When you need to source top talent quickly, a recruiter is a natural ally who can streamline your hiring process. Recruiters tap into a large network of passive job seekers who would otherwise never see your job posting. We act as ambassadors for your company, getting prospective hires excited about growing their careers with your company. We also play a critical role in offer negotiations, setting appropriate expectations and working behind the scenes to ensure your top choice candidate accepts your offer.

If you’re new to working with a recruiter or had a negative experience in the past, it’s natural to be hesitant about jumping back in…and in particular, investing upfront money for your search. It all starts with building a relationship with your search firm partner, one that is grounded in trust and realistic expectations. Like any successful relationship, you need to invest a little time up front to build that trust and set mutual expectations. Once a strong foundation is in place, your recruitment partner will be able to provide the consultative advice and carefully curated candidate list your company needs to land top talent.

Here’s how to get the most out of that relationship:

  1. Commit to the process. There are two types of executive search: retained and contingent. In a retained search, the company pays a (negotiable) fee up front to initiate the search and typically works exclusively with one firm. With a contingent search, a company only pays a fee at the end of the process, after an acceptance. While some companies may believe a contingent search can save them money, the opposite is often true: companies end up spending more time considering candidates that a specialized recruiter would have ruled out, critical business processes and projects go undone, and the extra work gets piled on others in the organization. If you want focused attention on your search, build a true partnership with your recruiter with clear communication of expectations and be willing to invest a little money up front. “Retained” searches send a much different message to candidates about how serious your company is and that there’s a real sense of urgency. In addition, with a large firm, the whole team takes your search more seriously as well! You’ll reap the benefits with high-potential candidates and a smoother search process.
  2. Pick the right recruiter. In general, you’ll stand to gain the most by working with a specialized recruiter at a large firm. Specialized recruiters at large firms bring the best of both worlds: a deep understanding of your industry and a broad national network to source leading talent. Larger firms typically have multiple offices around the country, which can help streamline hiring efforts. Rather than hiring multiple recruiters to service specific geographic regions, one recruiter can serve as your main point of contact for multiple searches, building a deep understanding of your needs and delivering the right candidate for each position.
  3. Consider firm size carefully: bigger can be better. One common misconception is that recruiters at large firms are too busy to give clients individual attention. From my experience, the opposite is often true: you may actually get more attention! For example, our Chicago office has 27 recruiters dedicated to Accounting and Finance executive search. Even if a client approaches us about a small contingent search, for example, the client will benefit by tapping into the network of the whole team– that’s much wider and deeper than a boutique firm.
  4. Invest time in an intake call. An intake call is an opportunity for your recruiter to fully understand your current and future hiring needs. Specialized recruiters like myself follow a consultative approach. This means our mission is to not only fill the current open position, but to ensure the candidate is the right choice for your company’s future. We consider your current market position, emerging threats or opportunities, and any missing skills or experience in your current talent roster. Taking the time upfront to communicate your needs enables recruiters to effectively represent your company and communicate a compelling story. An intake call only requires a 30-minute investment on your end and can save you hours of future work– not to mention make it easier to snag top talent in a competitive market.
  5. Be responsive. Some companies require recruiters to submit applicants through online portals or prohibiting direct communication with the hiring manager. These restrictive policies are designed to streamline the recruitment process but can backfire. For recruiters, there’s nothing more frustrating than submitting three stellar candidates for review and then hearing… crickets. Weeks pass, the candidates become frustrated and move on to other opportunities, and the recruiter is left hanging. I get it: timelines change and needs evolve. But without an update, I can’t move forward and find the right candidate. If a candidate misses the mark, I always ask clients to tell me why. The more feedback I get early in the process, the faster I can adjust my search to find the right talent for the job.

Companies that understand the value of a long-term recruitment partnership will work with a sense of urgency. They candidly communicate (upfront) about needs and constraints. They lead with their best, competitive offers. They’re also realistic about the process: they know recruiters can’t manufacture dream candidates out of thin air. Most importantly, because they’ve invested time upfront to a strong relationship, they trust recruiters to present the right candidates for the job.

Struggling to source top talent, close a candidate on an offer, or just want to hear about what’s happening in the market? Leave us a comment below and we will set you up with a recruiter to help answer your questions.