How to pick a recruitment agency

Comparing prices, asking about guarantees and securing reference checks are amongst tips from Hiring Hub writer Tom Williams when it comes to selecting a recruitment firm.

When you’re running a successful business, you don’t have time to sort through hundreds of CVs and find the right candidates for your latest job vacancy. You’ll probably want a recruitment agency to take on the daunting task of separating irrelevant and low-quality applications from ones that you can use.

How do you pick a recruitment agency? Here are a few tips that could save you time and money.

Look for industry specialists

The best recruitment agency is one that understands the industry. If you can use technical terms freely in conversation, without taking time out to explain them, then the process will be much more effective. 

A specialist agency will also know the kind of candidate that you’re looking for, and which traits and qualifications a good candidate should have. Even if a recruitment agency doesn’t advertise itself as an industry specialist, it’s worth asking how well they understand what you do.

Compare prices

Typically a recruitment agency charges a set fee, or a percentage of the salary of the role that they’re filling, to source candidates and to manage most aspects of the recruitment process on your behalf. Ask around, and see if you can find an agency that charges a lower fee. 

However it’s also worth remembering that the cheapest agencies don’t always provide the best value. Alternatively, some online recruitment marketplaces allow the company to set their own fee which is suitable for SMEs with tighter budgets.

Ask about guarantees

Some recruitment agencies offer a guarantee, to make sure that you feel confident with your decision to use their service. Some will offer a reduced fee, or waive their fee completely, if you can’t find a suitable candidate or if the working relationship fails after just a short amount of time. 

If you’ve worked with a recruitment agency in the past, and have found that your new employee hasn’t been right for the job, then a guarantee can give you reassurance that you’re protected next time.

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Look for professional body memberships

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) are two major professional bodies representing the staffing and recruitment agencies. If your chosen recruitment agency is a member of one of these, then it’s a sign that they’re serious about what they do.

Ask about reference checks

In some cases, recruitment agencies will make reference checks to confirm a candidate’s identity and to check that they’re being honest about their previous employment. Not all recruitment agencies do this, and so it’s worth checking if it’s a job that you don’t want to do.

Ask about previous successes

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in asking what a recruitment agency can do for you that you completely forget to consider what they’ve done for other people. An experienced recruitment agency should have a few successful placements under their belt. Ask about other clients that they’ve helped, and see if they’ve got any client testimonials for you to look through.


Never underestimate the power of instinct. You can usually get a good idea about how easy a recruitment agency will be to work with simply by firing emails back and forth or talking to agents on the phone.

If you feel comfortable communicating with them and you feel like they’re listening and taking your thoughts on board, then you can feel confident that the agency has your interests in mind.

Have you worked with a recruitment agency? What did you look for? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

See also: Freshminds is taking a fresh approach to recruitment consultancy

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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