9 Best Practices for Working with Third Party Recruiters


It’s a familiar scenario: A top performer just left your company, and you need to scramble to fill their role. Productivity is falling, clients are growing frustrated, and every day the role goes unfilled, your organization is losing money — as much as $14,000 if the role stays open for three months.

Or how about this one: Your company is expanding, and it needs talented new staff members to take full advantage of all its market opportunities. But as you’re busy searching for the right fit, those opportunities are passing you by.


Recruiting is tough, even in the best of circumstances.
Not only do you need to find a candidate with the right skills, but that candidate also needs to be a culture fit and within your price range. No wonder more than a third of companies say they struggle to hire talent.


These days, recruiting is even harder than usual, thanks to the unemployment rate hitting an 18-year low of 3.8 percent this past May. During periods of low unemployment, there are more positions open then there are candidates available to fill them, giving candidates more power at the bargaining table. When you factor in a turnover rate above pre-recession levels, the gap between the amount of available talent and the number of roles that need to be filled only widens.


And when you finally find the right candidate, there’s no guarantee you’ll get them. The average hiring process takes 23.8 days —a full 11 days longer than
it took in 2010. While much of this added time is due to more thorough vetting procedures, longer times to hir do have the unintended consequences of making it easier for cmpetitors to poach talent from your pipeline. If anothre orgarnization can make an offer before you, what’s to stop your top candidate from accepting it? If all of this makes it sound like employers are in a bind-well, they are. But there is a way out; all it takes is finding the right third-party recruitment partner.


What makes third-party recruiters the go-to solution for this tight talent market? Perhaps it’s best to answer that question by quickly surveying the perks your organization can get by partnering with a recruiter:


In a candidate-driven market, simply finding job seekers who may be a fit for your role can be a daunting hurdle all in its own right. Consider that the average talent acquisition pro spends 13 hours a week — roughly a day and a half at work — on sourcing activities alone.

Because a third-party recruiter’s entire livelihood depends on their access to top-tier talent, they spend much of their time building and maintaining high-quality candidate pipelines. When you partner with a third-party recruiter, you gain direct access to this pre-vetted pool of interested candidates.
That means less sourcing work for your team, plus a higher quality of candidate overall.


With a third-party recruiter on the job, your talent acquisition team doesn’t have to dedicate 13 hours a week to sourcing — let alone additional time on screening, vetting, and other measures your recruiting partner can handle. Imagine what your team could do with all this extra time on their hands. Perhaps a new employer branding campaign is in order? Maybe it’s time to revisit and refine your talent strategy for the next five years?

In other words: Your internal talent acquisition team can prioritize strategic matters while third-party recruiters work in the trenches. Similarly, hiring managers can focus on running their teams and departments, rather than being pulled away from their to-do lists by recruiting matters.


Third-party recruiters don’t just save time for your internal team — they can help shave days off the overall hiring process. Because these recruiters already have established talent pipelines they can tap, less time is spent on sourcing and screening. The hiring process can move along at a faster clip — allowing your organization to hire top talent before competitors have a chance to make an offer. Partnering with a third-party recruiter, gives you direct access to a pre-vetted pool of interested candidates.


Most recruiters and agencies specialize in certain fields and industries. This means they have their finger on the pulse of these communities. They know what the trends are, where talent hangs out, what candidates want from employers, and more. A knowledgeable recruiter should be able to tell you what to expect from the recruiting process. They should walk you through a predicted timeline for the search, and they should discuss the kinds of salaries and compensation packages you should expect to offer to get top talent. Your recruiting partner should also be able to draw on their industry expertise to help you refine your search criteria. They’ll help you write a job description that is clear, focused, and aligned with the realities of the talent market and the wider industry.

Third-party recruiters can also help you clarify what your hiring process should be like for best results. They’ll work with you to identify relevant evaluation criteria for each candidate, and they’ll help you establish a smooth process that moves candidates along quickly and efficiently. This is especially important when hiring for senior positions, or when making any hire that requires a search committee. Orchestrating multiple points of feedback from internal stakeholders can be difficult, but an expert recruiter can help you put structures in place to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to how candidates will be assessed and how assessments will be shared and weighed. A third-party recruiter with industry experience has their finger on the pulse of these communities and knows where the talent hangs out!


Third-party recruiters act confidentially. The details of your recruiting process are between you, your recruiter, and your candidates — and no one else. This allows you to move quickly in the hiring process, without interference from competitors. Similarly, a recruiter’s stealth skills can come in handy when recruiting passive candidates–those talented workers who are already employed but open to new opportunities. Recruiters know how to contact these candidates and shepherd them through the hiring process without raising any red flags with the candidate’s current employer, who could easily throw a wrench into your recruiter efforts with a seductive counteroffer.

Partnering with a third-party recruiter certainly has its benefits, and to ensure you enjoy those benefits to their full extent, it’s a good idea to follow a few best practices — which we’ll cover in the next section.


A great recruiting partner will go above and beyond to find the talent you need. You can help your recruiting partner do the best job possible by following these nine best practices:

1.Do Your Due Diligence

2.Find Someone Who Shares Your Work Values

3. Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty: Analyze Terms Before Agreeing to Them

4. Maintain Open, Honest Lines of Communication

5. Craft Precise Job Descriptions & Clear Candidate Profiles

6. Share — and Accept! — Feedback

7. Collaborate on a Compensation & Benefits Package

8. Decide Whether You Want Quality or Quantity

9. Share Your Data

1.Do Your Due Diligence

RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS Before striking up a recruiting partnership, you have to research your options. That way, youcan find a recruiter who is suited to meet yourcompany’s unique needs. Begin by researching recruiters and agencies that specialize in yourparticular industry or field. A recruiter who works in finance probably can’t help you finda rockstar programmer. Some agencies dospecialize in multiple fields, so if your company will need talent in a variety of different roles, you may want to find such an agency.

LOOK FOR REFERRALS Look for referrals whenever possible. Have any of your business partners, vendors, employees, or other contacts worked with a recruiter before? Ask them about their experiences and
their thoughts on whether the recruiter might be right for your company.

NARROW YOUR CHOICES Throughout your research, you should be narrowing down your list until you have a fewchoices who seem like they might be good fits for your company. Once you have finalizeda shortlist, it’s time to reach out to the recruiters themselves.


Interview the recruiters to find out more about how they operate. What does their typical recruiting process look like, and does it align with how your company does things? Also ask about the recruiter’s previous performance and try to get statistics to back up their claims. Reports covering average days to submission, submissions per role, placement rates, and other key metrics can help you determine whether a recruiter is capable of delivering the results you need.


Finally, ask if you can get testimonials from the recruiter’s existing or previous clients. You want to learn as much as you can about how candidates submitted by this recruiter have fared at other employers. Do the recruiter’s candidates stick around for the long haul, becoming top performers? Or do they tend to leave shortly after placement, never amounting to much?


Your partnership is going to be most beneficial if you and your recruiter are on the same page. You want a recruiter who shares your mindset when it comes to recruiting, as this is the kind of recruiter who will deliver the kinds of candidates you are looking for.


We all know cultural fit is a key factor in new hire success — but it’s also important infinding the right recruiting partner.

Shared recruiting values will also ensure the recruiter provides a positive
candidate experience in line with your employer brand. Remember: A third-party recruiter is an extension of your organization. If candidates have a negative experience with your recruiting partners, that can considerably hurt your company’s standing in the talent market.


Take some time to write up a brief recruiting mission statement.
This should outline the kind of candidates you look for, the kind of candidate experience you strive to provide, and the kind of brand image you aim to present throughout the hiring process. Then, ask potential recruiting partners to share their thoughts on the matter. Compare your organization’s recruiting mission to the visions set forth by yourpotential partners to find the ones who are likely to be a good fit.


Great! You’ve found a recruiter with relevant expertise, a verifiable track record of success, and similar recruiting values! Time to hire them, right? Not so fast. Before making the leap to full partnership, you want to examine the recruiter’s terms. A less-than- ideal contract can torpedo even the most promising relationship.

Ask your potential partner about their contract terms, paying particular attention to the following items:

What will the recruiter’s services cost? Most recruiters charge fees in one of two ways: a flat fee per candidate, or a fee based on a percentage of each hired candidate’s starting salary. Percentage-based fees tend to be more common, with the average recruiter’s fee clocking in at 15-25 percent of the new hire’s salary. Some recruiters may charge as much as 50 percent for high-level executive roles.


When are you expected to pay the recruiter? Some recruiters will expect payment as soon as the hire is placed, while other recruiters will give you some leeway as the hire gets settled in their role.


Does the recruiter guarantee their placement will work out? Many recruiters offer a guarantee period of about 90 days. If a candidate satisfactorily completes their job for 90 days, the placement is considered a success and the recruiter will invoice you for payment. If the candidate does not work out,
the recruiter may offer some kind of compensation to your organization. For example, the recruiter may charge no fee at all, and/or they may offer to find a replacement candidate for free. If a recruiter does offer a placement guarantee, be sure to get explicit details. What, exactly, will the recruiter do if the candidate doesn’t work out? Also, clarify what counts as “not working out.” Some recruiters only consider the placement a failure if the candidate leaves of their own accord; if you fire the candidate for unsatisfactory performance, the recruiter may not honor the guarantee. That said, most recruiters do cover unsatisfactory performance under their guarantees. It’s all about knowing what your specific partner’s terms are. If a recruiter’s terms don’t seem favorable to you, try negotiating. Most recruiters are open to tweaking their contracts to meet your needs. If a recruiter is not amenable to negotiation, or if you cannot seem to come to an agreement, you may need to find a different partner.


You’ve signed on the dotted line. You officially have a partnership with a third-party recruiter. In order for the partnership to succeed, it must be built on a foundation of clear, honest communication maintained at all times. A recruiter can only help you if they know what you need and want, so make sure you are in constant contact with your recruiter about your goals, your deadlines, expectations, and more. It is natural for a recruiting effort to
evolve over time, and your recruiter should be kept up to date on any changes. If they are operating with outdated information,
a recruiter simply won’t be able to deliver the candidates you need.

Your recruiting partner should be able to help you ensure your process presents a positive candidate experience from start to finish. Right from the start, be crystal clear about what the recruiting process will look like, and communicate that to your recruiter. Your partner should know how many rounds of interviews there will be, what kinds of tests or assessments candidates will face, whom the decision-makers are on your end, and any other key information about how you make hires. Be sure to also share your process timeline so the recruiter knows what to expect — e.g., week one might be phone interviews, week two might be in-person interviews, and so on. Ask your recruiter for input on your process, as they may be able to help you tweak it for maximum efficiency. For example, the recruiter can help you identify unnecessary stages and assessments that only drag the process out — which could hurt your chances of landing a top candidate. Similarly, your recruiting partner should also be able to help you ensure your process presents a positive candidate experience from start to finish. Once the process is underway, prioritize responding to your recruiter in a timely manner. All too often, employers go silent after a recruiter sends through a batch of candidates. This is an incredibly frustrating situation for the recruiter, who is awaiting feedback on the candidates. Not only is this an inconvenience that stops the recruiter dead in their tracks, but it also puts the recruiter in a bad position with the candidates. The recruiter serves as the candidates’ point of contact, and they are eager to hear what is going on in the hiring process. When you leave your recruiter in the dark, they have no information to share with the candidates. The candidates then grow frustrated with the recruiter, damaging their relationship. This can lead to candidates dropping out of the process — and it can also hurt your partnership with your recruiter. Don’t ever go incommunicado on your recruiting partner. Delays happen — but communicate that fact with your recruiter. That way, they’ll at least know what’s happening, and they’ll have information to share with waiting candidates.


As mentioned earlier, a recruiter can only help you if they know what you want. The more information recruiters have, the better able they will be to find the perfect candidate. Your job description needs to be crisp, clear, and to the point. Not only will this help recruiters understand the role they are aiming to fill, but it will also make it easier for them to pitch your job to candidates.

A few things to keep in mind:


Be exact. A bulleted list is best, as it is easier to comprehend than a lengthy paragraph. Cover all the key responsibilities of the role, as well as any secondary obligations the employee may have. You want to be thorough so that candidates know exactly what they are getting into, although you don’t need to go into every single minute detail. Keep it high-level.


Even if your recruiter is an expert in the field, jargon does you no favors.
It can muddle your job description and even drive candidates away. Stick to plain English so that everyone involved is getting the same message.


Your recruiting partner should already know all about your culture and values from the due diligence process, but it will be helpful for them to have a reference handy. Plus, candidates will want this information.


Candidates will want to know what they can expect in terms of salary, benefits, and perks. They’re going to be asking your recruiter about these things. Include the details in your job description to make everyone’s life easier.


Does the position really require a master’s degree? You may think setting a higher-than-necessary bar will net you higher-quality candidates, but you’re only making your recruiter’s job harder. For one, you’ll be excluding perfectly qualified candidates from the running for no reason. If there’s a mismatch between the level of compensation on offer and the qualifications you demand, your recruiter is going to have a lot of annoyed candidates on their hands. Leverage your recruiter’s expertise here — they can help you formulate a list of realistic qualifications for the role and salary at hand.


CLEARLY IDENTIFY THE NECESSARY SKILL SET: Be explicit about what skills the candidate will need to handle the role’s responsibilities. As always, it’s important to differentiatebetween what’s necessary and what would be nice. List both hard skills and soft skills.

SKETCH OUT THE CANDIDATE’S PERSONALITY: What characteristics, values, and traits will a candidate need to thrivein your culture? Remember: Culture fit is just as important as skill fit.

OUTLINE QUALIFICATIONS AND COMPENSATION: As above, you’ll probably want your recruiter’s input here. They can help you set realistic expectations for the kinds of candidates you’ll meet and the kind of money you’ll need to spend to recruit them.

DETERMINE WHICH CRITERIA ARE MOST IMPORTANT: There’s a chance your recruiting partner may put forth more thanone candidate who seems like a great fit. In that event, you’ll needto have some process for choosing between these candidates. A great recruiter can help you determine which of your criteria are most important to making the right hire. Is it industry experience?Technical skills? Qualifications? Referral source? Previous projectexperience? What will be the deciding factor? The right answer will depend on a number of variables, which is why it’s smart to get your recruiter’s input.


We all know the value of giving employees regular feedback: It helps them refine their strengths, compensate for their weaknesses, and address minor problems before they become major disasters. Regular feedback can achieve similar results in recruiting. It’s unlikely your recruiter will find a perfect fit right away, but by sharing clear, honest feedback on each candidate they submit, you can help your recruiter zero in on the best person for the job. Similarly, remember that recruiters are talent acquisition professionals. They may have some helpful feedback for you, too! Solicit their suggestions for improvements to the recruiting process and be sure to listen with an open mind. If you do, you’ll emerge from the partnership with not only a new hire, but also a radically improved recruiting process — and perhaps even a lifelong recruiting partner


One area where recruiters are likely to have feedback is on compensation andbenefits. Unfortunately, many employersare reluctant to listen to this feedback. On some level, that’s understandable: Hiring costs a lot of money, so organizations do everything they can to keep costs down.However, this can result in lowball offers for top-tier talent. Your budget — the compensation you can afford to offer talent — will play a major role in determining the kinds of candidates a recruiter can get for you. Far too many employers demand rockstar talent for mediocre wages. The truth is, no matter how great your company is, no candidate will accept your offer if the pay’s not worth their while. Work with your recruiter to settle on a reasonable budget for the kind of candidate you have in mind. If the recruiter is tellingyou to offer more, there’s a reason for that! If you simply cannot afford to offer more, your recruiter can help you refine your ideal candidate profile to bring it more in line with what you can afford.


For most roles, a handful of top-quality candidates will be better than a high volume of good-to-great candidates. This is especially true if you are hiring for a role you’ve filled before. In that case, you should have a firm grasp on what a top performerlooks like, so you won’t need to peruse as many options to make up your mind. However, there are situations in which quantity counts. For example, if you’re hiring for a new position the company has just created, you may want to get an understanding of what’s available on the talent market. In that case, you may want your recruiter to bring in a higher volume of candidates. Discuss with your recruiter whether quantity matters, or whether quality is the more important metric. This will help your recruiter select the right sourcing strategy for your role.


Any information you can share about your talent pipeline, recruiting trends, and other relevant metrics can help a recruiter better understand your hiring needs and your recruiting process. You may have the urge to keep “proprietary data” close to the vest, but this only prevents your recruiter from operating with maximum efficiency. Data exchange between recruiters and employers can lead to a more transparent, effective, and agile recruiting process. For that reason, it’s a good idea to share whatever reports you can with your recruiter. Do you have data on which of your employees perform best? This can help the recruiter focus in on candidates who match their profile. Do you have information on how quickly your hiring process tends to move? Your recruiter can use it to set realistic expectations with candidates.

In today’s day and age, data is power. Empower your recruiting partner.


When searching for critical talent, you have two options: Slug it out against competing employers or hire a third-party recruiting partner to get results for you. In addition to helping you breathe a little easier, working with a recruiter brings a slew of other benefits, including:

  • Easier access to quality candidates
  • Lighter workloads for your internal team
  • Shorter times to hire
  • Industry expertise
  • Confidential hiring practices

Reaping these rewards requires a little work of your own. If you follow these nine best practices, you’ll get the full value of your recruiting partnership.