The owner of a growing digital agency recently asked me, “I was wondering if you might know of any good recruiters/talent placement consultants that work with agencies like ours. I am in a search process for a couple of positions.”
The key is that it depends on the role you’re recruiting for. People tend to specialize in particular areas—for instance, a technical recruiter might be great at sourcing developers and sysadmins, but not account managers or project managers.
Let’s look at my specific recommendations for contingent recruiters who work with marketing agencies. As with any vendor relationship, check references and ensure you’ve found the right match for you.
Full-Service: Hire a Contingent Recruiter
If you need someone to handle everything—that is, you sign a contract and they keep looking ’til they find someone—you should probably hire a contingent (commission-based) recruiter.
They find and pre-screen candidates, do initial interviews, negotiate salary, and do reference-check calls. For this, they charge a percentage of the candidate’s first-year salary. If they don’t find someone, they don’t get paid.
In the U.S., the norm is a 15-20% fee. I’ve seen some sales recruiters charge 30%, which seems ridiculous. Like a real estate agent’s commission, recruiting fees are negotiable—if it’s a low-demand position, you might be able to pay less; if it’s high-demand, they’re not going to budge.
I’ll share more on how to hire recruiters in a future article, including ways to align their and your incentives.
Recruiter Recommendations for Agencies
Here are the first people I’d call if I needed a contingent (commission-based) recruiter for an agency. These recruiters work across the U.S. and some work worldwide.
Salespeople & Account Managers
For agency sales recruiting, consider Steve Congdon at Thunderclap in Chicago. He’s broadened his focus from sales consulting to include recruiting as well. He also does strategy and account services recruiting, too.
Mirren—the agency bizdev resource provider—launched a new Mirren Talent service, which provides access to a nationwide database of sales candidates. You do the screening yourself, but it jumpstarts the sourcing process.
Creatives & Project Managers
Aquent focuses on temporary talent (where you pay them a marked-up labor fee), but they also have a temp-to-perm path that might be a good fit for many agencies. Under this program, you pay a recruiting fee to hire a temp full-time after they’ve worked for you a certain number of hours.
Web Developers & Mobile App Developers
For developers and other technical hires, try TEKsystems. But be sure you do the reference-check calls yourself, especially if for a full-time hire.
An Alternative: “Do It Yourself” (DIY) Recruiting
If you don’t want to pay a 15-20% fee, you can do the recruiting yourself. If you’re going to do “DIY” recruiting, I can help you screen candidates and structure your hiring process as an agency consultant or business coach.
I’ve done for this several clients as they’ve hired PMs, salespeople, and other roles. For instance, I recently helped a client avoid hiring a pathological liar.
But I don’t do full-service contingent recruiting—I can advise you on ways to save time and find better candidates, but you’re ultimately doing most of the legwork.
Depending on your budget and time priorities, you’ll need to decide whether to spend time (DIY, or DIY with help) or money (hire a contingent recruiter).
Summary for Your Agency
Here are the key points in hiring contingent recruiters for your marketing agency:
- Hire a recruiter who specializes in the functional area you’re hiring for (e.g., sales vs. creative vs. technical).
- Plan to pay a 15-20% recruiting fee, but know this is potentially negotiable.
- As with any vendor relationship, check the recruiter’s references and ensure you’ve found the right match for you. It’s not just the recruiting firm but also the recruiter him/herself.
- Consider a DIY recruiting approach to save the fee (but be ready to spend lots of time).
I’ll share more advice in a future article about how to screen and hire the recruiters themselves, including ways to align everyone’s incentives.
Question: What’s your experience with recruiters?