Finding the right person for the job

Communication key to dealing with employment agencies
By Sharlene Massie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/28/2012

Staffing companies, employment agencies, executive search firms and temporary agencies all operate fairly similarly. And they can help any type of company fill any type of position gap.

Most agency professionals have an immense amount of HR knowledge — they stay on top of new legislation and work hard to source and attract the best candidates.

Clients can range from a receptionist tasked with ordering a temporary replacement or overworked HR professionals without the time to source candidates, to owners, CEOs and managers responsible for staffing their company.

There are two types of direct hire agencies: contingency and retainer. Most general agencies are contingency-based while most executive recruiting firms are retainer-based. Retainer firms are paid a portion of the fee up front, before they spend time or resources to recruit.

On the other hand, contingency-based agencies take a risk. They do all the work upfront and are only paid once the right candidate has been found and the placement is confirmed. Some agencies require payment before the candidate starts, some bill on the start date and others bill within a number of days. All agencies require full payment for a direct hire once the work is done.

For contingency agencies, if the client does not hire, there is no fee owed. This can be frustrating for agencies as sometimes they advertise, source, interview and complete reference checks, only to have the client change its mind, hire on its own or cancel the order — not realizing the huge amount of work that has already been done.

For there to be a healthy relationship between an employer and an agency, communication needs to be open, honest and respectful. Respecting each other’s time and efforts will ensure recruitment is done quickly and effectively.

Fees vary depending on the agency, as do guarantees. Many agencies have complicated fee structures that fluctuate depending on the position, salary and guarantee.

The agency should explain its fees and options thoroughly to the employer, to ensure there is a clear understanding and the employer is able to select the best option for its specific hiring needs.

If a candidate does not work out, the agency will only replace him if it’s still within the guarantee time frame agreed upon on the order.

Providing temporary staff is another service offered by many agencies. Ideally, some notice is needed to fill a position effectively and the more notice the better, but temporary staffing agencies can also service last-minute, urgent orders.

Temporary rates are typically based on what the agency has to pay the candidate to do the job, all payroll costs and the cost of recruiting.

An agency is most valuable when a position is confidential or urgent. The agency handles the search, preparation for the interview process, scheduling, testing, reference checking and rejection — and it does it all quickly. Sometimes, the agency already has an ideal candidate ready to go, perhaps in its database, and a quick call to confirm is all that’s needed. Other times, it takes a little longer, especially if the position is more technical or specific.

Agencies should meet with clients face-to-face before the recruitment process begins. They should ask detailed questions about the company and the position, and go beyond the qualifications to ensure the candidate will be a great cultural fit as well.

If the agency does not make an employer feel confident it understands its hiring needs, the employer should consider working with a different agency.

The best clients spend quality time communicating with the agency, so the two work together to find the best solution. The more detail an employer can give, the better, and knowing exactly what is needed will make the placement quicker and easier for both parties.

Employment agencies assist companies in attracting the best candidates and helping candidates find the best employers and positions.

They create meaningful connections between candidates and employers that can last many years and even career lifetimes.

Sharlene Massie is CEO and visionary of About Staffing in Calgary. For more information, contact, phone (403) 508-1000 or visit

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