In a competitive job market, making the move to go with a recruiter for your executive search needs can be a make-or-break decision in maintaining your own firm’s competitiveness. Whether hiring an independent agent to take over on recruitment goals, or aligning your team(s) with a larger recruitment agency, the focus that specialized agents can provide can add a layer of value that might be unattainable when keeping the role in-house.
However, it is important to realize that your recruitment activities – in-house or in an agent relationship – create additional customer-facing interactions between your company and the business environment it operates within.
Like Salespeople, Recruiters Are a Face of Your Organization
Taking care of your salespeople appropriately provides a measure of confidence in their motivation to best represent your company. With recruiters there are similar frontline brand experiences in play, as they can be “the face of your organization and how they treat your applicants can elevate or tarnish your brand in a single interaction” . Therefore, understanding the capabilities of your recruiters and how to align their interests with yours are vital considerations. It’s a potentially challenging move if your company is new to the recruitment game.
In today’s world, recruiters need to have a diverse set of skills to make a transformative impact. As the economy and job market continues to pick up, the demand for recruiters will, likewise, continue to rise. It’s hard enough to find good recruiters; finding great recruiters that can transform your company is a real test. 
There may be several reasons for bringing on a recruiter for your executive search. For example: (1) it may be a rare position you are trying to fill, or (2) you may face an overload of resumes or job boards to evaluate, and/or (3) the best employees for your needs may already be employed elsewhere . Whatever the reason, the recruiter you choose needs to understand your challenges and apply his or her expertise in overcoming them to find that right fit.
What Makes a Great Recruiter
Lars Schmidt is the Founder of Amplify, a growth catalyst for 21st Century HR, and also the Co-Founder of HR Open Source (HROS.co). Having spent 20 years in HR and leading progressive recruiting teams at companies including NPR, Ticketmaster, Magento and several startups, Lars’ experience and expertise has given him strong insights on what makes a great recruiter. He offers the following criteria for evaluating recruiters that will be working on your company’s behalf :
- Ability to influence and develop trusting relationships with hiring managers, client groups, peers, candidates, and other departments.
- Data-fluency for building data-based talent pool assessments on roles and markets, as well as being able to present that data in ways that inform hiring decisions based on hard metrics.
- Recruiters require empathy, as they work with human beings considering weighty – and often emotional – life changes every day. They can make or break those dreams.
- High risk-tolerance helps recruiters add value by being creative, curious and willing to take (calculated) risks rather than following the herd.
- As with the best sales people, the best recruiters possess the tenacity and motivation to run with little direction, yet they also have the competitive drive to overcome adversity.
- Great recruiters can use creative marketing skills and writing proficiency to develop strategies using multi-channel, targeted recruiting approaches that can cut through clutter. In doing so, they can reach and compel candidates to action.
- Being tech-savvy and keeping on top of tech trends helps great recruiters grasp concepts and intelligently converse with potential hires on new technologies – proprietary or in use by your team – that can be “game changers” in the hiring decision.
- Exceptional recruiters are curious, driven to self-educate and passionate about what they do on your team, presenting a great reputation across the board.
While not an absolute checklist in evaluating a potential recruiter for your company, these considerations provide a useful framework for both understanding your needs and the recruiter’s needs. Eventually, the question of compensation will factor into all of these considerations at some level. As a result, it is important to have options around how your recruiter will be rewarded for finding you the right hire.
Recruitment by Contingency-Based Search vs. Retained Search
Contingency-based search and selection are structured so that 100% of the fee is payable upon successful placement. These kinds of searches are generally faster and more competitive as they rely on the recruiter’s own talent, combined with their network of talent to recruit from. 
In retained searches, the recruiter has a guaranteed contract, often with an upfront retainer, and the client pays fees in installments and balance upon hire. This kind of search is better suited for more complex hires that require deeper research and negotiations around shortlisted candidates, but mitigates risk for the recruiter so as to not act too quickly in making a recommendation. 
Additionally, there are hybrid models emerging – such as Goldbeck Recruiting’s new Hybrid Retainer/Contingency Executive Search Service – where the retained search fee is 75% based on successful placement. As a result it offers similar contingency-search incentives and timeliness, but minimizes the risks to the client typically associated with retained fee structures.
Regardless of the fee arrangement, finding ways to best customize the agency relationship with your recruiter can help them find the right fit with your company, so they can then find the right fit for your ideal hire.