Top 10 Things to Look Out For When Hiring A Recruitment Agency

When an organisation or hiring manager needs to fill a role, there are basic factors that they need to consider. They include things like how to source for a large pool of applicants, where to advertise the position, how to conduct the interview, and so on

When an organisation or hiring manager needs to fill a role, there are basic factors that they need to consider. They include things like how to source for a large pool of applicants, where to advertise the position, how to conduct the interview, and so on. When this becomes overwhelming, there is the option of hiring a recruitment agency to handle such tasks.

By doing this, your organisation can reduce the time it takes to hire candidates, reduce the chances of having a bad hire, as well as focus on more strategic business objectives. 

The core responsibility of a recruitment agency (also known as a placement agency, employment agency or staffing agency) is to assist your organisation source and shortlist potential candidates, screen them and select the most suitable ones for your vacant roles.

Moreover, these firms can be regarded as an extension of your talent acquisition arm; they represent your brand and act as the face of your organisation to potential hires. Selecting the right recruitment partner to provide this support is therefore not a process that should be taken for granted.

Before recruiting a third party to handle this process for you, it is imperative that you know what to look out for and you have adequate information before selecting the partner to manage your recruitment process. Consider these strategic points as they will guide you when conducting your search:

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What to Consider Before You Hire a Recruitment Agency

Value proposition

A recruitment agency’s value proposition is the unique benefits that they have to offer which differentiate them from competitors. In other words, it is the value they provide which makes a prospective client choose them over other service providers.

These may be in the form of low costs, products that can reduce time-to-hire or the stress associated with recruitment, their niche or area of specialization, etc. 

Knowing a recruitment agency’s value proposition helps you understand their brand, what they can potentially offer you and the kind of services you can expect from them. 

Industry knowledge

Before engaging a recruitment agency, it is worth finding out the industries they have serviced in the past. If they have recruited top talents for a competitor, this may be an indication of likely success to hire talents in your own organisation.

These recruiters often have case studies and a record of the clients in different industries where the placement of candidates was done by them, including testimonials or references obtained from these clients.

Thus, you should request this information as they are open to provide such as a form of evidence that highlights their previous wins and ability to meet your recruiting demands. 

Furthermore, you can dig deeper by choosing to speak to their references directly to find out vital details such as the quality of candidates put forward by these agencies, recruitment timeline and so on. 

By doing this, you are able to ascertain if the recruitment agency fully understands your industry and their potential to find you the right hire.

Recruiter/Team Expertise

Depending on the role that you need to fill and the number of hires needed, it is worth considering the expertise of the recruiter or team of recruiters that are going to manage the project. 

If you are filling graduate trainee roles that are usually associated with high volume applications, you need to find out how many recruiters would handle that brief and what the turnaround time would be.

In addition, you may want to check if they have experience working on a similar project. On the other hand, if you need to fill an executive or c-suite role, you need to find out how many years of recruitment experience the consultant who will manage the project has, and the network they can leverage in order to find high calibre candidates.

While some recruitment agencies give the impression of being able to manage a wide range of recruitment projects, it is also important to be aware of their capabilities and validate their expertise so as to execute your project as expected. 


When engaging a recruitment agency, you should find out how long they have been in the business and research on their reputation. An easy way to ascertain the reputation of a recruitment agency is by reading online reviews and asking around.

You can reach out to other organisations that they have serviced previously or other business professionals, as they can provide first-hand information on the recruitment agency’s product and services. 

The feedback you receive can give you an insight into the reputation of the recruitment agency and inform you on whether to seek their services or not. 

Recruitment Strategies and Methodologies

Do you sometimes wonder the process adopted by recruitment industries when they are handling your recruitment projects? If not, this is another area that you need to concentrate on. 

When hiring a staffing company, it is essential that you clarify their recruitment methodologies and strategies they adopt to source, select and evaluate top talents. Do they pre-screen candidates in-person or via phone?

Do they conduct competency-based interviews? Different agencies have different approaches and timelines to their processes, and most agencies will provide detailed information either in their proposals or during meetings. 

It is expected that recruitment agencies are transparent with their processes, and most of them are quite confident in showcasing their methodologies. Thus, before making any commitment, it is vital to understand how they work and check if this aligns with your expectations.

Knowledge and Experience with Assessment 

Beyond being able to source and headhunt for quality candidates, it is also essential that the recruitment firm managing your selection process has a deep knowledge and experience with assessing top talents.

In some instances, it is not enough to conduct interviews to ascertain the suitability of candidates. They are likely to tell you what you want to hear, and you are not able to gather enough evidence to determine their ability to perform effectively in the role.

Thus, in addition to interviews, there is a need to use other methods of assessment to evaluate both technical and behavioural competencies in relation to the role they are being considered for. 

Taken together, when engaging a recruitment agency to handle your recruitment briefs, you should also consider their ability to develop and utilize appropriate assessment instruments and tools when assessing candidates. 

Cost and Time to Hire

Cost and Time to Hire

The cost and rates of hiring candidates differ from agency to agency, and the most expensive (or cheapest) cost does not necessarily correlate with the quality of candidates sourced. Also, some agencies may require a percentage of their service fee paid upfront, while others require payment after the project has been successful. 

With regards to time to hire, agencies will typically take two to 8 weeks to fill a particular role and some may take longer if a role is more specialized. 

Before you engage a recruitment agency, you should ask for the cost of their service as well as their recruitment timeline or a project work plan to ensure that it aligns with your budget and overall expectations.

Expert or Generalist

Some recruitment firms are great when it comes to recruiting for several different roles, as they are able to manage multiple requests at one time. On the other hand, other recruitment agencies are more specialized in recruiting for specific roles.

They have in-depth knowledge of this market, have a better understanding of the skills and experience needed to be successful in the role, and are able to source for more high-quality candidates.

Consequently, you need to decide if you need a generalist recruitment agency to partner with in meeting your hiring needs, or if you would rather prefer an agency with expertise in the position you are looking to fill (especially if it is a c-suite role). 

Risk Reversal

Some employment agencies differentiate their services from competitors by offering a level of guarantee to their clients and taking up the risk associated with recruitment. For instance, recruitment organisations can ensure the confidence of potential clients when they offer to replace underperforming or absentee hires after a period ranging from 3 months to 6 months at no extra cost to the clients.  

If you choose to engage a recruitment agency, you should find out what risk reversal policies they have to offer, and how they intend to mitigate hiring risks as and when it arises. As no organisation would want to face litigation, a good recruitment agency will make sure this does not occur. 

Organisational Context

Finally, before you engage a recruitment agency, you need to check if they fully understand your organisation’s context and if they are flexible enough to adapt. You should have a meeting to ascertain if they have an understanding of your requirements, as well as the capacity to meet your recruitment needs.

Ensure that the recruitment agency has a full grasp of your company’s culture, values and ethics and that they check if a candidate has the right fit for your business. 


If you need to hire top talents, you do not have to do this alone. It is beneficial to engage a reputable recruitment firm, however, it is crucial that you do your research appropriately before going into a partnership with the agency. Consider the pros and cons of the agencies, and also request for testimonials, feedback, and recommendations before making a conclusion on who to engage. 

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