How to work with a staffing agency to acquire full-time employees Featured

5:07pm EDT September 1, 2012
How to work with a staffing agency to acquire full-time employees

When it comes to hiring, staffing agencies are the experts. They know what it takes to create lasting employment relationships and can find a qualified full-time candidate quickly and efficiently, saving you the hassle of wading through hundreds of applications, says Rachel Ferguson, a recruiter with The Daniel Group.

“Agencies have a database of applicants they’ve screened and know what potential candidates are looking for in a company, job type and pay,” says Ferguson. “A recruiter will save you time and money, working to place the right candidate quickly so you don’t have to repeat the process if an applicant doesn’t work out due to a poor hiring decision.”

Smart Business spoke with Ferguson about how staffing agencies can help companies with their full-time hiring needs.

When working with a staffing agency to find a permanent employee, what is the first step?

The first and most important step is providing a detailed job description to the staffing agency you’re working with. The more information you can provide up front, the easier the process will be for everybody involved. When an agency only receives a barebones description of what is needed, the result can be multiple rounds of interviews to flesh out precisely what skills an employer needs, and that can result in frustration.

A clear job description allows the agency to get to work locating candidates. As the employer, you should expect applicants to be thoroughly screened and qualified before they are presented to you by the agency. You may only see three to five resumes out of hundreds screened in the search process. These are the candidates that your recruiter believes to be the best fit for your opening. You should consider your recruiter as a business partner who can guide the hiring process and who has the best interests of your organization in mind.

How does a staffing agency screen candidates?

With today’s technology, traditional interviews are not necessarily the only means of prequalifying applicants. Candidates may live out of state or have a demanding work schedule that can limit their ability to travel to an office for an interview. Skype interviews are increasingly common, and it’s not unusual for recruiters to talk to candidates multiple times per day by phone to gather more information.

Social media is also making a mark on the screening process. Recruiters can research any public profile the candidate has on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn to get a better impression of his or her personality. Personality and skill assessments are great tools to gauge whether a candidate will fit a company’s culture.

What characteristics indicate a candidate could be a good choice for permanent employment?

Always look at a candidate’s tenure when evaluating a long-term fit. However, given the current job market, many people have been forced into working contract positions, so it has become tougher to judge work history based on tenure. A general rule is that the fewer jobs someone has held, the better indication of that person’s long-term employability.

Recruiters also look at whether a person has made multiple, broad, cross-industry career changes, which can be a sign the person doesn’t have a clear vision of career progression and may be more likely to leave a job when it gets tough.

Asking a candidate about hobbies can give a recruiter a broader picture of personality and help determine if he or she will fit with your company’s culture in the long term.

Is conducting interviews enough, or should there be on-the-job observation?

That depends on the company and the type of position it is filling. For many professional, senior-level roles, recruiters are interviewing candidates who are employed but considering new opportunities. For these, it’s much less common to see temp-to-perm strategies. It may be considered too risky for the applicant to leave a permanent position with benefits for a temp-to-perm role that could fall through. It is important to have candidates interview with key staff members they will potentially interact with and get detailed feedback.

Many characteristics can be discovered through a trial period, but if your recruiter is experienced and thorough, these can be uncovered before the candidate is hired.

What level of involvement should a company expect to have in the hiring process when working through a staffing agency?

Expect to be engaged from beginning to end. During the process, your recruiter may need to regularly follow up with you to fine-tune how candidates are selected. Communication is vital to ensure the right person is hired. Give feedback after interviews to discuss with your recruiter what is and isn’t working. Many times, hiring managers will make the mistake of interviewing and then falling silent for too long without feedback. Candidates in today’s market expect quick feedback, and an unresponsive client can leave a bad taste in an applicant’s mouth. While the employer has the final say in who it hires, your recruiter is responsible for narrowing the field, and communication is the best way to build trust.

Once a candidate is chosen, how can a company improve its chances of that person accepting the job offer?

The job offer is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. You may have conducted great interviews, but if you don’t have a lucrative job offer, you could lose the candidate. Undercutting a strong candidate at this stage says that you don’t value what they can do for you. Not only is the salary you offer important, but a strong benefits package goes a long way.

Also, secondary benefits such as health and wellness packages, contests and other perks can be appealing. Make sure you communicate to the candidate what special offerings your company has and build excitement to improve the chances that your preferred candidate will accept your offer.

Rachel Ferguson is an engineering services recruiter with The Daniel Group. Reach her at (713) 932-9313 or rferguson@danielgroupus.com.

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