What is an internal recruitment team actually looking for when they partner with a recruitment agency?

Someone to fill their roles, right?

Well, not quite.

Something that is often missed by recruitment agencies is asking what an internal recruitment team want from their partners. Instead of jumping straight onto the phone or sending out an email that maybe promises something that you can’t deliver, take a step back, remember that you are providing a service, and look at what your potential client actually wants.

Let’s look at it from an internal recruiters point of view and the questions they might have. If you are in a position to answer questions like this before you even speak to a potential customer, it will put you in a much stronger position to win that new business.

What do you know about us?

Usually one of the first red flags that come up when talking to a candidate for the first time is if they don’t know anything about my company. This goes for recruitment agencies too. If an internal recruitment team enter into a partnership with you, they are giving you the green light to go out and represent their company in the big wide world. You are now an extension of the recruitment team, speaking to candidates about them and their roles. Internal teams spend countless time and money into building their brand and reputation. This can be damaged in one phone call or meeting with a potential candidate.
Just like that candidate call, an internal team will expect that you have done some research into the company. They won’t be expecting you to be an expert, but they will expect you to have an understanding of what the company does. At the very minimum, check out their website, look for any interesting news or articles and play with the product if you can.
And remember, internal recruiters have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting if people are reading their website to them or are obviously bluffing it.

I wrote a little bit about researching your potential client here – always keep in mind that you are being hired as a specialist service to help make the internal team more effective.

What do you specialise in?

First of all, here are a couple of observations.

1. If you have filled a certain role once or twice in the last 6 – 12 months, this doesn’t make you a specialist in that role.
2. If you are new to recruitment and have a minimal amount of experience, you also are not a specialist.

I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t say that you are a specialist if you aren’t a specialist. You will get found out very quickly.
This isn’t to say that an internal recruitment team will only work with recruiters who define themselves as specialists. They want to know what you can bring to the table. If you are a great all rounder, or if you excel in filling hard to fill or niche roles then this is your story.
The one thing in-house teams do expect is honesty. Don’t try to be something you are not. Sell yourself on what you are and what you are good at.
But always make sure you have the evidence to back up what you are saying.

Why should I work with you and not another recruitment agency?

Or, “what can you do that your competitors can’t?”

Personally speaking, I prefer to have a small PSL. This means that the agencies I work with have to offer me something that the other agencies don’t. It is important that you have some sort of unique selling point that will pique my interest and make me want to work with you.

This can be a multitude of different things, including:

Have you filled roles like the ones that the company that you are talking to have?
Do you have experience of working across roles covering a number of technologies that the company use?
Have you have worked with similarly sized companies in the past?
Or companies that are having the same challenges with their recruitment?

Take some time to put your story together, tell me all the great stuff about how you work and how you partner with other companies. Just as importantly, tell me the things that you can’t do so I know exactly what I can expect from the relationship and our expectations are set early.

What can you do differently than me? 

One of the reasons an internal recruitment team looks to work with an outside recruitment agency is because they don’t have the capacity or the tools to be able to fill a role or a number of roles. This means that you need to be able to show me that you can do things that I can’t.
You can quite easily find out how big the internal recruitment team is, the ATS they use and where they advertise. Once you have that information, you are in a position to communicate what you can bring to the party.

Perhaps you have an unlimited budget to advertise roles?
Maybe you have access to sourcing tools that the in-house team can only dream of?
It could be that you have a large database covering the skills and location of where the company is?
Do you have a team of people that can work on the role?

There are many examples you can come up with. It makes your case a million times stronger if you have already thought about this because if you are going to tell me that you are going to advertise the role on indeed and reach out to people on Linkedin, why would that make me want to use your services, I can do that myself.

Can you give me guidance on salary and if the person actually exists?

Hiring managers can have some pretty extreme expectations at times. Part of what I look for when I partner with an agency is a second opinion on what and what isn’t realistic when it comes to hiring a particular role. One of the great frustrations of many internal teams is that hiring managers will often ‘know best’ when it comes to putting together job specs and salary ranges. However, the second a recruitment agency tells them exactly the same thing that their in-house team has been communicating, they sit down and take notice.
A good in-house team will look to you to back up their initial expectations and to give them new information. If the spec looks unrealistic, or the salary is completely out of whack with what the company are looking for, or if the candidate simply doesn’t exist, make sure you communicate that as early as you can.
Be honest here. Don’t tell me you can find people if it’s impossible, it’s wasting your time as well as mine.

What do you know about local competitors?

An in-house recruitment team is always looking for information about competitors in the local area. You are possibly working with these companies and are definitely talking to candidates who are either working or interviewing with them.
Are they hiring at the moment?
Are they hiring similar roles to us?
Do they pay more or less than us for similar roles?

Companies don’t want you digging for scandalous information or trade secrets. General information, no matter how small, is always useful.
Any tidbits you can drop into the conversation are always gratefully received.

What are candidates saying about us that they might not tell the internal recruitment team?

I once worked at a company that had a real problem with turnover in their sales team.  People would get hired, last 3 – 6 months and then either quit or be let go. On top of this, we also paid below market rate so hiring was already hard. Of course, the hiring manages ire was aimed squarely at the in-house team who were struggling to hire replacements. It’s a scenario that is very similar to the last section, hiring managers don’t like to hear negative information from their own team. Once you bring some agencies on board to work the roles who are giving exactly the same feedback and it’s a different story.
If you are hearing that people don’t want to join the company you are working with, let them know. It could be that candidates have spoken to people who work/have worked there and have painted a less than complimentary picture of what life is like there. It might be that people have looked at the product and it isn’t something that they want to work with. It could be that they don’t want to work with the management team or could simply be that the company don’t pay enough or they aren’t convinced they will make their bonus’s or commission.

Whatever it is that you are hearing, feed it back. Sometimes there is a deeper problem that needs fixing and the in-house team need all the information they can to help fix things internally.

Will I be working with you?

One of the worst things that can happen at the start of an internal recruitment/agency relationship is to go through the early stages of getting to know each other, finding out how the person that I’m speaking to sources and getting a feeling for how they recruit, only to be told that, once the terms have been signed, that someone else will be working my roles.
In my mind, I don’t really work with agencies. I work with people that I believe are going to be good recruiters and are going to represent the company and our roles in the correct way. What I don’t want is for you to go back to the office, pass on the information I’ve given you to a team of sourcers and leaving them to it. If you are heading up a team, then great, but I want to speak to the members of that team to make sure they have the right information before they start talking to candidates. I’m sure Jeff or Lisa are as great as you say they are, but I don’t want them representing me if I don’t know anything about them!
This goes back to the start of this post and you being an extension of the internal team and representing their company.
I see this as the in-house version of recruitment agencies wanting to get access to the hiring manager. Incidentally, this is something I will be covering soon on the blog!

If you use some or all of this information when you are preparing to approach a new client, or if you are heading to a first client meeting or call, it will make you, and your company, a much better prospect than 99% of the other recruitment agencies out there.
Taking a moment to think about what your potential client wants, rather than what you think they want, will put you in a strong position to win new business. Do your research on the client, enter into any communications with this mindset and listen to what they are saying to you.

And remember, signing the paperwork is just the beginning. You have to back up what you have said with excellent service and doing all the things you have committed to.