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Written by Jim Boyd

Jim Boyd is the Executive Vice President of Sales at the Midtown Group, a Certified Small Woman-Owned Staffing and Consulting Firm with a National Reach. Jim has been in the business of helping companies with their most important asset – human capital – for over 15 years. This is part 1 of a 2-part series.

If you’re like most companies, you’re feeling the “War for Talent.” Just this December, the number of available jobs outnumbered available candidates by 4.4 million.

As the unemployment rate hovers at historic lows, and the skills gap for talented employees reaches historic highs, many companies are finding creative ways to deal with this. They are beefing up their college campus recruiting, utilizing specialty tools to ensure their job descriptions attract the widest audience, and using AI to source resumes.

But that still isn’t enough.

For full-time and contract hiring, we are seeing many companies turn to their staffing vendors. While most companies have internal recruiters to help them with their needs, it’s hard to match what staffing firms can do.

For instance, an experienced staffing firm can have dozens of recruiters nationwide (as well as access to every sourcing component out there) to identify talent. Good staffing firms often have several similar openings from multiple clients, which allows them to continually expand their pipelines of those skillsets. The best staffing firms are always asking (and getting) referrals from these candidates, so they are very likely to have a candidate pool you would not have access to otherwise.

In today’s environment, staffing firms can make a lot of sense, especially for companies that need contractors. But how can you ensure you’re get the most out of your staffing vendor relationships?

Our two-part series will answer all of your staffing questions. We will help you pick the right vendor, and then establish partnerships that truly benefit both organizations.

STEP 1 – Pick the right vendors!

There are over 19,000 staffing firms in the United States! How many vendors do you need working on your openings?

If you have the right staffing firms, you should only need two to three firms working on an opening at a time. Any less can limit the approaches and viewpoints towards candidate pools. Any more will dilute the value of using staffing firms.

With too many cooks in the kitchen, you run the risk of them stepping on each other’s toes and wasting your time by repeatedly explaining the job, reviewing resumes, and providing feedback.

The better a staffing firm knows you and your organization, the better they can provide that “right fit.” Find two to three staffing firms that you can partner with over a long period of time and let them really get to know you.

With no barriers to entry, it’s no wonder the United States has over 19,000 staffing companies. So, what makes a good staffing company? Simple. They supply you with the right candidates able to deliver the desired impact.

While this seems obvious, there are several factors that need to be present to achieve this.

When determining which staffing companies to work with, ask these seven magic questions.

Q1: Which skillsets do you specialize in, and how many placements have you made in each of those skillsets in the last 6 months?

This should align with your needs, and more important than volume is a recent consistency in serving those skillsets.

Q2: What sources do your candidate placements come from (job boards, internal database, referrals, postings, etc.)?

While staffing firms are known to recruit by any means necessary, companies with at least 20 percent of their placements coming from referrals is a great sign—and the higher the better.

Getting referrals is one thing but placing them ensures those referrals are quality resources. Look for firms where more than 20 percent of their placements come from referrals. This is their proprietary network of candidates that you want access to!!

Q3: How do you determine how ‘good’ someone is at their job?

Many staffing companies can find resumes that match your criteria regarding specific skills, years of experience, and required certifications. But the best companies can gauge how proficient the candidates have been.

While staffing companies will never be as good as their clients at this, they should be able tell you how they weed out poor performers.

Google has calculated that recruiting a top technologist will result in 300 times more productivity and business impact than recruiting an average performer.

Q4: How will you determine their fit for my role?

If a staffing company has placed people with you before, this should be easy. If not, that company will probably need your help with this. They should mention a thorough job requirement discussion.

A good staffing company will ask you for questions (and answers) to help them vet the candidates. You should be able to trust that they’ll use this information to qualify candidates and not prep them for your interview.

*If you don’t trust that, you need better staffing partners.

That means a good staffing company will require a few minutes of your time to talk through the job description. They should want to meet you and see your environment.

Typically, a few minutes of your time up front will save everyone hours of time from going through the wrong candidates. If you are not willing to do this, please don’t waste their time.

Staffing is all about people and relationships. The companies who have the best people (and treat them well) will outperform.

Q5: What is the average tenure of your sales and recruiting employees?

Account Managers use their knowledge of your teams and your business to guide the recruiting teams to the right candidates. Recruiters utilize their candidate networks to continually find new people.

If the staffing company has tenures less than 2 to 3 years, you can’t take advantage of either. Look for “best places to work” awards, or check Glassdoor and Google Reviews, etc.

Q6: What data can you provide to prove you are effective?

Every staffing company measures themselves by similar data, most typically their “submittal to hire ratio.” This is how many submittals they need to give a client to get a hire. More than 20 percent (1 in 5) is really good. Five percent (1 in 20) is not so good.

If they can’t recite this quickly, it must not be that good.

Q7: Ask the candidates!

As you interview and hire candidates from your staffing vendors, ask them the following questions:

  • How did the staffing company find you?
  • How did they determine you were a good fit for me?
  • Did they ask you for a reference?
  • How was your experience working with them?

There are a lot of staffing companies out there. There are also a lot of good ones. But no one firm is right for everyone. Take some time to find the ones that are truly best for you.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Sign up to our mailing list for alerts of future posts.

“if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company.”


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