Choosing a Recruiter or Staffing Agency: 5 Tips for Jobseekers

Magnifying glass illustrating a jobseeker searching for the right recruiter.

Choosing a Recruiter or Staffing Agency: 5 Tips for Jobseekers

A quick LinkedIn search will reveal that there are nearly 700 recruiters in the Greater Philadelphia Area. If you expanded your search to account for those in the industry who may be using more crafty titles such as “sourcing wizard” or “staffing guru”, you’d discover well over 1,000 people in this geographic region alone. Many jobseekers are unfamiliar with the process of working with a recruiter or agency. They don’t know what questions to ask, or what to expect. Here are a few recommendations from our team to ensure you pick the right recruiter to help with your search.

Think Local
There are many different types of staffing agencies that have an array of specialties. You should consider whether you prefer to work with a larger, national agency, or a smaller local agency. National agencies typically work with employers all over the country, while a locally focused agency will typically make placements for those businesses within a small geographic area close to their own office. A local staffing firm may have a better understanding of the local job market, average salaries, cost of living, commute time, etc., and may be better able to negotiate on your behalf. Reputable, local recruiters understand the importance of meeting with the employers they work with to better understand the nature of the job and the culture of the company. A reputable agency will often decline to work with employers that have high turnover, difficult managers or a toxic work environment. Larger national firms may not know as much about the employers with whom they work other than what they can find online, or what they are told by the employers themselves. If you choose to work with a larger firm, you may not speak with the same recruiter at each stage of the hiring process, and each new recruiter may not be familiar with your unique skills and key information about you that may not be contained in your resume. Unless the national agency you choose has a local office, you may not actually ever meet them face-to-face. The smaller the firm, the more likely it is that you will work with the same recruiter throughout your job search, and even for years to come. Turnover rates are often lower with recruiters at smaller local agencies.  Often the top recruiters are business partners, or owners of the firm and have a strong incentive to stay put in their firm.  In addition, they rely on their good reputation in the community to gain and retain top clients and top candidates.

Consider their Specialties
When deciding what staffing firm to work with, be sure to look at the specific industries that the firm staffs for, and what types of positions they normally fill. Choose a firm that focuses on the industry or types of positions you are most interested in. This will ensure that the recruiter you work with has the experience to recognize those skills which make you the best fit for a certain position. Firms that staff for a multitude of industries and specialties may not be as capable of presenting you to a client in a way that showcases your skills and abilities. Don’t choose a firm that charges jobseekers for their services. Most reputable firms bill the employer for their services, not the jobseeker, but it is a good idea to confirm this with any recruiters who contact you. To make sure that you get the most out of your experience with an agency, choose a firm that prioritizes mentorship, interview prep and consistent follow up throughout the process. This is especially important for those who are new to or returning to the workforce. If you are interested in finding employment through a staffing agency, it is good practice to confirm that the agency you are considering is a member of the American Staffing Association (ASA). You can also use their website to search for agencies near you.

Ask them about Metrics
The essential job of a staffing agency is to act as a liaison between employers and candidates. They have a dual responsibility to place the most talented individuals with the best companies. Their ability to do this efficiently and with integrity is what sets them apart.  You should ask a recruiter how long they have been with their current company, and how many years they have been working in the staffing industry. A recent LinkedIn blog revealed that the average recruiter has 10 years of experience. You can use this as a gauge when choosing your recruiter or agency. Many recruiters know exactly how many candidates they have successfully placed in their careers. This question can help you gauge their experience level. You may want to ask them how they find candidates, or what is the most common source of their placements. Recruiters who make most of their placements through referrals from other candidates have a proven reputation and are a great resource for you to consider. Another good qualifying question to ask a recruiter is how many of the candidates they send on interviews end up receiving job offers. Not all recruiters are going to be able to rattle off numbers and percentages, but they should have a pretty good idea.  The top agencies know that tracking their performance is not only beneficial to help them continuously improve, but it also provides fact-based evidence of their capabilities to candidates and clients.

Keep an Open Mind
Some staffing firms offer an array of different services to clients and to jobseekers. The types of placements a firm provides may be relevant to your decision about who to partner with. A staffing firm may provide temporary, temporary to hire and long term, or direct hire staffing to their clients. The American Staffing Association (ASA) defines these as follows:

  • Temporary Staffing – the firm hires its own employees and assigns them to support or supplement a client’s workforce in situations involving employee absences, temporary skill shortages, seasonal workloads, and special projects. Temporary jobs can also lead to permanent placements.
  • Temporary-to-Hire (Temp-to-Hire) Staffing – a staffing firm employee works for a client during a trial period during which both the employee and the client consider establishing a permanent employment relationship.
  • Long-Term Staffing – A staffing firm supplies employees to work on long-term assignments. Employees are recruited, screened, and assigned by the staffing firm.
  • Direct Hire Staffing – A staffing firm finds qualified job candidates and brings them together with potential employers to establishing a “direct hire” or “permanent” employment relationship. “Contingency” fees are paid by the client when the employee is hired.

Even if you are focused on attaining a permanent position, consider taking on some temporary or temporary-to-hire jobs. A temporary position can often turn into a permanent placement. It is an opportunity for you to show an employer that you are very interested in working for that you are a good long-term fit for the company. These types of placements may also help increase your skills and experience and grow your professional network.

Don’t be Afraid to Say No
If a recruiter contacts you about an opportunity, but the job description, compensation or commute do not align with your desired career goals, you are under no obligation to accept an interview or agree to be submitted for a position. An experienced recruiter will know if you are a good fit for a position after the first time they speak with you on the phone.  If they want to submit you for a position, you can ask for time to research the company, or even the staffing firm to make sure you know what you’re getting into. It’s important to note that some employers must keep their searches confidential, so a recruiter that is working for them may be limited in the information that they can provide to you in the initial stages. Staffing agencies often keep specific client information confidential so that competitors don’t attempt to contact their client base. This lack of information is not necessarily a sign that the job is “fake” or that the firm is not reputable. Honest recruiters will divulge as much information as they can to you to establish if you are interested in a position and will give you all the details you need if you decide to the pursue the opportunity.

If you haven’t worked with a recruiter or staffing agency before, it’s understandable that you may be apprehensive. It’s important to understand that not all recruiters and agencies are created equal. It’s up to you to choose one that specializes in staffing for the fields you are interested in and has a good reputation with clients and candidates. You would probably do research before choosing a home repair professional, car sales associate or real estate agent, and you should do the same to help you choose a staffing agency. In addition to your own research, you may also rely on referrals and online reviews.

Working with a single reputable local staffing agency can connect you with multiple employers who are looking for people with your skills and expertise. Many of the top-level positions in our job market today are not posted on job boards or company career sites. To find the best local talent, many companies are conducting their job searches exclusively through a trusted staffing agency. A trusted recruiter will guide you through each step of the submission, interview and hiring process. They can help you negotiate your pay and benefits, and help you decide if a position is right for you. Whether you are looking for mentorship and guidance in your job search or would like access to best-in-class local employers, a staffing agency or recruiter can be an invaluable resource if you know what to look for.

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike. https://bradleystaffinggroup.com/contact-us/

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