WHY is it when I mention using an agency most of my clients start muttering about costs and rocking? My guess is that their previous experiences have been so dreadful they daren’t use an agency again! I aim to share a few top tips of how to get the best from the agency you choose as a follow on to my first and second parts in the series of Top Tips for successful recruitment.


So Agencies – If you are going to use an agency then do it properly!

  1. Choose carefully – You need to know the person you are dealing with understands you, your business and the job they are recruiting for. Give them the opportunity to demonstrate this. Meet them. They should make recruitment a painless process. As Monster.co.uk says there are some key questions you need to ask before deciding which agency to use. There is no right answer to many of the questions, it depends what’s right for your business.
  • Has the agency recruited for similar positions before?
  • Do you need a specialist agency or will a general ‘high street’ one suffice?
  • What are the credentials of the consultants that will handle your account?
  • Can they supply testimonials from previous clients?
  • Do they comply with recruitment industry standards?
  • Does the agency have a clear pricing structure?
  • How do their fees compare with the industry average?
  • What background checks will the agency perform on candidates
  • What role will you be expected to pay in the process
  • How much contact will you receive from the agency?
  1. Let them do their job – You will get the best service if, once you have chosen your consultant, you let them do the job. Don’t be tempted to use lots of different agencies either; agree the terms and agree what you get in that service, including timescales from the one you selected.       That commitment from you will gain better commitment from them. Recruitment agencies in general work on a ‘no recruitment, no fee’ basis. By using lots of other agencies you are just making it less likely that they be successful and therefore their commitment to finding you the best lower as their time could be for nothing. There are very few industries who work for nothing!
  2. Make sure they have done their job! – I would expect them to have done at least a first interview with each applicant prior to submitting their CV, not just run an advert and forward the response, or as one agency did with a client of mine – trawl the job sites, download a CV for someone looking for a job and send that through to claim a £4.5k fee! No -if I am paying for a service I want to have that expertise and service!
  3. Make sure they add value – If you chose the right one then they should have skills that you don’t so use these properly. For instance get them to help with the interview process, or ask them to indicate why they have selected that person against another; it is in their best interest for you to get the right person for the job. What are they bringing to the process that you don’t have?
  4. Work with them, not against them – Give the selected agency as much detail as possible on your requirements. This will help them select the right candidates and so provide you with a better service. As a minimum you should provide the following: job role, location, salary & benefits, job description/specification preferred start date and potential interview process. Then provide feedback for the CVs you have received and after any interviews; the more they know about what was good and what wasn’t the easier it is to find you someone. Don’t do as one manager I work with does as he hands back the CV with a ‘No’ on top. Get them to explain why that is a ‘no’ and share that with the agency. Listen to their advice, they will be the experts in the market (assuming you have chosen well) so if they advise you your expectations are unrealistic then move on quickly and be flexible for interviews etc – put yourself in the job seekers shoes again.
  5. Read the Ts & Cs – Take care to understand the fees and rebates. Many will insist the invoice is paid very promptly and may well not include a guarantee period for candidates who have worked on a temporary basis first. Most will offer a free replacement if something goes wrong (other than redundancy) but it will only be for about three months so make sure you manage the probation period carefully.
  6. Barter – I have yet to come across an agency that is not prepared to negotiate on fees (ok just the one that wasn’t). Just because it states 18% (or whatever), doesn’t mean it is 18%. It’s always worth a try. If you plan to use them frequently consider setting up a preferred supplier arrangement. This offers various benefits in service and/or price, in return for a commitment of business.       Remember too that the cheapest is not necessarily the best; consider the overall service/package on offer.

I hope that helps your path through the minefield that is recruitment agencies. I’m now expecting a barrage of comments from my recruitment colleagues – be gentle with me !!


THERE are a plethora of articles on the www. of how, why, when, what to do, and what not to do when interviewing. My aim in this the second of a three part series of articles is to give some bullet points and some practical guidance to help make your recruitment more successful.recruitment

In the first top tips for successful recruitment I looked at the advertisement itself and then how you shortlist. The next stage is the interview and offer stage.  There is no point taking such care and attention getting the advertisement correct only to blow it when you meet with the candidates and attempt to make them an offer they can’t refuse.


  1. Give the candidate a chance – The interview should be a forum for the applicant to show you what they are capable of and their potential. Trying to trip people up and see how they “think on their feet” or deal with a ridiculous question like “if you were a fruit what fruit would you be” will only play into the hands of those either natural performers or seasoned interviewees (neither of which you necessarily want). I can recall a sales colleague of mine being given a pencil and asked how she would sell more; she snapped it in two and said ‘you need another pencil’. Clever and quick but what did that actually show about her ability to charm clients, the number of times she achieved sales person of the month or her ability to achieve targets? Exactly!
  2. Keep it uniform and consistent – Manage the interviewees expectations, let them know what to expect, have a structure and stick to it. How can you compare applicants if you have completely different conversations with each applicant?
  3. Don’t rely on gut instinct – Whilst your gut reaction will always play a part in recruiting don’t let it take over. Sure the old adage of ‘you make your mind up in the first 60 seconds and spend the rest of the interview justifying it’ has some truth to it; but you need to make sure you assess skills against the requirements of the job. It’s the halo and horns effect; don’t just recruit people you like, who went to the same university as you or have the same interests/sense of humour/taste in shoes.
  4. Sense check your questions & keep it legal – There will be lots of things you want to know about your prospective employee however you need to be careful as you don’t want to fall foul of asking anything that refers to any legally protected characteristics (Age, Nationality/Race, Martial/Civil status, Sexual orientation, Sex discrimination, Religious belief, Disability, Political affiliation, Trade union membership) No matter how much you want to! Your questions must be relevant to the job not someone’s personal circumstances. Use the questioning technique of ‘tell me a time when…’, or ‘how would you…’ to tease out the information you want. Often in the examples given, the interviewee will share some personal information anyway. That’s fine – it was their choice to share it, not you asking directly for it.
  5. Let them talk – We have all experienced an interview which has gone along the lines of the interviewer telling the applicant all about the job and the company then asking if they have any questions. How about “tell me what you know about the company” or “what is your understanding of the job” These are questions to ask to find out if they have researched the role and company and truly understand what they have applied for. You can then fill in the gaps. Likewise resist the temptation to just read out the applicants CV to them, “talk me through your experience so far” is a much better way to find out about them.

Job Offer

  1. Move fast – You’ve made up your mind so tell them as soon as possible. But if you haven’t don’t wait too long as in this more buoyant market the good ones get several offers and get snapped up very quickly. Make contact within a day or two maximum or risk losing them.
  2. Always call first – Make that call, share how excited you are they are joining your team and you can gauge how excited they are too.
  3. Follow it up in writing – Drop them the full details of the offer in an email or letter. This should include all elements of the offer: job title, base salary, benefits, holidays, potential start date, and who they will report to etc. Ask for evidence of their right to work too. I personally also make the offer subject to suitable references being received and a medical questionnaire being completed in a satisfactory manner. Then give them a deadline by which to reply and confirm acceptance. Three days to a week is normal.
  4. Don’t be a wall flower if you sense hesitancy – If you sense any reluctance don’t be shy. This isn’t being asked out on a date, this is a serious job offer. Find out what their concerns/worries are, ask questions (without being pushy). ‘I completely understand you want some time to consider it, but can I ask your initial reaction?’ is a good place to start. See if you can overcome any objections or provide additional information that will help them make up their mind and make acceptance more likely.

Easy isn’t it when you know how? So do you use agencies? Let me help you in my next post on whether to choose to use one, and if you do help with that decision making process.


How many times have we promised ourselves we would do something ‘tomorrow’, that we would deal with the issue, that person, do that report ‘tomorrow’ as we are too busy, too preoccupied, or just plain afraid!

Well what’s the point of 99% productivity and motivation in a mystical place you never get to eh?

So seize the day, grab it with both hands and do it today



Could be applied to the selection process – right person for the right job


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