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by Stuart Neil | March 10, 2009


Find your staffing strategy

When looking to fill open positions, it is important to determine whether your staffing strategy will encompass internal, external, or both types of resources. To determine your approach, a checklist can help to identify the key elements of your strategy. Begin with the position of the sought-after candidate; what are the most important qualifications (i.e. exempt/non-exempt, executive or admin, and respective department; product development, sales, etc.).

Determine your resources

Next, concentrate on company resources. Take the time to clearly identify all components of the search process that will affect your recruitment strategy. The most pressing question is, "do we have personnel available who possess the knowledge, professionalism, and time to accomplish this important task?" If the company can answer yes, then a recruitment strategy can be planned and undertaken in-house.

Set your parameters

The first step is to organize and establish the parameters required for identifying search components. Responsibilities and commitments are established during the first meeting by addressing timelines, content, and placement of ads (classified, Internet, college placement services, etc.). Specific individuals are chosen to review responses, contact candidates, set up preliminary schedules (availability of key personnel), and develop the logistics - from reference checking to how and who within the team will make the company's employment offer to a successful candidate. From start to finish, this process requires that all parties involved constantly communicate regarding the recruiting process.

Choosing an outside search firm

In the event that the recruitment strategy requires the services of an outside agency, specific issues must be resolved. The company needs to determine the "type of search firm" they want to use: an executive retained search firm (you pay whether or not they find "the" candidate), national chains, affiliate agencies, industry specific consultants with networking experience, outplacement services, or Internet headhunters. If a tandem search (use of external resources and key company individuals) is justified, the level of outside involvement and the parameters of the relationship should be discussed, reviewed, and agreed upon so as to result in a contract. ~Discuss the contract

Contract discussions generally cover the responsibilities and tasks of both parties, and compensation issues. Companies who use outside resources must address a myriad of questions. Is the role of the agency to act as a clearinghouse, by processing and forwarding resumes, or should the agency make initial contact with candidates? Do you want the agency to provide information about your company? Or will a company spokesperson provide this data? Who will address benefits questions or company policies? What is the fee schedule for contingent searches? (The higher the salary, the bigger the commission?) Are discounts given for multiple placements? Is the search exclusive to that agency? (Some firms make an effort to remain competitive - others suggest that lower fee percentages are indicative of lower quality candidates.) Does the search firm offer "employment compatibility guarantees"? Do all involved understand the hiring procedures? Do the agencies have a "hands off" policy regarding their previous placements?

Choosing the right external search firm often resembles a candidate search, it takes a lot of your company's time and is expensive. (Unfortunately, I am unable to address all the ramifications of working with search consultants or retained versus contingent searches in such a short article).

Communication is key

The key to the recruiting is to effectively communicate with outside search firms - help them to help you. Provide the agency with as much information about your "ideal candidate" as possible along with the job description. Is a list of required business traits, current management style, or prior industry contacts important? Be prepared to educate search firm consultants about your company, its history, mission, benefits, relocation policies, etc. You should also include demographics for site locations from schools to shopping centers. Provide recruiters with written information, financial statements, investment brochures, and copies of your benefits manuals. In order to successfully recruit employees (either internally or externally), you must be clear and concise as to what your needs and expectations will be throughout the entire process. This insures that the agency understands and appreciates your needs and your reasons for utilizing their services. By doing this, you can avoid wasting your time reviewing resumes or speaking to candidates who do not meet the established criteria.~Stay in touch

Stay in constant contact with your "representatives" by asking for and receiving updates. This helps to clarify what your expectations are and shapes the feedback process regarding reviewed resumes and screened candidates. Good recruitment firms make a concerted effort to provide usable data to their clients. This is accomplished by creating a viable written synopsis of a candidate's skills and experiences in relation to the "job order" their clients have given them. Search consultants can and should provide assessments of "their candidates" gleaned from a variety of sources including educational records, interviews with the candidates, and the candidates' references. By communicating information accurately and objectively, they provide valuable assistance, earn their fees, and future assignments.

Screen candidates carefully

When candidates are referred by an external resource, it is the responsibility of the key company contact to speak directly to all candidates prior to scheduling an in-house interview. Pre-screening allows for clarification regarding what "might have been discussed" by the search consultant and important concerns that candidates may have. If in doubt, have a candidate talk to the department head - this procedure eliminates the costs associated with bringing unqualified candidates from other geographic regions.

For a recruitment strategy to be cost-effective and successful, the most important component is communication. It is important that everyone involved, from the recruiter, to search consultant, on through to the candidate, have the skills to carry out an open, honest dialogue. Precise and continual communication between the hiring authority, the staffing department, search consultants and qualified candidates will ensure that the recruiting criteria is effectively communicated and everyone's needs are met.

Stuart Neil been a business teacher/instructor on both the secondary and college levels and has experience in a variety of HR executive roles that include: Director of Human Resources and Employee Relations Director in the Hi-tech and health care industries. He is currently a consultant and the HR Project Director with Interact Human Resources, LLC, based in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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