By: Ed Dalton

When measuring the cost of recruiting, and whether it is more cost effective to manage recruitment in-house or use an agency, it’s all too easy to get fixated on recruitment agency fees. As a result, the temptation could be to take all your recruitment function in-house and avoid those recruitment agency invoices.

However, as I shared in my article on the true cost of recruitment, recruitment costs are not so black and white; a protracted recruitment process costs money, as does a poor hire, and these costs are intangible – you won’t see them on an invoice or balance sheet.

So if you are to go down the recruitment agency route, either in tandem with your own recruitment activities, or as a fully outsourced function, how can you ensure you get value from your recruiter?

Step 1: Choose The Right Recruitment Agency 

Rightly or wrongly, there is no barrier to entry to work in the recruitment industry. According to the latest REC report there are 23,980 recruitment agencies in the UK employing well over 100,000 people. Each one will have its own culture, set of values and code of conduct. It is therefore essential to make sure you partner with the ones which will best represent your business in the open market and who you can trust will always act in your best interests. A specialist recruiter, one that either specialises in a particular type of role or industry, will invariably be better placed to find you the right candidate over a generalist.

Remember the fee you pay is paying for the recruiters’ expertise, their network and relationships, their market experience, and the lengths they go to find the best candidate for a role, the due diligence they undertake to ensure best fit. Make sure the agencies can demonstrate these.

If the agency takes little interest in embedding themselves in your organisation, understanding your culture, business objectives and market, they’re probably not the right agency for you.

This should be two-way and the client should be just as interested in getting to understand the agency as the agency should be about the client. If the values a client upholds are not upheld by the agency, then how can they trust the agent’s ability to represent them properly in the market, or how will any rewarding long-term relationship develop?


Step 2: Negotiating Fees

As with any other commercial arrangement, each side needs to be clear what their expectations are and how both parties will fulfil their obligations. Ask yourself ‘is the fee requested sufficient compensation for the service you require?’ If not, how can you expect the agency to deliver on your expectations? Beating down on fees results in a poorer outcome and less commitment from the recruiter.

Best practice would be to work with fewer suppliers, and pay them for the best service. Even better, work exclusively with a specialist recruiter and trust them to do a more thorough and controlled search.


Step 3: Build A Successful Relationship

Once you have identified the right agents and are happy they will be able to service your requirements, building a trusting relationship is essential for a long-term partnership to thrive.

The greater the trust, the more visibility an agent should be allowed to the business, the more accurate the search and the more productive the outcome. If the agency selection process has been thorough and the client is genuine about driving a partnership with its suppliers, then why would they not give them greater access to the business?

Aim to partner with an agency on a long-term basis (even if you don’t expect to need their specialist services regularly). This will enable both parties to build a solid relationship that will go a long way to reducing the recruitment timeframe, and result in better candidates.

Step 4: Provide A Detailed Brief And Job Description

Recruiters are not mind readers and therefore they do need detailed information about your requirements. As well as what the job entails and what your expectations are for the candidate, also provide information that will help candidates understand if they are a good fit.

A good recruitment agency will take you through this process and follow up if they don’t have the information they require. The onus should be on providing a shortlist of exceptional candidates that not only have the right experience and qualifications for your role, but are also an excellent cultural fit for your team.


Step 5: Measure Value Throughout The Process 

Cost per hire is often cited as the most important metric to measure the recruitment process by. However, a simple equation of external costs plus internal costs, divided by the number of hires in a time period, doesn’t provide the full picture. The quality of candidates is a key metric that must be included when measuring value; as are retention rates.

A low cost per hire will not meet your recruitment objectives if the candidate leaves two months down the line, or impacts adversely on the performance of the company. This is why it is so important to measure value throughout the recruitment process, and communicate with the recruiter. Your feedback will enable them to refine the search where necessary, and ensure that the quality of the candidate is prioritised.

To discuss how you can get more value from your recruitment agency, please contact us on 01252 718777 or email