Keeping Your Enemies Close …Turning Agencies Into Allies

As a long-time corporate recruiter, I have developed a very bad habit of being animalistic in marking my territory, meaning that for me … I hate to turn over reqs to agencies. It can sometimes feel like defeat, failure, and lack of control to admit that you need to look towards the outside help of a recruiting agency.

Having worked both at an agency and now internally for the last eight years, I can tell you that there seems to be some industry bad blood between the two parties. It took me several years of beating my head working on niche reqs that I didn’t have the network or expertise in before I really learned the true value of partnering with agencies. When partnered in the right way you can turn what may have been an agency enemy into a very impactful recruiting ally for your business.

Here are some ways that I have learned to stop peeing on positions and loosen up the reins.

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  1. Pick the right positions — Just because you use an agency once, doesn’t mean that you are no longer good at your job. Be strategic in the jobs that you do decide to outsource so that you can better manage your time and allow yourself the success of filling the positions you are most comfortable with. For example, I wouldn’t use an agency to fill a sales position in my current role; this is my sweet spot and I’ve been filling these at volume for years. That being said, I haven’t  worked on a business intelligence tools developer role in quite some time. By me using an agency that for a harder technical role that would entail me sourcing for weeks given my lack of connections in that space, I have freed up my time to fill several sales openings.
  2. Don’t hoard information — As a corporate recruiter, I think secretly in the back of my head I am still hoping that the agency fails and that the hiring manager will come crawling back begging me to work on an opening again, but it’s typically not the case. If your manager has taken the time to enlist an agency, or if you’re at the point in a search where you’ve been so exhausted that you’ve reached out to one yourself, don’t hoard information to make it unnecessarily difficult for them. You are using company dollars in hopes of filling the role quickly. If a hiring manager is using an agency that you don’t know, reach out to them proactively to give them the lay of the land and educate them on overall company culture. If it’s for a niche job, no matter how awesome your company is, this agency will need to sell your opening, so make sure you are giving them the information they need to do that.
  3. Don’t make the mistake that this is a one-time thing — So, you think, “I have to use an agency just this one time” … wrong! Unless you have the most amazing workforce planner of all time, you never know what kind of positions are going to pop up, or what senior Java developer might give his notice. If you’re working with an agency, no matter how temporary it might be, make sure to build that relationship so that when an unexpected opening occurs, you feel comfortable having a short list of agencies to call.
  4. Assume they know everyone — Because agencies typically have multiple recruiters working on each position, and have databases that are being filled daily with active and passive candidates, they are more likely going to be able to reach more people as a team than you could alone. Not only could they have a stronger volume of candidates, but they are also most likely working with other companies looking for your same profile, giving them better insight into the market for that position as a whole. Their networks aren’t only one sided either. Yes, we want them to use them to find our new hire … but what if we are ever on the market looking for work? Is an agency really a bridge that you want to burn by having a bad relationship with them? In the future they might be your best resource for finding employment.

I still hate to admit that I need help when it comes to recruiting, but we all want our internal business partners happy and the companies we work for to be successful. Agencies are another resource that need to be valued and used in order to find the best talent for our openings … even if still I mutter under my breath and have a shaky hand when dialing that resource.

A workshop leader at the March 2012 ERE Expo, Cassie Roe (previously Cassandra Denny) is a graduate of the University of Washington where she studied psychology. She has been recruiting since 2004, hiring for companies like Concur Technologies, Cobalt, Vertafore, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Her recruiting has encompassed a wide variety of positions especially in software, hardware, and IT. She is a recruiting manager, author, and speaker on the topic of recruiting optimization, time management, and sourcing.

In her current role at A Place for Mom, she is responsible for corporate recruiting, mentoring, and training others, putting in place recruitment strategy and processes, as well as integrating passive sourcing with social media and attraction plans. She is extremely passionate about using technology (applicant tracking systems, social networks, and marketing campaigns) for talent identification. Her goal is to help others instill a corporate recruiting culture at their current companies and also create leadership interest around sourcing and passive recruiting.

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