How to choose a recruitment consultancy: a perfect match

The UK is home to some of Europe’s most successful multinational recruitment
companies, as well as a vast number of well-respected specialist consultancies.
The choice can be overwhelming, but there are a number of criteria you can adopt
to assist you in your search.

Retain a recruiter

The first decision that needs to be taken is whether you intend to retain a
recruiter or use them on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. Retainers are typically
employed when recruiting for more senior roles, when recruiting a whole team or
where the candidate pool is particularly small. Many companies prefer using
retainers because they have a formal agreement drafted in accordance with the
exact specification of the role. The recruitment process is easier to control
and companies feel more comfortable with the greater accountability placed on
the shoulders of the recruiter. A retainer arrangement can also help to maintain
a level of confidentiality.

While the benefits are clear, a retainer does tie you into an arrangement
with that recruiter for a number of months and will effectively prevent you
considering candidates presented from other sources. Such decisions should
therefore be taken with a medium-term outlook in mind.

The recruiter will typically receive 25-30% of the employee’s anticipated
salary, with the payment spread over the recruitment process. This usually
occurs upon commencing the search, on delivering a shortlist of candidates and a
final payment upon an applicant’s acceptance of an offer.

Below the level of the most senior recruitment, companies will select several
recruitment partners and they will work on a ‘success-only’ basis. This avoids a
costly retainer and encourages recruitment companies to work quickly.

Get with the lingo

Those working in finance at any level respond badly to recruiters who are not
familiar with specialist vocabulary and will gravitate towards recruiters who
are. As a result, a recruitment company that can demonstrate a good
understanding of the industry will have access to stronger candidates.

A specialist should understand the nuances of the market: where your target
candidates look for jobs, at what time of year they are most likely to move (a
recent survey we conducted revealed that 46% of candidates were most likely to
search for a new job between April and June) and will be able to provide advice
on salary levels and salary negotiation. A specialist could be someone within a
large recruitment multinational, but could easily be a niche recruitment company
that you’ve never heard of before. Shortlist suitable recruitment companies
using recommendations from contacts, trade press and trade associations. There
are some links provided as a starter.

OK online?

A recent survey conducted by Hays revealed that nearly 53% of respondents
found their last job via the internet. It’s certainly true that most candidates
will at least start their job search online, so it follows that your recruiter
needs to have a strong and appealing online presence. A successful recruitment
site will act as a gateway not only for jobs, but will provide plenty of
information on subjects such as interview techniques and salary levels.
Providing such resources ensures that individuals will continue to visit the
site and make it more likely that they view and apply for your job.

First contact

The accounting and finance recruitment market is usually referred to as a
‘candidate led’ market. This typically means that there aren’t enough people to
fill the number of jobs available, but it changes the currents of the market,
and so your choice of recruiter. In such a market, candidates are typically well
treated by their current employers and tend to be overloaded by calls from
recruiters. The usual response from candidates in such a market is negative, so
a recruiter really has to work hard to generate any level of interest from
candidates. The initial contact the recruiter makes with a candidate is arguably
the most important and difficult stage of the process. If your recruitment
partner is not able to engage the target candidates then you are unlikely to
receive suitable people. Irrespective of the quality of the job that is being
presented, candidates tend to follow good recruiters and it is worth bearing in
mind that a great job will not be enough to overcome a clumsy recruiter.

Cost effective recruitment

Recruitment budgets are likely to be reduced if the economy continues to slow
and if a traditional recruitment consultancy becomes too costly, it’s worth
remembering that your existing staff could be equally valuable recruitment
partners. Many companies now incentivise their staff to seek out people who may
be of interest to the company. In some cases, these rewards can run into several
thousand pounds and have elicited a great response from employees.

As with most things, companies who approach recruitment partners from a
negative standpoint tend to have negative experiences. Whilst everyone has some
horror stories to tell, it’s worth remembering that there are some recruiters
who are exceedingly good at their jobs in the UK. Getting their help, and
getting it consistently, will not only fill your vacancies quickly but could add
genuine value to your company.

Key stages

1. Consider your likely recruiting pattern for the next few months – not just
the current vacancy

2. Consider whether it is more important that the role is filled discreetly
or quickly

3. Push shortlisted recruiters to show they have the sector knowledge, web
presence and people skills to attract the sort of people you want.

Max Williamson is a director of

Words of advice

‘Recruitment is all about the people who deliver the service. To be
effective, a recruitment consultant must be credible; possessing in-depth market
knowledge with extensive experience of successfully filling roles in a
particular specialism, be skilled in advising on and supporting a recruitment
process and possess an ethical approach based on respect for the needs of the

Ian Coyle, director, corporate governance recruitment
specialist Barclay Simpson

‘It is important that our recruiting partners not only understand the skill
sets and competency requirements that we are looking for but also understand
well our corporate culture. We expect our recruiting partners to assist us in
identifying individuals who possess the right business and work ethic and who
want to build an exciting long term career with us.’

Joyce Vassiliou, director of internal audit, Coca-Cola

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