take bits and pieces of other job descriptions you find; this usually ends up being a laundry list of job seeker requirements that are nice to have but likely impossible or unrealistic to actually fulfill (unless you’re willing to pay extra, as we mentioned earlier).

Another thing recruiters are very good at is selling the job opportunity to candidates; after all, they just spent the time to learn all about your company, so they know what makes it a unique or innovative place to work and how to convey that. But when you select candidates for face-to-face interviews at your company (after your staffing agency screened out only the best), it’s important that you, too, remember to sell your company. Job interviews are a two-way street; you ask them some questions, they ask you some questions, but in the same vain, while they are selling themselves to your company, your company should be doing the same to them. The last thing you want is to finally decide on the best candidate to extend an offer to, and they end up declining it due to a lack of passion or enthusiasm about the role or company during the interview.

Evaluating your needs going forward

Once you know what to expect from your staffing agency, and what they expect from you, you will hopefully have a good working relationship from here on out. However, it’s important that you monitor your company’s needs as you go along, and adjust your relationship with the staffing agency if needed.

For instance, your company could expand into another area, in which case you would need the agency to send you more candidates that fit this new role. Discuss the opportunity in confidence and ask them to help you locate subject matter experts for this potential expansion area.

A staffing agency is a great benefit to many companies, but in order for yours to work out, you need to know if your expectations and needs are being met. Now that you’ve chosen to work with a staffing agency, set aside some time to speak with them about what it is you need, what you’re expecting from them, and find out what they need from you. Doing so will set you up for long term success, and hopefully a long-lasting working relationship.

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