I recently read an article written by Forbes Contributor Meghan M. Biro called “Your Employer Brand Owns The Candidate Experience” where she shines light on the serious impact to a company’s employer brand when there is a less-than-desirable employee experience and a broken recruitment and candidate engagement process. A great article worth bookmarking and sharing with your leadership and HR teams.
Meghan featured many factors that impact employer brand and ways to avoid them, but there is another often overlooked player in the mix that can make or break employer brand and candidate experience:
Think about it. Let’s say a company hires a recruiting agency to help with sourcing for a very niche skill-set that's needed for their growing marketing department. Unfortunately, the recruiter assigned to this company is not properly trained on the company’s employer brand, value proposition and benefits of working there (this happens more often than companies realize). The recruiter hits the ground running, blasting a variety of messaging via social and online channels to promote the position. When they finally secure a phone screen with a passive, in-demand and highly specialized candidate (who has many options these days), the recruiter completely fails to sell the company’s differentiators and the candidate gets swooped up by a competitor. Missed opportunity.
Even worse, they do damage to the company’s brand by treating the candidate poorly. That candidate will forever remember their negative experience and bond that emotion to their impression of the company. Candidates often see the outsourced recruiter not as an outsourced recruiter but as an extension of the company they’re interested in working for.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for using niche/specialized recruiters or recruitment agencies. After all, I am one. I take on a huge responsibility each time I agree to source and screen talent for a company. But the fee we charge isn't (or shouldn't be) just to find candidates and present them. We are here to create an experience with candidates that gets them excited about working for our client.
Great outsourced recruiters pitch companies to candidates and are like ambassadors for their client’s brand. The not-so-good ones just talk about the job and go through their screening checklist.
How can companies avoid this? It starts by choosing wisely. Companies that enlist the help of multiple contingency recruiters (recruiters that aren’t paid until the winning candidate is hired) for one position run the biggest risk to their employer brand. Imagine three, four, seven separate recruiting agencies promoting your company to top talent using a different tone, voice and style. Smart companies narrow this down to one, two at the most (but eventually only one once trust is built) and work with them to ensure they understand the company’s employer brand and communication guidelines.
How can a company know they’re choosing the best recruitment agency for them? To help, here are ten questions companies could ask an outsourced recruiter or recruitment firm before handing over the keys to their employer brand:
Why should I choose your recruiting firm?
Most will jump right into the recruiting firm’s features/benefits. The experienced recruiters will share examples of their success with other clients, their firm’s key differentiators, offer client references and provide details on how they go about promoting and pitching your company to the most in-demand talent.
Tell me about you and your team’s recruiting experience:
If you’re working with a recruitment agency, you want to ask for a recruiter with at least 5 years of experience recruiting, preferably with niche knowledge of the skill-set you’re looking for. Don’t assume this is happening. There is high turnover inside of recruiting agencies and the last time I checked, there is no such thing asBachelor’s of Recruiting. New recruiters are trained from the ground up.
What is your expertise in the subject matter of this position?
Many successful recruiters were once in the vertical that they recruit for i.e., a recruiter who recruits marketing professionals was a marketing professional prior to becoming a recruiter. You want to know if the recruiter understands the skills and expertise listed in the job description and what to ask to qualify candidates. Recruiters who specialize should be fairly up to speed on their subject material, and the good ones are continuously researching and talking to subject matter experts to stay abreast of new trends and techniques in the space they recruit for.
How well do you know the local market and the talent available?
This is a critical question and is the biggest differentiator between new recruiters and more senior well established recruiters. If they are going to be successful finding you the right candidate quickly, they have to have knowledge of the talent landscape (how likely will the talent be found locally vs nationally), the great candidates, the good candidates and the not-so-good-but-look-great-on-paper-candidates. They need to have a pulse on where the best talent is working, which companies are rumored to be re-organizing or laying off, and the networking events in-demand talent attends. I once had a Sales Manager promise a client a Senior Paid Search Specialist (PPC) in 24 hours at a pay rate equivalent to $25 an hour. I nearly fainted since I knew the Houston market has a limited number of PPC professionals and certainly not for $25 an hour.
How would you describe your recruiting firm’s reputation in the local/national market?
No one is going to say their recruiting firm isn’t well-known or well respected if it’s not. Don’t focus on what they say in response to this question. Focus on how they say it. Listen for abnormal pauses, lots of “ums”. If their response sounds cheesy or scripted, you might want to do a bit more investigating.
What kind of communication/customer experience should I expect through this process?
You want to work with a recruiter who sets milestones, touch-point check-ins, listens to your feedback, redirects their strategy accordingly and sets a deadline of when they intend to present fully vetted candidates to you. Your calls and emails should be answered promptly. Are they are 9 to 5 recruiter or would they take your call at 8:45 pm while walking their dog? (Yes, I did). Their fee isn't just for finding the candidate; you’re paying for a great customer experience and to have someone else handle all of the noise so you can focus on doing what YOU to best – running a department. A professional recruiter will lead a hiring manager through the process. A hiring manager should never have to chase the recruiter down to find out where things are.
What is your recruiter attrition/turnover rate?
The average recruiter might last 1 year. Most new recruiters won’t make it till their first year, depending on the quality of training they receive when hired on. What you don’t want is a new recruiter/relationship every 6 to 12 months. Recruiting is a relational-people-business, not a transactional business and it takes time and energy to build a relationship with a new recruiter and teach them about your company and your talent needs.
Tell me about a recent position that you were not able to fill and why.
You win some and you lose some. Can your recruiting firm learn from their failures? Do they acknowledge them? It's a great question to ask to learn more about where they’ve struggled in the past and what they are doing to prevent this loss from happening again.
What is your Present-to-Client/Client-to-Fill ratio?
Do you want a recruiting firm to present you 20+ candidates before you see the one you want or 3 candidates that meet all of your requirements and one of those 3 is a sure fit for the job? Find out on average how many candidates the recruiter presents. If it varies by recruiter, so ask for the one who fills positions within 2 to 4 candidates presented.
If you don’t have candidates in your current pool of talent that meet the requirements, what is your strategy for finding them?
If your position is very specialized or unique, this question is important. No two jobs are alike and some roles are in such high demand that the ideal candidate isn’t likely checking out job boards. A professional recruiter will have a solid outbound recruitment strategy and can walk you through their process. If it sounds made up on the fly or all over the place, consider calling someone else.
Want a Coach to help you build, manage and execute an effective Job Search Strategy? I can help! Contact me directly to discuss a customized solution based on your specific needs. Best of luck to all of you who are job hunting!