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Q & A How to Find a Great Search Firm

Q & A

Q: Are people sometimes cautious of 'headhunters'?

A. Yes. However the industry has evolved over the last decade and steadily gained more respect. Now recruiters go to the same lengths that other professionals do to be certified by obtaining a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) designation.

Q: Is it appropriate to approach a professional recruiter or should the recruiter pursue the job seeker?

A: It is very common for both to occur. Our search firm, FGP International (Find Great People) has been building its own proprietary database of candidates and contacts for nearly 22 years. This has been done by active contact on our part as well as by referrals from those who respect our approach. If you contact a firm directly you need to do your homework before simply sending a resume. We are not "all alike".

Q: Which is best? Contingency or Retained?

A: Both types have merit. A Retained search firm is paid in advance and will typically be dealing with Executive and Senior level officials. Searches where the base salary start in the mid 100k area and exceed 300k. Contingency firms will work mostly on searches below those salary levels. Contingency firms are routinely paid only if the person they present is hired by the company. Each have their place.

Q: Say you are a candidate for a position. What is the next step after this?

A: After a recruiter presents your background to a potential employer, he or she should contact you frequently to keep you aware of where you are in the interview process. Routine cooperation and feedback is expected from the company, and the individual seeking a position. Once the client company desires to proceed with an interview the recruiter would facilitate the interview process.

Q: How do you know a search firm is right for you?

A: Investigate the firm to see if it is specialized in any industries or any particular niches. It is always best to contact the search firm that coincides with your area of professional interest. Once you begin working with a search firm, ask yourself these questions. How cooperative is the search firm with you? Will they give you feedback, and will they give it to you in a timely manner? Make a phone call first before sending a resume. Ask them to walk you through their standard approach of the placement process.

Q: Is the size of the firm important?

A: Multiple consultants mean a more diverse client base, and a larger network of client contacts. There are many of solo practitioners (recruiters who work alone) in this field. Unless the solo practitioner is known throughout the country, they will be limited in their effectiveness of placing because they are only one person. With eleven consultants, my firm, FGP International, can cross-sell to our client base across multiple disciplines.

Q: How can you tell if a search firm or consultant performed well in the past?

A: It's perfectly all right to ask. Find out what percentage of repeat business (from the companies) the firm has. If they don't have an answer, that's a good indication that it's not high and that may point to their ineffectiveness.

Q: What is the best way to evaluate an individual consultant?

A: Ask them their interview to hire ratio. The industry standard is between 4 and 7:1. If the number goes higher, then the consultant may have an inability to understand the job, the company, or the candidate's abilities when conducting the search, thereby introducing the wrong people on the wrong position.

Q: For job hunters that may want to entertain the idea of relocation, what is the best way to evaluate a search firm?

A: First, determine your own geographical focus. Then, pinpoint a search firm with a similar focus. Some firms are local and statewide, while others are national and international. A national or international search firm would be desirable, if your geographical preference is broad.

About The Author

Steve Hall has been a professional recruiter with Find Great People International (, in Greenville, South Carolina, for 14 years. He specializes in IT and manages consultants in apparel, finance and health care. Steve has averaged a 3 to 1 interview to hire ratio, while the industry standard is 7 to 1.

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