By: Paul Falcone
Staffing firms that have been successful in navigating the rough economic terrain of late share significant characteristics.
Their owner operators and search consultants show remarkable resiliency. They’re also extraordinary relationship managers who have extensive networks that can find a needle in a haystack.
In general, these staffing firms and others within the search industry are typically six months ahead of the rest of the economy in terms of forecasting the ebb and flow of labor trends.
With some sectors now showing signs of recovery, it’s no wonder that staffing firms are quietly hiring recruiters and expanding their teams again -- not on an enormous scale just yet -- but on a select basis where certain qualities and attributes can add immediately to the firm’s bottom line.
Tapping the current recruiting landscape is still wide and varied, of course.
How you go about onboarding a newly-hired recruiter depends on your staffing firms' capabilities and hiring philosophies, as well as your timeframe for profitability.
Setting Expectations for your New Recruiter
How long should it take to capture a return-on-investment and recoup the expenses relating to recruiter training, payroll and benefits? That depends very much on the individual hired and your staffing firm’s tolerance for a learning curve.
What is clear: asking the right interview questions in the screening process remains a critical element in hiring successful recruiters who can pay for themselves and contribute to your staffing firm’s long-term success.
The following interview questions can enable you, as an agency owner or operator, to identify stand-out performers.
Interview Questions to Ask
Begin with a question that addresses top-line revenue and the candidate's ability to attract both new client companies and hard-to-find candidates to complement your existing business operations:
1. How do you rank competitively among other recruiters at your current staffing firm in terms of your output?
The sales field is all about competition; those who perform with distinction will define themselves in terms of being in the top 20% of producers in their region, the 10th percentile of agents at their firm, or award winners for being recognized as top producers in their company.
2. What are the two most common objections you face, and how do you typically overcome them?
There are typically no more than two or three major objections that any recruiter faces when marketing to prospective client companies; it’s important to hear how candidates rebut specific objections.
This is an opportunity for the two of you to match wits; this question will provide you with insights into the individual’s sophistication and creativity as the two of you measure up each other.
3. How would you distinguish between your sales volume and your profitability per deal?
Discounting fees has become the norm in this harrowing job market since the start of the Great Recession.
Recruiters who drive volume placements because they give the business away at 10% (vs. 33% full fee contingency) aren’t necessarily going to complement your staffing services.
A logical follow-up to this query is to ask about fall-off ratios, where candidates don’t make it through the guarantee period and where fees must be returned to the client.
4. With no undue flattery, please grade me on how well I’m conducting this interview. What can you tell me about my sales and management style based on the questions I’m asking?
People-reading skills can’t really be taught; recruiters’ success in bonding with candidates and client companies will depend largely on their ability to “chameleon-ize” themselves and build immediate rapport.
Watch for candidates who sit up in their chairs and rise to the occasion by volunteering astute observations and engaging comments.
5. How much does production vary from desk to desk in your office?
Identifying huge discrepancies in per-desk billing averages may point to a serious issue known as the “rebel producer” syndrome, which can destroy camaraderie and teamwork in your staffing firm if you ultimately decide to bring this candidate aboard.
While at first glance it may feel like you’ve found the goose that laid the golden egg if the candidate in front of you produces $180,000 in billings in a branch that garners $325,000 a year. But in fact, that may or may not be a good thing . . .
If there are three other seasoned recruiters in the branch, then all three combined are only adding $145,000 to the branch’s top line revenue, or roughly $50,000 each -- read that as $4000/month.
If there’s lots of employee turnover in those other three positions, then be wary.
This $15,000/month star producer may be “eating her young” -- her insecurity may be causing lots of “little failures” to substantiate her work; alternately the candidate may be cannibalizing other recruiters’ clients or candidates.
However, if those three counterparts are all trainees in a newly-opened branch, for example, then the billing disparity may make sense -- but that’s what reference checking is for.
Taken together, these interview questions will give you a clearer snapshot of the candidate’s manner of doing business – their drive, energy level, people-reading skills, as well as their employee sourcing, client development and marketing abilities.
They’ll also lay the groundwork for your reference checking strategy, which will follow next.
Let the hiring begin!