jeff genovich


Throughout my career, I’ve heard lots of opinions on how to best engage a recruiting agency. One common fallacy seems to always rear its ugly head:

“The more recruiting agencies we engage, the more—and better—candidates we’ll attract.”

On the surface, it makes sense. But it actually demonstrates shallow thinking and a lack of strategic direction.

In reality, you can’t manage 100+ recruiting agencies. You can’t even manage 50, 20, or 10. Not if you actually want to get value out of those individual relationships. Which, let’s face it, is the whole point of engaging them in the first place. 

So rather than go broad, the solution is to go deep. Identify the gaps in your recruiting process. Then strategically engage agencies who are laser-focused on filling those gaps—and see why that specialization is often worth a larger percentage. 

Why companies don’t optimize their recruiting agencies’ value

The hard truth is that it’s far too easy to commoditize a recruiting agency. And since most pricing models don’t charge until after talent is placed, there’s no risk to have 100+ agencies “working” (so they say) on your behalf.

But those agencies are really only working for their most engaged (read: high ticket) customers. So the seemingly passive recruiting network is nothing more than an illusion.

This problem only gets worse the more vendors you engage. Once you pass 10+ agencies, you really only have time to blast out job postings, cross your fingers, and hope one or two come back with a candidate.

This leads to some serious problems:

  • No shared direction or strategy, so recruiters aren’t aware of the best ways to add value
  • Misaligned incentives between the party engaging the vendors (HR) and the hiring manager who’s feeling the pain of a lagging hiring process
  • Squeezing margins and pitting vendors against each other leads to a commoditized, non-strategic engagement
  • No clear outcomes means no clear measure of success—which means you can’t optimize your recruiting strategy

When recruiting agencies fail to perform under these conditions, the typical solution is to hire another agency. So the vicious cycle continues. 

Commoditizing your recruiting agencies exposes you to serious risk. Namely, lost revenue as high-value, mission-critical roles remain unfilled.

The alternative: a true recruiting partnership

Thankfully, there’s a better way to engage recruiting agencies: a true partnership. While this approach is slightly more costly (think 25%+ per placement) and only works with a small number of strategically chosen vendors, it’s more effective in the long run.

Clear, strategic value

Often recruiting agencies are seen as competing with your internal recruiting team. For strategic partners, however, this isn’t the case.

For example, your internal recruiting team may not be positioned to find and place highly technical, expert automotive engineers. Perhaps you especially need electrical or autonomous engineers, but your internal recruiters have no experience in that area.

In that situation, it’s a good idea to find a recruiting partner who can place those specific positions, but doesn’t step on your internal recruiters. When you clearly define value for every party, everyone can stay in their lanes and see success.

Actively market the roles

True recruiting partners don’t just read job descriptions, run a quick search in their ATS, and move on. Instead, they’ll find out everything they can about the role and what it takes for someone to be successful in it. 

Then, armed with that information, they’ll go out and actively market and sell the role. This process also includes selling the company, manager, culture, growth opportunities, and alignment with the candidate’s values and priorities—leading to more callbacks and faster placements.

Open, honest communication

I often tell potential clients here at Brightwing: if a recruiting partnership isn’t going to work, we’ll tell you. 

Partly because we don’t believe in lying to prospects. But also because if we’re not a good fit, it’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources. 

So when we start an engagement, we ask a ton of questions to get everyone’s expectations out into the open. We learn about their needs. And we only engage where we know we can provide value—not just short-term, but over the long haul.

Slow down to speed up

There are no hacks to recruiting highly skilled, in-demand specialists. Especially in engineering, finance, and operations. 

For most of our recruiters, it takes years to reach the point where they can place talent fast. They spend that time: 

  • Learning the industry
  • Learning about specific skill sets
  • Learning how to screen candidates for those skill sets
  • Learning about specific candidates and their needs and wants
  • Learning about open positions and finding alignment with their networks
  • Building relevant talent pipelines and referral networks

In some cases, recruiters will talk to a candidate for 5+ years before finding a job for them. 

During that time, they’re proactively building the relationship and offering as much support, guidance, and value as they can. So when those candidates are looking for a new job, who do you think they call first? 

This degree of loyalty isn’t something you’ll find with an agency that charges 15%. It takes time and resources to build these relationships. But the value and ROI is well worth a higher upfront price.

Final thoughts on building a recruiting partnership

Life’s too short not to maximize your recruiting partners’ value. And you can’t do that when you’re constantly commoditizing them. Instead, adopt a clear recruiting strategy, and only engage those vendors that add strategic value. 

Sure, it may cost slightly more in the short-term. But not only will you save time placing candidates, you’ll build a relationship that will continue delivering value—often in ways you don’t expect. 

At Brightwing, we’re looking to build strategic partnerships for the long haul. If you’re interested in how we can help, let’s get started today.

let’s talk