For hiring managers and human resource professionals, reference checking top talent during the recruitment process is more than just a formality. However, have you ever wondered if you should also reference check your recruiting partner to ensure they are qualified to select the best candidates for your organization?

Reference checks are a key process that allows hiring companies to gain independent insight into the professional capabilities of a candidate, ensuring the individual they select will be positioned to succeed. Yet contrary to popular belief, they are not limited to verifying the information presented by a person on their resume.

The same principle applies to a search firm. References help hiring companies assess if their potential partner is trustworthy, reliable, and capable. Working with a top recruitment firm can accelerate the hiring process and uncover passive candidates who can help your company thrive and achieve its campaign goals.

Since these agencies play a crucial role in helping an enterprise grow, conducting a reference check will certainly give you peace of mind. Moreover, this practice builds the foundation for a meaningful relationship between the hiring manager and the recruitment agency, which can be highly valuable in the long run.

Keep reading to learn more about reference checking a recruitment firm, the correct questions to ask, and what you should expect to hear from them.

Top Questions to Ask a Recruitment Firm

Before you start working with a recruitment agency, you will most likely speak with one of their representatives to discuss your business and talent acquisition needs.

Most recruiters use this opportunity to gain knowledge about your company to optimize their candidate selection process accordingly. Therefore, it is also a great time for HR professionals and hiring managers to find out a bit more about their prospective partners.

Here are some of the top questions hiring companies should ask to reference check a recruitment service.

How long have you been in business?

Well-established recruitment services are more likely to provide you with the best candidates than novice and less experienced firms. Agencies with several years of experience can also offer a list of satisfied clients for reference checks.

However, also be sure to ask about the experience of the individual team members you will be working with. You might find a wealth of recruiting and industry knowledge in individuals who have joined younger firms where they have a better opportunity to develop their own careers. Conversely, you will also want to confirm that new recruiters are working alongside someone with some tenure while they establish their own careers.

How do you source and evaluate potential candidates?

The top recruitment firms use the latest techniques to find and vet talented individuals. They use a multi-step approach to carry out verifications, interviews, and assessments to help their hiring partners save both time and money.

Have you placed candidates in similar roles before?

It is always recommended to ask this question upfront.

If you have chosen to work with an executive search firm specializing in finding the best candidates for senior management positions, asking about their placement history for similar roles will help you determine if you are making the right choice.

As seniority and position levels advance, experience with similar roles will take a higher priority than industry experience. This is because skills become more transferable as seniority-level increases.

Learn more about the value of industry experience in a search firm here.

Will I have dedicated resources assigned to my project?

This is yet another important question that will help you choose the most suitable recruitment partner for your organization. The best agencies usually assign dedicated specialists to focus on each project. This approach promises faster placement times and an improved customer experience.

Your aim is to work with the same people throughout your search project so the process is smooth and continuous. The other important factor is to understand if your project will receive full attention or split between multiple searches where the highest bidder (or contingency fee) wins.

What is your communication process and frequency with clients?

Most recruitment agencies provide potential clients with an overview of their communication and placement process during the initial meeting. Nonetheless, you should not hesitate to ask how often they contact their hiring partners and which mode they prefer to clear any doubts.

Can you provide placement examples or client testimonials?

Successful recruitment companies will be more than willing to provide their prospective clients with the required references and testimonials. Their response to this question will give you a fair idea of their commitment to providing their partners with the best talent acquisition service.

On a side note, you may even be able to review these endorsements on their website.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about what to expect from a recruitment agency here.

What Answers Should You Hope to Hear?

The relationship between a hiring company and a recruitment firm is based on trust, commitment, and transparency. Keeping these factors in mind, we have outlined the answers you should ideally receive from your potential partner during a reference check.

“Here is an overview of our talent acquisition process”

An experienced and competent recruitment company will proudly share its integrated talent acquisition process with the hiring companies. It is vital for HR professionals to understand how a firm uncovers hidden talent, holds interviews, and carries out skill assessments to ensure it will check all the boxes on the checklist during its placement process.

In addition, a thorough candidate selection process guarantees that the search firm won’t miss out on any pertinent details that may deem an individual unfit for your company. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that transparency and clarity in business foster trust and encourage open communication between all the stakeholders.

“We have placed candidates in similar roles or positions before”

There is nothing better than partnering with a search firm with a proven record of placing candidates in roles similar to the one you are looking to fill.

If your chosen recruiting partner possesses specialized knowledge about the position and the responsibilities that come with it, there is a good chance you will be able to wrap up the hiring process sooner than you thought.

“Our customer satisfaction record speaks for itself”

Recruitment firms with a flawless talent acquisition process also have a high customer satisfaction rate. Likewise, they will have a higher rate of repeat business too.

As a hiring manager, finding out about the experiences of their previous or existing clients will help you discover the strengths and weaknesses of your potential recruiting partner.

“We are familiar with your business model”

While industry experience is essential for contract or temporary placement firms, it is usually a secondary factor when it comes to selecting an executive-level search firm. Nonetheless, recruitment firms should be familiar with your business model, size of the company, services provided, and position level for the role you are hiring for. It will allow them to streamline their search for the perfect candidate.

What Answers Should Be Red Flags?

If a recruitment firm provides you with these answers during the reference check, you may want to consider other options.

  • “We cannot share our talent acquisition process.”

  • “We have never placed a candidate in a similar role.”

  • “Our firm cannot provide references or testimonials.”

  • “We are not familiar with your business model.”

  • “Our teams work with multiple clients at the same time.”

How to Reference Check a Recruitment Firm

Checking references for employees include contacting their previous employers and supervisors to verify the key information. It also helps companies learn more about the qualifications and experiences of an individual. Interestingly, reference checking a recruitment service is not much different.

Here are some useful tips on how to reference check a recruiting partner that all hiring managers may find helpful.

Look what other clients have said

Put your detective hat on and do some research to find out what other hiring companies have said about your chosen recruitment firm. The best way to go about this is to look for online reviews, as they can be an important source of information.

Positive client testimonials can help establish the credibility of a business and play a vital role in building the confidence of potential clients. Meanwhile, negative testimonials have an opposite reaction, as they may make you more skeptical about working with them.

Review social media profiles

Social media is an important tool to study potential recruiting partners. Hiring companies must look at the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media profiles of a recruitment firm to understand how it presents itself, shares information online, and responds to the clients. It will certainly help you learn about their work ethic and professionalism.

Consult your network

Don’t forget to activate your network and talk directly with people who have worked with the recruitment service before, whether as a hiring partner or a candidate. This practice will help you dot the i’s and cross the t’s before moving forward and signing a contract.

Search for candidate reviews (when possible)

Hiring managers are not the only professionals that recruitment companies work with. Therefore, it may be good to search for candidate reviews and learn more about their experience with the search firm when possible.

If a job seeker only has good things to say about an agency’s selection and vetting process, you should see it as an indication of their immaculate talent acquisition process. However, bear in mind that confidentiality agreements may prevent a recruitment firm from sharing this information.

So, should you reference check a recruitment firm?

The answer is a firm yes.

It is always best to work with an agency that excels at what it does and can help your business scale new heights of success with its outstanding talent acquisition services.

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