“When recruiting recruiters, follow the golden rule of recruiting... those with the best recruiters win! It's really that simple.”

When I need a heart by-pass, rest assured that I won't select my surgeon on the basis of what he charges" That's what an ailing executive recently said when he was informed by his doctor about his arterial blockage problems. Why then are corporate executives so tightfisted when dealing with what is so commonly thought of as the "heartbeat" of their companies… top talent? This K-Mart mentality contradicts their stated objectives to "hire the best". When it comes to recruiting, many companies tend to be penny-wise and dollar-foolish. The old adage is true: “quality is remembered long after cost is forgotten”. If you’re paying a 25% recruiting fee and your competitor is paying 30%, guess who your recruiter is going to recommend first? Hint: it won’t be you.


Hiring a reputable external recruiter means a company is hiring a skilled consultant who can identify the best executives in a particular industry or functional area of expertise (sales, marketing, finance, etc.). These individuals maintain a high level of confidentiality, a wide network of knowledge and resources, objectivity in their candidate evaluations, and negotiating expertise to ensure a win-win scenario.

If the position a firm wishes to fill is of a critical nature, and the company wants to "hire the best and the brightest," a recruiter can help find potential candidates that the client company typically cannot find on its own. In the war for the best talent, the organizations that can source, recruit and hire “an unfair share” of top performers in the workforce will have a powerful advantage in the global marketplace.


Everything has a cost, whether the work is done internally by your company or externally by a recruiter. In calculating the cost per hire, some companies make the mistake of considering only the cost of advertising. However, the true cost per hire also includes the cost for the time spent by the in-house recruiting staff plus the cost of the time spent by the hiring managers who are not productive in their normal job duties when they are spending time in interviewing, as well as lost revenue a potential employee could be generating. For Internet recruiting, the cost of developing a Web site must also be added. When all these things are considered, the placement fee paid to a recruiter can actually represent a cost savings.

Most large companies use outside accounting and legal firms, and don't think twice about paying their often excessive fees. Then there are the consultants who are brought in to streamline operations. Compared to the fees charged by management consultants, a third party recruiter's fee is comparatively low. The standard fee charged by contingency search firms is 20-35% of the annual starting salary. Here are just a few reasons why recruiters are worth what they charge:


It is in the sales arena where using a recruiter is an especially good investment. If a sales professional’s quota is $10 million per year, he will average approximately $833,000 per month in revenue generated for his company. Every day he’s not on the job is “costing” his employer almost $28,000 per day. Assuming the average recruiting fee for this position is $25,000, if the recruiter can find a candidate even one day sooner than the internal staff, he’s already more than paid for his fee. Because they specialize, a competent recruiter can typically fill a position weeks, if not months, quicker than in-house recruiters. Specialization not only allows quicker ramp up, but also greater immediate access to higher quality performers. It’s hard to build a business case for saving a $25,000 recruiting fee by losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue with unproductive open reqs.


The old theory about doctors being cautioned not to operate on members of their immediate family may be applied to the in-house recruiter or human resources executive. These professionals are vulnerable to in-house politics and other cultural issues that a professional recruiter is largely immune to. The recruiter is a service provider hired for the added value and specific expertise they bring to the playing field. This is especially true with attracting sales professionals, a breed apart from all other employees. A salesperson is like the pitcher on a baseball team—they have so much influence on the ultimate outcome of the success of the organization because they are the engines that drive revenue.

There are subtleties involved in attracting highly qualified sales people into your organization. Attempts to convert HR generalists into this recruiting function usually end up in failure. They seldom have the mentality or the aggressiveness that the job requires. Most HR people can't spell sales, and are risk-avoiders and "cooperators" rather than competitors. Recruiting and HR should not be related in this way. The only way to capture a hunter is to send another hunter after him. That’s what good, professional recruiters are---specialized hunters who know the terrain.


A professional fisherman will always have more to show than a weekend angler. Recruiters are in the marketplace day in and day out. They know the unfished coves, reefs and inlets that are unknown to others. The job-hunter bookshelves are filled with lore about the "hidden job market" The same holds true for the for the professional recruiter who has a detailed roadmap to the hidden talent sources which will never be accessed by newspaper ads, alumni associates, applicant databases on the internet or any of the other more familiar sources of people. Professional recruiters spend their days talking to people who are knowledgeable about your business. They know the competitive landscape, and what it will take to recruit a key executive away from the competition and onto your team.

Executive recruiters have an edge because they have expertise in the industry in which they are recruiting. They know the players who will be viable candidates for the client. They are intimate with the details of the potential candidate's career history, are aware of the kind of opportunities these executives are seeking in their next role, and can most effectively present a slate of executives that will provide the client with a real flavor for the wide array of talent available.

In most cases, an experienced recruiter already has excellent relationships with many major players in the industry, which gives you immediate access to highly successful professionals. A recommendation of your company from a well-respected recruiter is extremely valuable. It is one thing for your in-house recruiter to recommend your company (what else would a candidate expect to hear?), but when that recommendation comes from an independent recruiter who works for many firms in the industry, it carries enormous weight. The same concept is true in insurance. Would you prefer to buy a financial product from an insurance company with only their own line of products to sell , or from a broker who does business with many companies and can make recommendations based on fit rather than company loyalty?


Successful executives, by and large, do not spend time surfing the internet for jobs, reading the classified ads or circulating their resumes on job boards. A professional recruiter's skill and network are often required to bring good people to the client company. The best candidates are recruited through the efforts of both the recruiter and the hiring manager. If a company truly wants the best people, they have to find them proactively, and not just wait for a resume in response to a job posting. Approaching these hidden prospects is not easy, but that is part of the added value competent professional recruiters bring to the table.


It is rare that an internal hiring manager will truly know what is motivating a candidate. The recruiter plays the role of a third party. They know the desires and budgetary limitations of the client. They have amassed considerable knowledge about the candidate, often including details of the candidate's personal life and professional desires. With this information, the recruiter naturally is a better negotiator and can work toward bringing the two parties together in a win-win scenario. The professional recruiter is experienced in combining the desires of both parties to arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement without going off-track, as often happens without a third party intermediary. The needs of both client and candidate are viewed from a position of mediation.


Speed is the name of the game in recruiting. Because most good candidates are in demand, they have a short shelf life. Many top performers are lost for no other reason than the hiring process took too long. Nothing good ever happens with the lapse of time—time only allows other competitors to “come to the dance” and often escalates the buying price. Lack of timely processes can cost thousands of dollars in competitive compensation. Speed is also critical in terms of scheduling interviews, a key point in the process that can often get bogged down. Sometimes, internal recruiters are hesitant to push urgency with hiring managers because they fear political consequences. However, the gentle persuasion of an external party whose sole focus is on getting you staffed up as quickly as possible can greatly accelerate the process. Working with a recruiter saves valuable time for a company because recruiters will frequently have candidates in their files who are available to interview immediately. The speed of the hiring process is often one of the distinguishing characteristics of employers of choice. Speed sends a powerful message to the candidate that says loud and clear “you are a high priority for our company.”


Using a recruiter eliminates the need to advertise and alert the competition of a current weakness or void within the company. The potential for anxiety and apprehension among the current employees will be diminished because they will not be as aware of the company's recruiting process, nor immediately targeted for recruitment by the competition.


Generally when a company hires through a recruiter, the applicant has all the skills required and does not have to go through expensive training. A frequent specification on a job order given to a recruiter is for a candidate who can "hit the ground running" and be immediately effective in the job.


Most companies expect better candidates from a recruiter than they can find on their own. Typically, a recruiter will go through hundreds of possibilities before selecting a "short list" of candidates. It is highly unlikely that a recruiter will be starting from scratch in recruiting for your opening. Usually, the recruiter will have a huge network developed over time on many searches for the same type of job. In-house recruiters usually don't have the resources that a professional third party recruiter has. Just as there is a hidden job market, there is also a hidden applicant market, to which a professional recruiter has exclusive access.


Good recruiters advise their clients in identifying the right type of person and the salary required to attract them. Recruiters are not guessing what your competitors are paying, they know. An employer of choice will offer a better than average compensation in order to attract and retain the kind of people necessary to conduct their business. Before beginning a search, the recruiter can help the employer take a reality check by advising the company whether or not the salary being offered is too low to attract good candidates. A good recruiter can also advise a client if the job specs are unrealistic, thus saving the company time in the recruiting process.


Smart companies know that the fee paid to a good recruiter is a shrewd investment, not an unnecessary expense. However, it is important to develop an ongoing relationship with a recruiter, as they will help the client company keep up with the industry, and remain current on compensation trends, employee benefits and succession planning. Reputable recruiters know their business, add value to their client and know what to do when things go wrong. A recruiter’s network of contacts in the industry is broad and deep; allowing them to bring forward only the best talent in the marketplace with a high sense of urgency. A good recruiter is a lifelong professional ally, who can provide you with a competitive advantage. Where else are you going to find this kind of information to keep you competitive?

Recruiters generally know when your competitors’ working environment goes south because they are the first ones to get calls from unhappy employees. Because the employee approaches a recruiter in confidence, often they can move a top performer from a competitor’s company to yours before anyone even knows that employee is unhappy.

Recruiters can proactively go into your competitors’ employee pool and help you to attract top performers. It is considered bad form for in-house company recruiters to do so. It is better to put the position out to search with a professional recruiter. This opens up an entire fertile area that most companies cannot ethically access on their own.

Another rarely thought of advantage of hiring a top flight recruiter is that by working with the best recruiters in your industry, a company can avoid becoming a source company for those same recruiters. The usual recruiter mentality is that “every company is either a client or a source.” It is generally accepted that a client company is off-limits as a source of candidates to a recruiter for two years after the client has hired a person who was referred by the recruiter.


Advertising an opening in the newspaper or in trade publications will generate a lot of resumes, but will also require a lot of work to screen out the job hoppers, job shoppers and applicants who apparently didn’t read the job description! Advertising on the Internet is like trying to drink out of a fire hose. It will require even more work to sift through the thousands of resumes received and there is a great potential for a highly qualified candidate to slip through the cracks. Candidates who come to a company through the Internet will probably be talking to numerous other companies who have also advertised on Usenet or the Web. At last count there were 3,500 job hunting Web sites, so you can be sure that candidates who are surfing the Web have lots of job prospects. One site called Career Path has 450,000 job openings, so that should give you an idea of what the competition is for candidates through the Internet.

Using a recruiter will ensure that you get only pre-screened candidates who fit the job specifications, and often these candidates have been recruited and are not applying for other openings.


Hiring is not an exact science. Despite the best efforts, everyone will occasionally make a bad hire. If your in-house staff generates the hire and it doesn’t work out, you have no recourse except to go back and re-double your efforts. The money you spent on the process is not recoverable. Reputable recruiters will offer a warrantee period. If their candidate turns out not to be a good fit and is terminated for cause, they will replace that employee at no additional recruiting fee cost to you.

A good recruiter can be one of your best long-term investments—a partner in the success of your organization. They bring specific, competitive advantages to your company that you will find no where else. Only a short-sighted, penny wise, dollar foolish manager would fail to take advantage of such a resource.