There is no question that more and more organisations are reducing their reliance on recruitment agencies. Instead, they are moving some, or all of their hiring in-house.  However, whilst it is often a painful experience, many HR professionals would agree that working with agencies does yield benefits. In other words they are a ‘necessary evil’.

Any HR department working with external agencies is still faced with the hassle of choosing relevant agencies, negotiating terms and trying to manage the quality of their output.  What’s more, there is a risk of choosing the wrong one, not to mention the time it takes to deal with the constant barrage of cold calling often associated with recruitment consultancies.  So if this is the case, what are the benefits of working alongside a select few?

We’ve been talking to our clients in HR departments and the overall consensus appears to be that using recruitment agencies still adds value when it comes to the speed of hire, and assisting with hard to fill or specialist roles.  Yet, despite this reliance on agencies, and the high cost associated, it is astonishing that there appear to be a lack of formal processes in place to manage, and review their performance effectively.

So when dealing with agencies, what are the best ways to work effectively with them to ensure you are adding value to your hiring process? Here are our top ten tips:

1.       Treat your recruiters as if they were an in-house recruitment team. Train them, immerse them in your brand and create a forum for regular contact. Meet them face-to-face and invite them to your office so they can get a good feel for your brand and company culture.

2.       Optimise the process of working with recruiters. Create a uniform model for how your company interacts with all recruitment suppliers so you can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on valuable processes such as quality briefings etc.

3.       Set up Service Level Agreements. As with other suppliers, you should set formal SLAs in order to create accountability. Define and agree on metrics that agencies are accountable for. Examples are: level of contact, effectiveness, time to first CV or time to hire. Set clear guidelines as to how often your contract/PSL is reviewed. 

4.       Measure and benchmark the performance of your agencies. Record agency effectiveness as shown by the interview rate, time to hire, and spend. Create regular reports in order to track trends and choose the best suppliers. Give agencies scores in order to rank the most suitable and best performing agencies. Don’t hesitate to replace ineffective agencies with new ones.

5.       Measure your internal recruitment team’s performance. It can be difficult to get visibility of the entire recruitment process, but training individual staff to record their activities accurately will help to track and improve the quality of hire, cost of recruitment and time to hire.

6.       Manage the hidden costs of working with recruitment agencies. Most people consider the cost of recruitment agencies to be the fee charged per hire. However, you should also consider the cost of briefing, training an agency and giving feedback. Try to cut out the administration work involved and add value to the relationship through effective briefings and establishing good channels of communication.

7.       Manage your employer brand. Your recruitment agencies are representing your brand to potential employees and possibly to existing and prospective customers. It is crucial for them to understand the importance of creating a good experience for the candidate. This involves providing relevant opportunities and good, timely feedback.

8.       Measure candidate experience by asking interviewees (not just successful hires) how the recruitment agency treated them. The best way to do this is to ask for the candidate’s email and talk to them after you have given your agency feedback. Create a standard questionnaire for this process.

9.       Use technology to effectively manage your PSL. Centralise all communications with recruitment agencies and integrate these with your applicant tracking system or ERP system.

10.   Research the way your departments currently use recruiters. If line managers are currently using recruiters directly, they should be given guidelines and their progress should be reported regularly so your organisation can have control over the process.

Have we left anything out? What’s your experience? Let us know by commenting below.

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