Q: I’ve been searching for a new hire for some time, and with little success. It’s quite a specialised position, and I just can’t seem to attract applications from with the required skills. I’ve reached the point where I think outside help is needed.

I’ve never used a staffing agency before and I’m not sure what to expect. If I can’t get a good candidate after several years of working in the sector, how will they be able to do it? What kind of fee structure is best for me? And can I protect myself against a bad hire?


A: It seems like you’re making a sensible move by getting some outside expertise, and you’re also right to have questions.

First of all, while you may have more industry experience than any recruitment consultant, they’ll be able to rustle up applications in ways that you haven’t. They can look and place advertisements internationally, and they can make discreet approaches to people to gauge their interest (where approaching them yourself could cause problems). They also often keep people on file who might be interested in new career opportunities – but not interested enough to be checking most job sites every week. With recruitment as their primary focus, good agencies will be able to attract candidates that you can’t on your own.


In terms of fees, recruitment agencies work in a few ways. They sometimes take a cut of an individual’s pay packet on an ongoing basis, and sometimes simply charge the employer for a successful hire. Above entry level, the best employees will probably be reluctant to hand over a chunk of their wages to get a job. So, even though it may cost you more, it’s best to accept a flat fee for finding a successful candidate.


That doesn’t mean that you don’t have any protection against hiring a dud, by the way. Many recruitment agencies will defer part of their fee until a candidate has completed their six-month probationary period, or offer to source a new candidate gratis if the original hire doesn’t work out. Both of these options are worth asking about. You should also have the opportunity to interview and review the CVs of potential hires before taking them on – after all, you still know best what the role will require.


While good recruitment consultants aren’t cheap, they can saveyou money in the long run by delivering the best available talent on the market. By selecting the right agency, and picking terms and conditions that protect you, you should be able to finally get the right candidate in place.


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