Top 10 Things to Look For In an External Agency

Posted by Blair Fleming On Mar 23, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Top 10 Things to Look for in an External Agency

The US economy is projected to increase by 3% this year.  This projection is sure to spark a renewed need for top talent in the coming days, weeks, and months.  While some companies will rely on attracting qualified applicants by the ‘post and pray’ method, others will support internal recruitment teams and leverage referral and incentive based programs.  Although these avenues to “candidate entry” are viable ways for companies to recruit, they can also be tedious, expensive and time consuming.

Alternatively, companies can work with an external search firm, such as staffing agencies, executive search firms and RPO’s to expedite their hiring process and free up valuable resources.  Every external search firm is different and one may be better suited over another, but before you invest your time in research, take your time to ask the hard questions.  Not sure what to ask?  We have created a checklist of the top 10 things to look for in an external agency, before you sign on.

1) Knowledge & Expertise in your industry

Many agencies have dedicated recruiters, teams and even divisions that specialize in specific industries and/or positions.  If you are looking for an agency chances are you already have a few open positions.  Ask what specialties and industries the agency typically works in.  If they don’t specialize in an area that fits your needs, then they may not be a good fit.

2) Basic ethics

While most external agencies will be upfront and straightforward, some will invasively poach your employees and harass candidates in their offices.  Agencies that have a moral compass will tend to have established policies and procedures in place to control how they conduct their business.  Make sure to ask for these policies before your sign!

3) Internal training

Training is essential to an agency.  It allows recruitment teams to find, interview and place candidates in jobs for their clients.  It also enables external recruiters to strongly represent your brand and reputation, by giving recruiters the tools to do it right.  Recruiters who are not properly trained will not be able to give you the speed of service and the targeted placements that you need.

4) Established brand presence in your market

Are they actively advertising their brand to attract more candidates and clients?  A firm with an active brand is more equipped to bring more business in, and in turn fill your positions more effectively.  They will also be able to utilize their brand and reputation to get your jobs posted quickly and effectively, and they already have a solid follower base to advertise to.

5) Strong referral program

Referrals will usually make up a huge percentage of an agencies pool of candidates.  If they don’t have a strong referral following, is this the best service for you?  Referral candidates are considered passive, not actively in the market.  Usually they are the most qualified candidates.  One of the best ways to get them in your door is through building a relationship with the agency.  Take advantage of an external agencies established referral program to gain access to this talent base.

6) Case studies and testimonials

Chances are if their customers have been happy in the past, they are going to jump at the chance to show you proof of service.  Even better, ask for a recent case study.  A study will enable you to get an understanding of an agencies process as well as how they satisfy their clients.

7) Dedicated point of contact

This is important.  Staffing a position takes dedication and the coordination between many people and obstacles.  You want to make sure that you have an assigned contact to continuously give you status updates and keep you in the loop.  If you have any questions you will be able to reach out to your point person within the agency to get correct answers, quickly.

8) Prescreening and checked references

Recruiters are highly incentivized to present only the best candidates to their clients, as a result they don’t want any surprises; their reputations depend on it.  A great recruiter will cover all of the basics, including prescreening and running a reference check, well in advance of presenting a candidate to a client.

9) Performance guarantee

Insure your investment.  Most external agencies have fees associated with each placement.  A reputable agency will have safeguards in place to protect your investment.  A good guarantee will last over the course of a few months and will be directed to insure the performance of any candidates placed within your firm.

10) Longevity

Many external agencies are “fly by night”…start and fail with a blink of an eye.  However, if an agency thrives year after year, they are clearly doing something right.  Find an agency that has longevity, one that has survived a recession or two and is still on solid ground.


These features, services and standards are the top things to look for before signing on with an external agency.  Standards of service will vary between each external agency option, however no matter if you decide to use an agency or not, many candidates will be ramping up their job searches this year.  Be sure to snatch them from the job market before your competition does!

TAGS: Recruitment Tips

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