A helping hand Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

You always want to find the perfect candidate when you’re hiring. But sifting through stacks of applications and sitting through hours of interviews can be tiring and can take you away from time spent running your business.

“If you choose not to use a professional recruiter, both parties are going into the job relationship blindly,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “The company may not be the right cultural fit for the candidate, because the person did not know anything about the company, other than what they were told in the interview. Or the candidate does not meet the company’s expectation, because the company did not have time to do references or skills testing.”

Smart Business spoke with Helms about what to look for when using a professional recruiter, how the recruiter can help both you and your potential employees, and when you should consider using a recruiter.

What should you look for in a professional recruiter?

Trust. A professional who is experienced in the staffing industry knows how to listen and cares about his or her company’s reputation. Good recruiters typically work off of referrals instead of completely relying on a job site for a candidate pool. They can also provide you with both client and candidate references for you to check on their level of service provided.

When should you consider using a recruiter?

If you have a human resources department, oftentimes you can use a recruiter for more difficult positions to fill. Other companies will use a recruiter for more executive-level positions that are more time-consuming searches. From a candidate’s point of view, looking for work is work. It can be time-consuming and frustrating not getting your resume to the decision-makers. A good recruiter should have that relationship established with the right people. Also, when you are currently employed and looking to make a change or you know layoffs in your company are just a matter of time, a recruiter can be out there looking for you while you are still working and making an income.

What is the typical cost of using a recruiter?

It can vary depending on where you are located, what kind of position you are recruiting for and if the client’s needs are full-time, direct hire or contract employment. The average recruiting fee in the U.S. is around $15,000, and it is not uncommon for the client to want some sort of guarantee on the candidates placed. This is a big cost savings, because if the placement is not the right fit, the client would typically get a refund or replacement at no charge, if the recruiter had already been paid in full. Most agencies will do a contingency search for a company. The recruiter searches for qualified candidates and allows the client to interview them without incurring a fee. The typical fee is 20 percent of a candidate’s annual salary. This fee can change depending on the level of difficulty and customization of the search. Some companies will pay a retainer fee in advance to ensure that the recruiter has its complete attention on their assignment, in cases where the position to be filled is critical.

The second most common fee is temp-to-hire or contract-to-hire. For contractors, the mark-up percentage is charged on top of their hourly pay rate. When the company decides to convert the contractor to a full-time employee determines if there would be a buyout fee. This option is a money saver — the company pays one flat hourly rate while the contractor is working there on a temporary basis, and the company is not responsible for benefits, unemployment, payroll taxes or workers’ comp insurance. It can choose to let the person go at anytime.

What are the advantages for clients and candidates in using a recruiter?

There are several advantages, one of which is saving time. By using a recruiter, the client will have only qualified candidates to consider interviewing for its job position based on specific fact-finding questions. This cuts down on clients spending time sifting through a pile of resumes, wasting time that they could be using to do their jobs, thus increasing profitability. Working with a recruiter who is experienced and has a pulse on market trends helps a client position itself to attract the best candidates. A good recruiter will put a guarantee on the placement for 90 days. If the hired candidate is not a fit within that time frame, he or she will be replaced or the fee will be refunded based on time worked.

When candidates use a recruiter, they can explain what kind of job they want and what type of company or industry they prefer, not wasting their own time on bad interviews or being over- or underqualified. A good recruiter can help you find jobs that you might otherwise not know about. A recruiter should know the hiring manager and can shed light on specific information for your interview that will help you prepare and stand out from others who are interviewing for the same job. Lastly, a recruiter understands the importance of timing.

M.J. HELMS is the director of operations for The Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or mj@ashtongrp.com.