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Are all recruiters the same?

Are all recruiters the same?

23 April 2024 Eleanor Ogston


Selecting a recruitment partner requires you to make a choice about value. You need to determine if your investment will lead to a great outcome, ideally a new hire that slots seamlessly into your organisation and hits the ground running, and furthermore stays with you.


Unless you have had substantial experience of working with multiple agencies you might believe that a recruitment activity is homogenous and, on the whole, all firms offer the same service. This is definitely not the case, and by asking some leading questions you can quickly garner whether an agency is going to offer you the best value and best outcome.


What do you know about us?

This is the first question to ask any service provider and their answer will give you a quick and clear view on the investment they have made into your relationship and organisation.  With a raft of information available to recruitment firms about council activities you want to know that they understand your organisation’s core goals and priorities, show some understanding of the community demographics, local economy and current challenges.  You want to see that they connect with your purpose and the purpose of the role.  If they’ve not done this from the outset, how can you be confident that they will represent your interests well to your future employees?  


What do you know about the current candidate market for this position?

Again, this question enables you to assess the level of expertise of the individual and firm.   If they have recently recruited for similar roles in local government and can articulate knowledge about the remuneration, structures, required skills and networks you can be assured that they can partner with you and guide you through the recruitment project. 


How will you reach passive candidates?

There are a large variety of advertising platforms available which target active job seekers.  For specific technical skill sets or professions and executive roles, identifying and talking to passive candidates is crucial for the success of your recruitment project.  Not all recruitment companies offer headhunting and talent search services, and if they say they do, ask specific questions to identify the resources, processes and success they have from this approach. What specifically are they proposing to provide you to you in this regard?


Who specifically in your team will engage with applicants?

In many large agencies a principal lead consultant will engage with you initially to scope the project, but then hand off to a junior consultant to engage with candidates, screen and sometimes interview them.  Know who your team is, how qualified and skilled they are and how much of this work have they done before.  Are you engaging with a single recruiter or a team who bring a range of expertise and skills to the table and are more resourced to ensure the project stays on track.

Recruitment and executive recruitment specifically are an art form. Just because someone has led a team or been an executive themselves doesn’t mean they have the skills, judgement and business processes to lead an excellent campaign for you.

How do you determine a candidate is suitable for shortlisting?

The most heavily relied upon tool is the candidate interview.  In this the recruiter should be eliciting as much information as possible about the candidate’s breadth and depth of experience relative to the role, their capabilities, aptitudes, attitude and cultural fit.  Other tools such as pre-screening assessments and psychometric testing can be utilised to create a rich picture of a candidate’s fit to a role.  Using a capability framework can provide a great foundation for candidate evaluation.  Can your recruiter tell you in detail about their assessment processes?


What information do you present to the candidate market?

By reviewing a company’s current and previous recruitment campaigns you can see the quality of information they present to the candidate market.  Does this reflect the opportunity well? Does it showcase the organisation as well as the opportunities of the role?  Candidate information packs have become commonplace but assess these through the eyes of a candidate and determine if they offer significant insight, lay out a clear application process and provide direct contact information for any aspiring applicant.


How do you communicate with all candidates during and after a process?

We’ve all had the experience of applying for a job where we agonise over every word in the job ad and spend hours crafting our cover letter and CV, only to never receive a reply.  This not only reflects poorly on your brand but disenfranchises potential employees.  A good recruitment firm will nurture candidates, keeping them informed throughout the process and providing feedback from all interviews.


Do you maintain privacy during reference checking?

A candidate provides a range of confidential and personal information during a recruitment process and recruiters have an obligation to safeguard that information.  The Privacy Act specifies the conditions for managing personal information.  Candidates must provide consent to the recruiter before they can speak with referees and unsolicited reference checks are an indication of unscrupulous practices and can undermine both your process and the candidate’s reputation.  Any negative issues uncovered during reference checking or media assessments should be discussed with candidates to gain a fair view of previous events. 


If you receive an unfavourable reference do we still get to see it?

A recruitment firm is your representative and should not hold back any unfavourable information in order to game a particular outcome.  This information should be provided to you in a timely manner and discussed with you with impartiality and fairness.


How are your team incentivised?

The majority of recruitment consultants are also sales consultants and receive commissions for placements made. This can lead to unscrupulous behaviours such as cutting corners to get a quick outcome, putting forward candidates that don’t match the brief or holding back information.  If consultants earn commission, ask some leading questions about their recruitment processes to gain confidence that a transparent and fair process will be run.


How do you want to work with us?

Finally, this question will determine whether the recruitment organisation sees themselves as a service provider offering a fairly standard process, or a partner who demonstrates commitment to the mission and goals of your council.  Are they prepared to be flexible, how will they communicate with you along the way and is it an ‘us and them’ relationship or one of collaboration and shared goals?


As a leading partner to local government, we have worked hard over the last decade to create a recruitment process that is engaging, fair and stands up to probity.  Leading Roles has a program of continued improvement to deliver excellence in recruitment to the sector, aiming to transform councils through high performing people and not settling for anything less.