What Clients Look For When Hiring a Staffing Agency
By: John Rossheim
In our companion article, How to Improve Staffing Results: An Agency Perspective, recruiters shared some of the opportunities they see for clients to improve their screening candidates and expedite the hiring process.
In this article, we flip the tables to ask, “What do clients want from their staffing firms?”
It's essential that staffing agencies do a periodic gut check on what clients look for from their staffing agency and third-party recruiting business.
Here are some straight answers from the mouths of clients who have turned away many pitches when hiring a staffing agency.
Show prospects your depth. Anyone can google for candidates. To win new business, agencies must show that they will go deeper than the competition or the client to field the right candidates, whether for a temp role, a direct hire or something in between.
"I will absolutely select a staffing vendor based on the depth of their recruiting process," says Matt Lowney, executive vice president for talent and operations at The Buntin Group, a Nashville-based advertising agency. "The responses are truly varied. I want to know how you're sourcing, who are you talking to, how you are using contacts as a launch point for referrals."
Make transparent how you earn every penny of your fee. Talk to prospective clients about how you’ll surface candidates that the client could not have reached on their own. Tell a story about how you’ve done this for other customers.
"I’ll look and see how many of the agency’s reqs are just doing the ‘post and pray’ and charging a big fee," says Lowney. “I’ll ask new hires, ‘How did that recruiter find you?’ So many times, the agency had no relationship with the candidate. I don’t think it’s worth a big commission for a recruiter who just did simple online searches."
Take job orders meticulously. "We need an agency that will look into everything about our day-to-day operation, from the physical and climate requirements of our work, to whether or not a particular position will be in air conditioning or not, whether it will require the use of a computer or not, and what career paths exist in our growing company," says Tim Whitney, Regional Director of Production and Quality at Coast Southwest, a chemicals distributor in Arlington, Texas.
"Today, even when we hire manual labor, we want to know about workers' potential to work with computers and automated systems."
Show the difference you can make with candidates. If you can bring it, show it. “Sometimes I get nothing back after I express an interest directly to a potential candidate," says Lowney.
"But a good agency will have a relationship with candidates that makes a difference and causes them to engage with our opportunity. If the agency can do that and I can’t, it’s well worth the money. I have no problem paying for things that I’m not getting done myself."
Supply workers ready to do the work. Agencies can't supply work-ready temps if they don't have intimate knowledge of the work to be done. To acquire that knowledge, there's no substitute for visiting the work site."I expect temps to be ready to go," says Whitney. "So the agency has to do its homework to learn what the company does, then come in and see what we do."
Have a deep understanding of every industry you serve. In an age when the reputation of a staffing firm can travel as quickly as a viral video, it's unwise to bid for business that you don't understand, or to send in workers who are fluent in the industry.
"I'm not going to use an agency that's only supplied office staff," says Whitney. "Our business is manufacturing and distribution, and we need an agency with experience that aligns with my needs."
Look out for the client's long-term interests. That applies even when supplying short-term temps. An agency that consistently fields temp workers with full-time potential will be deeply appreciated by many clients.
Who wouldn't want the temp to perm option and permanently hire qualified people who have already demonstrated that they can navigate the client's workplace? "If I hire a temp, I'm basically looking to hire an employee," says Whitney.
Demonstrate the durability of your agency and its internal staff. No one wants to deal with a staffing firm whose own employees act like they were just sent over by a temp agency. Agencies with a continuous influx of low-paid new grads cannot win the confidence of clients seeking a long-term staffing relationship.
Says Lowney: "I ask the vendor's people, 'How long have you been with the company, how do you show your commitment, what keeps you there?’"