Your choice of a recruiter can have a profound
effect on the success of your management team, as well as the direction
your company ultimately takes.
Be sure to screen your recruiter the same way you screen any potential
management consultant for your executive team. The following are
some questions that may be useful in making such an important decision:
How many years of recruiting experience
do you have?
A rudimentary question, but a necessary one. As with any profession,
a long and proven track record offers many advantages for a successful
relationship. For example, an experienced recruiter will be able
to save time by quickly focusing on and understanding your requirements.
Deep industry knowledge and specific functional recruiting expertise
(e.g. CFOs) are major factors in shortening the cycle time of your
How many searches have you completed
in your career? How many searches have you failed to complete in
the past three years and why?
Again, the number of a recruiter’s successful searches in
your industry and in a specific function will usually correlate
with speed and success. The reasons provided for failed searches
can give you an insight into potential problems.
Outside of recruiting, how many
years of relevant industry experience do you have?
To optimize results from your relationship with a recruiter, it
is beneficial to work with a recruiter who’s “been there,”
and deeply understands your industry from hands-on experience.
How many searches are you currently
The answer to this question will usually tell you if the recruiter
is overextending his or her capacity, or has the time to personally
give your search the attention it deserves. If the answer is in
the 10 to 20 range, much of the search will be done by less-experienced
What is your average time for completing
Two little known facts: The five largest search firms average four
to five months to complete the typical search, and successfully
complete only 60 percent to 75 percent of their total searches in
the U.S. Your search firm should be able to complete your search
in two to three months if they put quality ahead of volume.
Who will actually be calling potential
In most large search firms, a junior associate will make initial
calls to high-level candidates. In almost all cases, high-level
candidates tend to respond more positively to high-level recruiters,
rather than to those literally reading from a “script”
and unable to answer basic or deeper questions about the company
and the position.
Do you have access to all companies
In large search firms with numerous client relationships across
the country, there are prohibitive “off-limits” restrictions
placed on which companies can be approached. If you are unable to
access all target companies with the best talent, there is a limit
on your ability to find the ideal candidate for your organization.
This can also potentially mean that you will be paying top dollar
for access to only 60 percent to 70 percent of the top candidate
Have any of your successful placements
been terminated in the past three years? Why?
Industry contacts, educational checks and thorough reference-taking
are all part of an initial screen that makes it possible for a good
recruiter to avoid introducing the wrong person into your organization.
kind of guarantee do you have?
Some search firms will guarantee their work, agreeing to
complete the search again for no additional fee if the successful
candidate does not perform. If a search firm has any guarantee,
it is generally for a maximum one-year period. Very rarely, a firm
will have a guarantee period that exceeds the typical one-year agreement.
What is your retainer fee schedule?
Many large search firms typically charge retainer fees on a monthly
basis, regardless of the search’s stage or status. On occasion,
you will find a search firm that ties the monthly retainer payments
to specific benchmark events in the search process. This limits
your risk, as your satisfaction will dictate the payment schedule.