Redefining Recruitment to Retention

Setting Expectations with Agencies and Firms

By Carey Goryl, MSW, CAE
Chief Executive Officer of AAPPR

It cannot be emphasized enough that setting clear expectations in any relationship between an in-house recruiter and a chosen firm or agency is vital to success. Your candidates have expectations, and you take great effort to communicate with candidates along the way. Are we giving our contracted agency firms the same expectation setting? Both parties have expectations about the process and what success looks like, but are you on the same page?

In the current environment of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting level of uncertainty, in-house recruiters must take the lead. Remember, agency recruiters and consultants work for you or your organization.

Of course, you can’t control what agency recruiters do or how they operate, or how often they solicit, but you can manage the expectations of outcomes and how you and your organization will be represented to clients. You lead the hiring process and are ultimately responsible for the success of securing a candidate within a timely period. You are the one judged for the quality of candidates put through and so ensuring clarity with your agency partner is key.

Don’t make this mistake

One of the mistakes a person responsible for the search can make when dealing with agencies is putting off those calls and not communicating with them enough; at the beginning, during and when closing out a search. Vigorous communication reduces the natural information gaps and assumptions people will make in the absence of clear information or expectation. Elements such as search parameters, timeline, communication preferences, and how feedback in given and applied are all worthy topics.

Insider tip: Recall your worst interaction with an agency or firm. What happened that made it so difficult? Ideally, what could have created a different experience? Use that reflection and the lessons learned to guide expectation setting in all future contracts and continue to reassess what works and doesn’t.

Set expectations at the very beginning and along the way

You likely will find yourself needing to educate and set boundaries with the agency recruiter at the beginning of the process. If you haven’t already considered looking at the elements of project management, this may be an excellent method to effectively keep a search progressing. A search is more than just a series of scheduling interviews, meetings, calls, and tasks. It is also more than understanding what you need to do, what’s completed, and what’s overdue. While you may have something to learn from what an agency provides in terms of its process, you will want to clearly articulate and get the agency to buy into yours as well.

Search elements to discuss with your contracted agency

  • A timeline including when your organization needs to have a new candidate in place
  • Agreed upon steps in the search process
  • Expectation of responsiveness and the use of deadlines if one exists
  • Whose role is it to take the lead in each step, who needs to be consulted and how fast can decisions be made
  • Who is going to be involved in the interview process

All of this preparation reduces the risk that something will go wrong along the way and increases the change of a positive search experience for you, the candidate, and the firm. You’re likely under a lot of pressure to begin right away but taking a bit of time at this stage will save you hours, days if not months down the road.

Working with your partner

Setting expectations is not a “one and done” activity. Much as in project management, the process is managed all along the way. Expectations may need to be revised or changed, timelines may expand or compress and having ongoing communication is the only way to address these elements as they’re happening. No candidate wants to experience unnecessary delays because the hiring organization and the agency they’ve contracted with are not on the same page. Your candidates just may drop out of the process.

Expectation setting is a two-sided conversation. The agency may have its own expectations, processes, and timelines. They may also have some advice that could help the search so with a respectful and transparent relationship, these times of advice are worth the listen. You hired a firm because you needed help – now help that firm be successful in helping you.

AAPPR can help

AAPPR can help you develop your recruitment, onboarding and retention strategy with best practice resources that will reduce your search time, improve internal efficiencies and demonstrate to your leadership the value of well-resourced in-house recruitment teams. Join AAPPR to solve problems, share ideas, make better business decisions, learn how to do things better and get the support you need.