Why Hire a Recruiter?

What do you really buy when you pay a recruiter's fee?

There is a misconception that the payment of a fee is paying for the person who is hired. There are also numerous misconceptions about how the recruiter earns their fee.

Search firms are regarded as "employment agencies" by some uninformed managers — like comparing a VOM to a spectrum analyzer.

The service... or process is what is being purchased. Since the fee is based on a predetermined percentage of the candidate's starting salary, the fee is directly associated with the individual hired.

It is the fee that pursuades Ashton Search Group (and other top rated national technical search firms) to identify, recruit and deliver the individual who is ultimately hired.

We do calculate the fee based on a predetermined percentage the hired candidate's annual salary, but for the process of: researching and identifying exceptional candidates, tapping those candidates on the shoulder, creating interest, selling you, your requirement, the opportunity and the company to the candidate, helping you prepare an offer that will be accepted, delivery of the candidate and significant follow-up from offer to acceptance.

These are some of components of the process being purchased... and when you hire the right candidate, the ROI is significant diminishing the impact of the fee attached to the hire.

Each candidate is specifically recruited for the client's requirement.

What you should not be purchasing, because there is no process or value: resumes pulled off job boards (have your secretary do this, it's much cheaper), the burden of sorting through piles of unqualified or speculative resumes that end up overflowing your waste basket... and dealing with general line "employment agencies" that placed an accountant last week, and this week they're trying to find you an engineer or technical manager. They may "turn up" somebody, but it usually just doesn't work - particularly with mid to senior level engineering positions.

If any of you were diagnosed with a serious illness, you would want a top specialist to treat you... and it's doubtful that you would choose your family GP. The same scenario applies directly to recruiters, where there are "generalists" and "specialists" specialized recruiters that direct their practice to specific disciplines exclusively and daily... in our case engineering and technical recruiting of experienced engineers and managers. Ashton Search Group would not accept an assignment for an accountant or a pharmaceutical rep. A generalist would... along with your assignment for an engineer. Whatever comes in from a company that is willing to work with them is their speciality de jour.

Selecting the right search firm is challenging. No formula exists to make your decision clear, and size of the organization or number of offices has no direct relationship on a firm's ability to represent (company redacted). Technical recruiting is a service where success is strictly a factor of the individual recruiter's ability, instincts, judgement and experience... and their skills to sell your need, expectations and vision to the right candidate.

You're paying a fee for a complex process.

If the slightest doubt exists that the recruiter can't immediately come up to speed, continue to recruit a recruiter. Otherwise, you're wasting your time, slipping time to hire and facing frustration. Hire a specialist that understands your technology, specs, enviromnment and can competently sell your need to candidates. A good technical recruiter functions as the switch that will route the right information, and filter the noise. What gets through is what you want.

Candidates want to be convinced that they are making the right career move - by you... and us. They are going to ask for an explanation of the technology and culture before they take a serious look at your position. They want to know what it means to them. Top candidates that fit your profile need to be sold on the opportunity, and believe that it will positively impact their career. If this component is missing, you will not attract exceptional candidates. This is where a generalist usually fails.

Most "recruiters" [employment agency types] sell inceased compensation, everything else is incidental... because it's easy, gets the candidate's attention, and provides one topic they can pitch well.

It has been our experience that there are far more profound career issues that need to be addressed -- before a quality technical candidate will seriously commit to looking outside of their current employer. Also, a candidate that is strictly money motivated will likely not be the person you ultimately hire. To an experienced recruiter, a candidate that fixates on increased compensation (or worse, is sold that compensation dream) will be uncontrollable, shallow... and likely undeliverable.

An aggressive, savvy, intuitive and smart technical recruiter can make a significant difference in the overall quality yield of candidates presented, and ultimately complete the assignment faster delivering the strongest candidate who has the appropriate blend of knowledge, skill, attitude, personality, experience and commitment.

Interview your potential recruiter, and determine if you would work with him or her if you were the candidate. If you're not convinced by their industry knowledge and responses, candidates won't be either. The entire process is jeopardized.

Continue interviewing, so that your expenditure has the most bang for the buck.

Selecting the right technical recruiter will make your job, and the entire process, much easier and faster. It will result in attracting top talent, not available through traditional passive advertising, including job boards. The health of a company is inextricably tied to its (and your) ability to attract highly qualified individuals. To have a high performance organization you must hire high performance engineers and managers. Know your recruiter, and trust that he or she will best represent you... and deliver the right candidate.

Do they think deductively? Have they had any engineering iindustry experience prior to recruiting? Do they really understand your assignment? Can they explain it? How long have they been in technical recruiting, and how successful have they been? What were the most recent assignments they successfully completed? Have they surfaced questions or objections relative to your requirement, or just accepted your order with very limited feedback because they don't have a clue what you are talking about? Find out how they would present your opportunity to potential candidates, and what makes it exceptional. Ask them what they believe are the salient selling points of your opportunity.

Hiring a recruiter means a company is hiring a skilled professional who can identify, recruit (sell) and deliver the best talent in a particular functional area. These recruiters maintain a high level of confidentiality, a wide network of established industry contacts, objectivity in their candidate evaluations, and negotiating expertise to ensure a successful conclusion.

Once you have selected the recruiter, he or she should begin a needs assessment which includes understanding you, your leadership style, and the corporate culture. It is essential that you explain what types of people are most and least successful in your organization. Define why you're hiring this person, and your expectations once the individual is onboard. What can the candidate expect? Are you an advocate of egoless or hierarchical teams? Give your recruiter information that can be used to develop a target candidate profile. It will also provide the platform for the recruiter's sales presentation to candidates.

Technical recruiting is a lot like engineering. We identify a need, define the problem, analyze the set criteria and solutions. There are constant tradeoffs. It needs to be fine tuned, tweaked and many times reinvented. As the recruiter begins to present candidates, evaluate them quickly for relevance and provide feedback (positive or negative). This is the time to determine if the effort is on track, or if the search needs to be reevaluated.

The last item I'll leave you with is follow-up.

Remember that the recruiter is presenting employed candidates that usually don't have time for a phone screen at the office. They are on the market passively, recruited for your specific opportunity. Their resume is not out on job boards, or available to the competition. They were "tapped on the shoulder" and are presented exclusively for your opportunity. It will require some evening calls. Have the recruiter schedule the top candidates for a specific time - and make the calls when scheduled. It's more efficient to have the candidate waiting for your call then trying to chase them down. A scheduled appointment also says "I'm serious, and this is important to me."

It also sends a clear message that you have a sense of urgency in filling the position.

Chances are that you will make a decision in the first five minutes about the suitability of the candidate, but schedule half hour blocks to allow enough time. If you're running over on time with a good candidate, explain that you have other calls scheduled... but let them know they were applicable. Ask for a time to continue the conversation in more detail (get an office number if they can speak from work). Try to schedule it no later than the following day.

If Human Resources initiates contact with search firms (and screens incoming resumes), ask your HR specialist to let you speak briefly with the recruiter(s) they have already identified. This won't work if the list has 20 firms on it request that they select the top three, providing the key contact.

Request their feedback regarding firms they have chosen. Get confirmation that each designated firm has placed engineers or technical managers with (company redacted), and ask why they have been successful completing past assignments.

As the hiring manager, you are in the best position to accurately evaluate and determine which firm or firms will aggressively represent your requirement to candidates and can provide the results you expect, on your schedule. Provide your opinion from these conversations to fine tune the process, and make final selections.

Suggest that they contact a firm you have identified or know, due to their expertise and national presence in your engineering discipline.

Partner with an expert who can provide the type and quality of technical professional you want to hire, who will promote your requirement to qualified individuals that can impact your mission, and will help you formulate a successful offer that is accepted.


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It has been our experience that some clients (that have never used a technical recruiter) believe that the process consists of: bringing up our database of thousand of existing candidates, making a few matching selections, pressing send - and collecting a fee when the candidate begins employment. The "call me when he starts" scenario.

A good technical recruiter, on the other hand, will begin the rigorous, precise, intuitive and time consuming process of locating the most qualified candidates available. Briefly, it consists of :

  • Understanding the Job Requirements - Interview (telephone or face-to-face) with the hiring manager to ensure that all the facts are collected and understood. In addition to the raw data on published requirements, ASG must understand the culture, the nuances... the information not contained on a brief overview of the requirement from HR, or published on your website. Many times, the scope and responsibilities change once we speak with the hiring manager. They may even change in the middle of the assignment. It happens.

  • Our Research - Developing a short list of about 25-50 potential qualified candidates that Ashton Search Group will either recruit or contact for additional names. Frequently, experts we know in the field can direct us to individuals that have the right experience and skills (but are not on the market). If it is not a client company, one question we ask is "Who is a significant contributor at X level of experience in your company? Who should we avoid, in your opinion? Any companies we are overlooking that may have the right person?" Begin checking availability and relative interest of qualified candidates, and following up on leads.

  • Begin Search - Locate "finalist" candidates through direct sourcing and industry referrals. Generate many phone calls for premlim qualification (or disqualification) of potential candidates. Verify accuracy of their resume claims against actual experience. Get professional references. Determine who makes the first cut.

  • Qualify Candidates - Interview the best 10+ candidates to discuss past and current technical experience in depth, identify the candidate's strongest skill sets, pre qualify them on client's environment, location and mission. Understand current compensation and future expectations. Open to relocation? Children or spouse issues that would preclude pursuing the position?

  • Interview Top Candidates - Interview the best 5 in depth, understand skills, recent contributions to their employer, surface motivators or deal killers (high salary demand, unreasonable responsibilities demand, won't really move unless company buys house, wants to work remotely, others) in addition to qualifying technical background again, using original notes. Understand what the career goals and personal expectations are for the candidate. Probe for objections, problems, issues or concerns.

  • Presentation to Client - Top resumes are presented - that allow the client to quickly learn about the selected candidates technical qualifications and career progression. Information collected from the interviewing process is also discussed, to insure that the hiring manager (and HR contact) have full disclosure on how the recruiter formed his/her opinion on each candidate's (anking prior to the phone screen or on-site interview. This is a critical step, because it allows the hiring manager to modify or add questions for clarification. This results in a much deeper understanding of the candidate's experience, what is driving him or her, and concerns. Additionally, it allows the hiring manager to custom tailor his initial interview to the candidate, which always results in a better flow of essential information.
  • Candidate Interview - The candidate will be provided with information about the company. We will schedule both the preliminary phone screen or formal on-site interview with the candidate (set up by the client company).

  • Offer - We discuss the offer with the candidate, counsel him/her, gain acceptance (see negotiations) and agreement on the start date. We counsel our clients to develop and present an offer that will be accepted.

  • Negotiations - Salary, responsibilities, relocation, vacation, temporary living and other issues may be raised and solved during this time. ASG works closely with our clients to resolve these roadblocks.

  • Close the Deal / Deliver the Candidate - Helping the candidate through resigning from his/her current employer, prepping them on what to expect from, and why not to accept the counteroffers or other pressure to stay, insuring that the path is clear to for them to start. Advising them frequently during the transition period.

This is a very simplified overview of the recruiting process.

Remember, interview the technical recruiter to determine their breadth and depth. If they don't understand your requirement, or can't convince you that they can successfully complete the assignment, find another recruiter that can.

Throughout the search, you will be closely collaborating with the recruiter, so rapport is very important. If you don't like the recruiter, doubtful candidates will either. Unless you choose a competent, knowledge recruiter, the entire process is jeopardized.

Once you have made your selection, the recruiter should provide an estimated time line - and provide updates on progress.

Why do technology companies nationwide choose Ashton Search Group?

They have heard our success stories from their peers in the industry. With over three decades of technical recruiting success, we know the market, where to find the best engineers and technical managers, and how to manage the detailed selection process to delivery.