What do (or should) you expect when working with a recruitment agency? If you haven’t worked with one before, industry perceptions may have your anticipated results somewhere around skeptical. Yet even if you have partnered with an agency to outsource your recruitment efforts, your expectations will only be as positive as your last experience.

Expectations can be challenging to navigate. At times they are nothing more than assumptions we make in passing. On the other side are beliefs held with complete confidence. Expectations can be false notions, anticipated predictions, or hopeful possibilities. The distinction lies in the relationship between the one holding the views and the one we trust to deliver on their promises.

As a recruitment agency that supports businesses of all sizes, our goal is to help clients manage and raise their expectations with a clear picture of our process at the onset and exceptional service throughout any given search project.

In this post we’ll outline what you should expect when working with a reputable recruitment agency focused on helping clients source, recruit, and hire professionals at management to executive-level positions. Knowing what to consider and be prepared for will not only help you manage your expectations but also help the entire process proceed more smoothly.

Before Partnering with a Recruitment Agency

Before you sign a contract to work with any recruitment agency, you are most likely engaging with a member of their sales team. And yes, they aim to provide you with compelling reasons to work with their firm. However, that is only part of the story.

The underlying goal is to understand you, your business, and your talent acquisition needs. Meaning you should expect a fair amount of questions on your hiring process, specifically about what has and has not been working. They should also inquire about your business goals and how your team will need to expand over time to meet those objectives.

Don’t brush those questions off as just sales trying to get more of your business. There is a purpose to knowing at least what your intentions are. Depending on your plans, there may be an optimal order to adding new employees. As experts in talent management, their services could better help you by way of being a consultant first, versus just a recruiter. A full-service recruitment agency can perform a talent audit to determine if you really need to hire more employees or reallocate resources internally. These early discussions will help them evaluate what services to recommend and why.

You should also expect to learn all you can about your prospective recruitment agency. Who are they? Do they specialize in any industry? What is their approach to talent acquisition? Your goal should be to learn as much about them as possible.

What to expect before signing a contract

Once you and your potential recruitment agency reach a point of serious consideration in the sales process, expect detailed discussions in the following areas.

Business overview
  • Company history and current economic situation
  • Open positions and growth projections
  • Current talent acquisition and development challenges

Hiring process
  • Current hiring process and methodology
  • Team members involved

Recruitment agency overview
  • Agency history and business philosophy
  • Approach to talent acquisition and development
  • Pricing model

This is by no means an exhaustive list of topics discussed, but it should give you an idea of the scope and purpose of these early conversations. The more you can share with each other early on, the better and more productive your long-term relationship will be. So be cautious of agencies that aren’t asking you good questions or sharing helpful information to enlighten you.

During the Onboarding Phase

It is in this phase of onboarding, leading up to the launch of your candidate search, that expectations may be hardest to manage. Resist the urge to rush through this phase with your recruitment agency. Remember that you decided to work with them to gain support, advice, and a partnership for your business. Expect a consultant, not an order taker.

Listen to their guidance when outlining what your perfect-fit hire looks like. Expect pushback when your focus may be too narrow to fill your candidate pool, or when too broad to focus on what you need in the role. Recruiters know the current conditions of the labor market, so rely on their expertise.

A reputable recruitment agency knows you may not have the answers to all of their questions asked during this phase. That’s okay. However, the less definitive your answers are, the more you should expect additional probing questions and even follow-up meetings to gain clarification and direction.

During this phase, the conversation with your recruitment agency is going to be much more targeted and directly related to the position or positions you need to fill. The purpose is to craft a compelling value proposition, define the characteristics and capabilities of a perfect-fit hire, and outline the working relationship. Expect in-depth conversations on the following subjects.

Company culture
  • Employee value proposition
  • Work location (onsite, remote, hybrid) and expectations
  • Growth potential within the role and organization

Candidate profile
  • Required and preferred skills and experience
  • Definition of success for this role
  • Compensation and benefits package

Project methodology
  • Review of the hiring process
  • Team members involved and roles
  • Guidance on interview and candidate evaluation processes
  • Progress reporting and review

By the time your candidate search begins you should have a very clear understanding of how the process will progress, who is involved and how they will be supporting you, and how results will be measured and evaluated.

Expectations During the Hiring Process

Even though you are outsourcing the lion-share of the talent acquisition process and workload, this is not the time to completely wipe the project from your mind. “Set it and forget it” definitely does not apply here. Expect to be involved in the process.

However, most important is that you should expect very regular and consistent communication from your recruitment agency. This means receiving a steady and even stream of emails, phone calls, and scheduled meetings. At no point should you ever wonder what is happening or how your candidate search is progressing.

At first, communication will center on getting the search process correctly focused. Early search results and marketplace feedback will quickly guide if and how your search may need to adjust and adapt. It is important to appropriately respond to this input to keep your search correctly targeted.

As your project progresses, communication will come in the form of progress reports and consultations on candidate recommendations. We cannot stress this enough, a recruitment agency should never leave you in the dark on overall progress or results.

Once you have found your perfect-fit hire, expect your recruitment agency to be ready with guidance as needed for extending the offer, onboarding your new employee, and encouragement as they adapt and assimilate into your organization.

What to expect during an active search process

Once your search project begins in earnest, you and your recruitment agency should settle into a regular communication cadence with the subject changing as the project progresses.

Search launch
  • Accuracy of search scope
  • Honest and consistent marketplace and candidate feedback

Active search and evaluation stage
  • Regularly scheduled meetings and communication
  • Updates on progress and activity
  • Candidate recommendations
  • Consultation on candidate evaluations

Search completion
  • As needed guidance and consultations (ie. onboarding or employee development)
  • New hire performance

Set Your Recruitment Agency Expectations

How did your original expectations match up to what we shared here? Hopefully, we have matched or raised yours. The difference between standard versus superior service is simply filling a vacancy and finding you exceptional talent. This added value is exactly why businesses like yours rely on executive search firms.

Expect any recruitment agency you work with to:
  • Ask insightful questions
  • Provide detailed information on themselves and their process
  • Engage in productive discussions
  • Make strategic adjustments based on fact
  • Service as experts in talent acquisition

In turn, your team should expect to:
  • Remain involved for the duration of your candidate search
  • Partner with a professional team with a proven process
  • Receive ongoing and clear information

Get more helpful information by subscribing to one of our newsletters here.

two business professionals reading information on laptop