Are you helping your recruiters help you hire?

Your agencies aren’t coming up with candidates. Or the candidates they’re sending aren’t right. Or you’re seeing the same CVs time and again. They seem like their hearts are not in it.

Familiar territory, but have you ever stopped to ask why?

The key point is to remember that the agency is only paid when they make a placement and the agent is measured and paid according to his placements and fees. So far so obvious, but what this means is that unless you have them on a retainer payment they have no choice but to explicitly prioritise all their clients and vacancies based on both the probability of getting the fee and the size of the fee.

So if you don’t think you are getting their full attention and focus you are probably right, because they don’t think there’s a decent prospect of payment for their efforts.

Looking at it from that perspective, you may need to ask yourself what you can do to move your vacancy further up their priority list:

  1. Briefing: how much time have you spent briefing the agency? Have you met them? Have they met any hiring managers? Is there a detailed job description and candidate specification? When did you last update them on the status of the vacancy? The more information you can give them the more engaged they will be and the more likely they will be to come up with relevant candidates.
  2.  How many agencies are you using? Alas, competition won’t spur them to work harder: quite the reverse. If you are using 5 agencies then each will, in theory, have a 20% chance of filling the job:  while some might back themselves to be better than the rest the odds still aren’t great so they may not put much time and resource into it. From an agency’s perspective exclusive is best, even if for a short period: they will put MUCH more effort into trying to fill the role.
  3. What’s your process like (be honest)? If an agent spends time finding a candidate, telephone screening (or even meeting) them for you, then emails the CV across and you don’t get back to them quickly with feedback why would they put effort into looking for   more people for you? Unfortunately, CV feedback from many consultancy employers can take weeks or is non-existent. What about interviews? Is it a straightforward process i.e. 2-3 stages, with interviewers who are willing to give up diary slots? If the process is protracted the agent faces the prospect of losing a fee as the candidate may find another job elsewhere. Making your process more effective and with better communication is a win-win for your firm, the agent and the candidate.
  4. Is an internal recruiter also working on the role or managing the process? Agencies know that one of the main functions of an internal recruiter is to save agency fees. All of them are familiar with the feeling that somehow their candidates are not top of the priority list because they have a hefty fee attached and the internal recruiter’s bonus is linked to direct placements. Don’t blur the lines: internal recruiters work on some roles, agencies others.
  5. Low fees/poor terms. Are you pleased you’ve persuaded agencies to agree to very low fees? Or very advantageous terms (long rebate period, delayed payment etc.)?  Don’t be: that puts your firm at a disadvantage compared with their other clients (perhaps your competitors?) who will get more of their time and better candidates. Also, the best agencies, who have more attractive business elsewhere, won’t sign up. So make sure your terms are no lower than ‘average’ and give serious consideration to paying a premium rate in order to ensure you get agencies’ full attention and focus.


Prism has won the “Top Management Consultancy Recruiter Award” for the past 9 years based on “outstanding feedback”. For more information on optimising your engagement with recruitment suppliers, or to discuss current or future recruitment please contact Chris Sale, Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment or visit