Finding a Recruiting Partner

Recruiting Salmela

In a recent post, I outlined the basic differences between Contingency and Retained search firms. 

Before you pick through the digital pile of pitches from recruiters in your inbox, take a deep breath. You can be discerning and informed with a few simple preparations.

Here’s a framework for how to develop a list of third-party recruiting firms.

  1. Talk to me first. Forgive me a shameless pitch, but you’re reading this aren’t you? I’d be happy to talk to you about your options and determine if my team at Salmela might be a good fit for your search project. I will be open if we are not a good fit and I might know a search firm that would be better for your needs.
  2. Networking: Chances are, your colleagues have worked with a variety of recruiters in the past, either as a candidate or client. Ask people you trust who they’ve worked with. Glowing endorsements and lukewarm shrugs from your peers can tell you a lot about which paths to pursue and which to avoid.
  3. Pay Attention: Recruiters who may be a good fit for you might feel the same already! Take a discerning look at your inbox and direct messages. Recruiters who may be passively marketing to you by commenting on your posts, sending you candidate profiles, and even direct marketing material likely have identified some alignment with your company already. Recruiting firms who are actively marketing usually have their act together.
  4. Put yourself out there: If your personal networking hasn’t revealed any good leads, you can also go broader. A quick LinkedIn post seeking proposals can generate a ton of leads and conversations. Open your door and ask for proposals.
  5. Search on LinkedIn: Just like seeking a candidate for a role, you can find recruiters in the same way. Look at recruiter profiles, paying close attention to the mutual connections you share and who is in their network. For every industry, there is a recruiter who specializes in that niche talent pool. Look for alignments in their connections and the content they post & interact with. If you really want to deep dive, you can search LinkedIn with a boolean search.
  6. Ask your Current Employees: There is no one more invested in attracting top talent to your company than your current employees. If you aren’t asking them for candidate referrals and paying them for successful hires, you should. The same is true leveraging their experience with strong recruiters they have worked with in the past. Don’t feel sheepish about asking them for that referral. You’ll want your team to be involved in the hiring process; bringing in a recruiter with an existing personal and professional bond can help make that eventual partnership far more productive.

Once you’ve filled your calendar with some introductory calls with recruiters, treat the process similarly to a job interview. Below are a standard set of questions you can use to winnow down your pool of contingent and retained recruiters.  (If you need a refresher on the differences between the two services, check out my earlier post.)

Contingency Firms

  1. What is their niche? What percentage of total placements and time are spent working on projects with the same title/candidate expertise of your search projects?
  2. Do they have candidates in play at this time who would fit the search criteria?
  3. What is their process in prioritizing search projects?
  4. What is their average time to fill?

Retained Firms

  1. How many projects do their recruiters work on at one time?
  2. What is their process? Get into the details of how they work and their expectations of your hiring team.
  3. How many niches do they cover? Retained firms tend to cover more industries and titles than contingency firms.
  4. What is their average time to fill?

These questions are just a starting point. You should tweak them as needed, especially if your hiring team has specific concerns. You should also feel empowered to seek references from the recruiters and the same sets of questions could be reframed to their former clients.

This may feel like a big task, but going in as an informed client will absolutely save you the time and frustration of failed searches and languishing open roles.

As always, I’m open for a chat about your needs. Please drop me a line and we can work out what works best for your team.

Cory Salmela
[email protected]LinkedInTxt

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash



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Ciera is a born-and-raised Duluthian who recently graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. When she isn’t designing the Salmela website or sending emails, she doubles as an actress! With over 15 years of acting experience, Ciera brings her creative artistry and understanding of people to her work at Salmela.

Madison is a marketing maven with a mastery of magnificent messaging. She brightens every room with her positive attitude and joins Salmela to explore the digital corners on every search. If you’re having a first conversation with one of us, Madison is probably the reason why!

Ryan is an Emmy-award winning news producer with a strong history in the performing arts. Funny and outgoing, he’ll meet you with a journalist’s curiosity and actor’s joie de vivre.

Meghan brings her previous advertising agency experience to Salmela. She is a natural-born conversationalist and delights in every interaction with candidates and clients alike. Meghan can find something in common or a shared interest with just about anyone. (No really, it’s AMAZING.) She is also a foodie, loves cooking, and is always looking for the next opportunity to try an adventurous recipe.

Kate joins Salmela after a decade of non-profit arts leadership, where she shared her passion for building community, education, inclusiveness, and arts access. Her superpower is helping professionals identify their strengths and set them on a course for greater success. After work, she can be found reading Shakespeare, doing yoga, or prepping the next generation of theatre stars for college.

Cory spends his day advising senior leaders on talent acquisition strategy. He is happiest on his bike, skis, or helping his daughters rehearse lines. He began his career as a National Team Coach for the U.S. Ski Biathlon Team, followed by experience in pharma sales. In 2005, he founded Salmela. Today, Salmela places leaders across the healthcare industry. Salmela is the go-to vendor across marcomm disciplines in healthcare and beyond.

Chief Financial Officer, Olympian, and Health Coach, what can’t she do? When Kara is not managing the Salmela Financials, she spends her days educating and supporting people as a health coach. If that wasn’t cool enough, she also competed as an American biathlete at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

Megan focuses on individual career wellness and team development for the healthcare advertising industry. As a natural networker, and with a career background in health/wellness and international corporate project management, Megan has the experience necessary to understand your needs. She enjoys being outside with her family, volunteering in the community, trail running and practicing yoga.

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