Don’t Roll the Dice in Selecting a Recruitment Partner [for Hiring Managers]

During 15+ years of recruiting I occasionally find myself cold calling new prospective customers. During “first contact” I usually get a similar response about their experience in working with recruiters in the past. It’s rarely positive and they vary in form, a few examples include:

“We’ve had limited success in working with recruiters”,

“We have an internal-recruiter and have struggled with finding the right candidates”, and

“The past recruiter we used did not understand our business and charged us an exorbitant fee”.

In this post I’ll discuss ways in which hiring managers can qualify a potential recruiter to be a better match for your hiring goals. I’ve also included a a few links to other blogs/articles on the same topic towards the bottom that my be of interest.


Perhaps one of the best ways to determine if a recruiter is qualified or not is to ask if they have a college degree. Just like when searching for a senior level candidate for a position, the first criteria typically is whether or not they have a college degree. For instance, one would not hire a CPA or a Financial Planning & Analyst without a college degree in Accounting or Finance. Similarly, a solid recruiter should have too and best to look for Business Administration, Management Information Systems, Accounting, Finance, etc.


Determine if they have real life “in-the-trenches” experience in your particular domain. If you are a consulting company or a software company, your best choices will be those recruiters who have worked in that field themselves and later moved into the recruiting industry. Of course the follow up question is, “Why?”


Are they experts in the “Competitive Landscape” that our business is in?

Another key characteristic to evaluate a recruiter is, do they have expertise within the industry that you are seeking quality candidates from? Even better if they have strong working knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, and best yet if they have knowledge of how your company is perceived in the marketplace as compared to others. In many cases knowing whom the client’s competitors are yields stronger potential candidates and better long-term fits. Many of those candidates will be passive candidates (those who are not actively on the market), will have years of experience in your space, can bring industry-related knowledge to your company and ramp up quickly.


Any recruiter worth their salt should be able to list fairly quickly the major competitors in your domain and formulate a search strategy for attracting candidates.


How long have they been recruiting in your domain. Are they a specialist?

As many domains mature, they become more popular. More and more people, good and bad, seek to benefit from that wave of growth. As a result, you have more people, candidates and recruiters competing for the same job opportunities. If a client is seeking junior level positions, a specialized recruiter may be overkill for their particular needs. However, if you’re seeking hard-to-find skills, it’s best look for a recruiter that has 5 to 10 years of experience in your domain. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “He who chases two mice catches neither”. My experience shows this to be true. As a specialized recruiter focusing on only a few areas, I’ve been able to be much more successful for my clients and candidates than if I attempted to chase everything that came my way. 

Candidate and client recommendations

Every recruiter should be able to provide you with a list of references from candidates or clients they have worked with. Ideally, they should have references from clients that show ongoing multiple-year relationships. It’s not uncommon for a recruiter to work only on one or two searches with a given company and move on for numerous reasons. However, a recruiter that is considered an ongoing strategic partner and thought of as an extension of their client’s company, will be a sure bet. At Fairwinds we keep a list of references, both current and past, right on our website. All of which are verifiable via profiles.


Qualifying candidates beyond what’s on the resume

You wouldn’t believe it but is true! Sometimes jobseekers stretch the truth, ever so slightly, about their experiences throughout past positions. Just because a skill is listed on their resume does not mean they have detailed knowledge of that particular item. We see this quite extensively within the Information Technology and Consulting industries. It’s not uncommon for consultants to have been on projects where multiple software technologies are utilized such as Hyperion Financial Management or Hyperion Planning/Essbase. However, that does not mean the candidate has intimate skills with Calc Scripts, MaxLs, Visual Basic rules development, FDM vs. FDMEE, etc. One great way to determine whether a recruiter has experience in your area is to ask a few technical questions around the software tools and their methodology for prescreening candidates.


Effective communication style

Another vital qualification often overlooked by hiring companies is, “Is this the recruiter we want representing our company?” And “Do they possess the communication skills, follow-up, follow through, similar to the company values and culture that we seek in the people we want to hire?”

When a recruiter is working on a search for a given client, they become the first point of contact, which can make a lasting impression on potential new hires. Similar to Sales Development Representatives and Sales Account Executive, they become the initial face of the company.

In conclusion, the success of a recruiter working for a company lies in the ability of that particular company to qualify the right type of recruiter for their company, their culture, and their domain. It’s a two way street! The development of a strategic partnership and a trusted advisor, takes time.

Other articles/blogs on how to choose the right recuiter for your company:

How To Tell Good Recruiters From Bad Ones – Forbes

How to Find Recruiters in Your Niche – WSJ

Seven Deadly Sins of Resume Writing – Fairwinds Blog

Contingency Recruiter or In-House Recruiter? – Fairwinds Blog




Dan Counts at fairwindslogixDan Counts, Founder of fairwindslogiX a recruiter/coach for candidates and clients, specializing in the software and consulting industries. His hands-on positive style as an advisor to candidates and clients provides an environment for redefining the recruitment experience one placement at a time, resulting in better long-term matches. In his free time he enjoys sailing, hiking/walking, woodworking and most recently home coffee roasting. You can check out his website at |



    1. Steve,

      Great question! I don’t know of a recruiter based rating system per say. I did do some searching on the Internet and came across a couple things. One of course was but their rating system is more about working at recruitment company. There is also a UK-based website called Doesn’t look like that site is functional as of yet. Great idea though.


  1. Great article, Dan – you exemplify all of these traits and it’s always a pleasure working with you.

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