Looking for and finding just the right person for your team can be difficult and stressful. I can relate all too well. Back in June, I began to restructure and expand our department by adding two new team members to increase the support we provide. About the same time, one of my existing team members submitted their termination notice. Not great timing, but when is it ever good timing? So, what had started out as a search for two new team members, quickly turned into a search for three. Mind you, these were not easy-to-fill positions. I liken it to finding a needle in a haystack for the qualities and skills needed for these positions. The prospect of finding not one, but three, qualified candidates was going to be difficult and daunting to say the least. In this recent search, I turned to a few staffing agencies to assist me. I’ve worked with a number of agencies over the years and I want to share a few tips for success in working with them.
So why use an agency? When we need to add a team member, like many employers, we sometimes go the route of running a help wanted ad in the local paper and online. Although this may initially appear to be lighter on the pocketbook, in the long run, it can drain your time and resources quickly. Because we don’t always have run-of-the-mills job postings, we have often found running an ad can actually be more time-consuming and more costly since it requires a lot of manual hours… sifting through countless resumes, conducting interviews, testing, etc. Even after conducting many of these steps, we have still ended up missing the mark with candidates who ultimately were not a good fit or would likely not be good long-term hires. Then we’re back to square one and having to start the entire process over again.
In many cases, we have found that instead of running an ad, a more efficient use of our time and resources has been to use a staffing agency to eliminate the most time-consuming aspects of the search process. Anytime we can outsource tasks to those who are using their own unique skills and resources, means we are freed up to do more of the things we are most skilled at.
Before reaching out to an agency, write down the job description, the specific tasks they will perform and skills that are absolutely necessary. Also create your list of “must haves” and “cannot have.” Don’t be shy on these lists – lay out specifically want you want and don’t want in a candidate. It will increase your chances of finding the best match possible. You’ll share these lists with the agencies you work with.
At the beginning of an agency relationship, most will want to visit your place of business to check the environment, atmosphere and confirm job requirements and expectations. I highly recommend this initial step. The better they know your organization and have a real understanding of what it looks like and feels like to be part of your team, the better job they can do in presenting you with the right type of skilled candidates. If an agency does not request this visit, be sure to request it yourself. I also ask them to visit our Facebook page to get a feel for who we are since it is more dynamic and shows the personality of our organization.
The agency will run the help wanted ad (if needed), weed through resumes, conduct phone interviews, conduct skills testing, check references, and conduct the initial face-to-face interviews to gauge who would be an ideal fit for the position. Then, after all of those steps have been completed, they should present to you only the absolute best candidates. If they don’t, review your lists again to see if you forgot to include key requirements and then coach them on what you liked and didn’t like about each candidate. This feedback is imperative in finding the right match for your position.
Since I was looking for three individuals in a short period of time, I initially started with two agencies to double the search efforts. Due to the unique position and criteria I was looking for, I soon realized I needed to broaden our search efforts even more so I reached out to two additional agencies. Don’t limit your access to qualified candidates. Some candidates only register with one agency and if you aren’t working with several agencies you could be missing some prime candidates. So if one agency isn’t presenting enough quality candidates to you, be sure to reach out to other agencies to increase your reach and success. Before you do though, check your existing contract to make sure you are not locked into an exclusive contract. If the contract says it is exclusive, negotiate to have that language removed before proceeding.
There are fees associated with using agencies, but the time-saving factor can be appealing for many businesses. Many agencies are willing to negotiate their terms and rates whether it is for a temp-to-perm contract or a direct hire placement. Also keep in mind, the first rate and contract terms an agency offers you is more often than not, negotiable.
As we all know, time is money and someone eventually has to do all of the legwork in finding that right candidate for you – either you do it in-house and pay a staff person, you do it yourself, or you outsource it and pay someone to do the time-consuming steps for you. Maximizing everyone’s time is the key to saving money. Staffing agencies can save you a significant amount of time and money down the road if they are putting you in front of the right candidates who, if the right fit, can be with you for many years, rather than weeks or months.
Keep an eye out for my next installment on Best Practices for Hiring… I’ll let you know how my search went for the three openings I had and I’ll review areas you can negotiate on agency contracts.
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555