What to Look For in a Staffing Agency Before Working With It

We will start this article with a quick anecdote. While fairly unrelated to what to ask before working with a staffing agency, there is something to be said.

After the introductions and pleasantries of meeting with an old acquaintance, I asked them what they had been up to regarding work. Following an apparent sigh, the friend went into a tale about selling products via cold calls. Staring down into the bottom of an empty glass, he mentioned that it all felt iffy. What if he didn’t stand by his product? What if he didn’t think the asking price was correct? But what if he didn’t make rent?

After a few witty remarks (something I’m known for) and reassurances, the friend noted that that was just how sales went. Even if the company truly wasn’t the best product in the market, he still needed to say it. But something stuck with us both after that meeting. To what end is advertising truly moral?

And now you ask: what was the point of that, Tier2Tek?

Working with a staffing agency is like working with any company. Overall, you are being sold a product or service. Their claims of being the best in the business are just that: claims. While not attempting to state that those that boast are unprofessional or bad at their jobs, there are a few grains of salt that should be taken into consideration.

So, what actually makes a good staffing agency? How can you tell that a recruiter is reputable and serviceable before handing them business resources?

As a staffing agency with over a decade of experience, we are here to share some secrets. Let’s spill the beans on what to look for before working with a staffing agency.

What Are Your Intentions and Budget? Timeline and Wants?

Finding the right employment agency begins with understanding why you need an employment agency. Ultimately, this isn’t too hard of a concept to grasp and decipher. Your business is looking for help finding sustainable and reliable employees. But what are the terms for which you are hiring?

The first thing to note is what type of staffing you need. Some agencies focus on entirely other realms than others. While they may be able to help, you can find another that specializes in your industry and need. To further understand this, you need to understand both what type of employment you need and what type of employment it offers.

Here are the most common and general staffing types (though there are plenty of smaller and more intricate concepts available).

3 Most Common Staffing Types

Once you decide what type of staffing situation you are looking for, you can then start finding the best in that genre. For example, Tier2Tek Staffing focuses mostly on direct hire. If you decide you want direct hire, then you would look at us as an option based on our specialty. This goes for industry, too. Some agencies may focus specifically on blue-collar, white-collar, tech, and so on. If the agency doesn’t fit your business’ industry, it may be best to work with one that does.

What’s Your Budget and Timeline?

Some recruiters may take more time than others. Some may charge more than others. While blatant, we have to point out that you should keep these concepts in mind before working with a staffing agency.

Recruiting and hiring can be a lengthy and expensive process. Consequently, recruiters can be all over the map when it comes to fees and timeframes. There isn’t really a hard rule or average for either category. Just remember what your business wants and needs before starting your search.

If the agency website is unclear about what the pricing and contract are, but you feel as if they are reputable enough to work with, reach out to them. A representative should be able to answer all of your questions in a timely manner.

If the rep is rude, dodgy about pricing, or doesn’t respond in within a reasonable window, you may want to look elsewhere. That might be a bad sign.

Research Reviews

We are going to get the most obvious tip out of the way: research the staffing agency before working with them. It’s that simple.

Take a gander at the company’s Google My Business profile. Check their reviews on Yelp and other platforms. What are people saying? Are businesses reviewing them, or just employees? Does their website, pictures, and copy seem both professional and concise?

While this may not seem like some revolutionary tip, there is something to note. Staffing agencies work twofold. While you may be able to get a glimpse of a company and product via customer reviews, that won’t tell the whole story for recruiters. You need to see the opinions and anecdotes of both businesses and employees. For example, a staffing agency can treat a client business well but absolutely shun its temporary workers. So on and so forth.

Therefore, check out employee reviews on sites like Indeed. How did the hires feel about the staffing agency? After all, the staffing agency will be representing your business to employees and candidates. You don’t want them to be unsavory toward candidates.

What Guarantee and Safety Is There?

You always feel more comfortable with a significant purchase when there’s a warranty. This should go when working with a staffing agency, too. If you pay the agency upfront and they can’t provide quality candidates, do you receive a refund? If you hire a client and they don’t fit the bill, do you get free recruitment?

While some agencies may not display the intricacies of their charges and fees directly on their website, they should explain their safety or guarantee system. If not, make sure to ask them as one of your first inquiries. The safety of your investment should be one of your top priorities.

For example, here’s a section under our Our Process page:

Once we have found the perfect candidate for your company, we will begin the background check, benefits administration and payroll processing. Whatever you need to bring on the ideal candidate, we do. We take care of it all.

Finally, we continue communication throughout the candidate’s start. If you are not satisfied with the work we’ve done, we will find a replacement free of charge.

Not to toot our own horn, but you can see we are upfront with all of our policies. If we cannot find you the right hire or we bring you the wrong employee, we will find a replacement without any extra charges. Honesty is key.

Are They Willing to Learn About Your Industry or Position?

When you begin the conversing stages with a staffing agency, it’s important to note their communication and commitment to your needs. Before working with them, make sure they are willing to go above and beyond when headhunting and vetting your open roles.

A good hire is a good hire is a good hire. Right? Some agencies stand by this sentiment. While they hire for a multitude of industries, they look for the same overall qualities in a good hire. The old faithfuls of commitment, hardworking, great background, and extensive work history.

But the aforementioned qualities aren’t the only important skills (and soft skills) for your job. A fantastic designer with an excellent work ethic may not be the best fit for your customer service role. Don’t let staffing agencies jam square pegs with great intangibles into circle role holes.

Find a recruiter that truly cares about your business’ success and needs,
not one just trying to sell you on a service!

A serious and professional recruiter should take the time to learn everything about your needs. They should also have extensive knowledge of the corresponding industry or at least be asking questions regarding the industry and how it correlates to the skills for the position. If they are not inquisitive about your industry, needs, and specifics, then you may be barking up the wrong tree. You may end up with a recruiter that doesn’t know what makes a good hire in your industry.

No good.

How Large Is Their Talent Pool?


There are About 25,000 Recruiting
and Staffing Agencies in the U.S.

Source: Timerack

Another thing to notice before working with a staffing agency is where exactly their candidates are coming from. Are they just placing the job offer on job boards or do they have connections with local colleges and other industry-based platforms?

Overall, their website or informational copy should note how large and diverse their talent pool is. If they have been in business for a while, have a plethora of fantastic reviews, or are well-known in the community, then you are probably in good hands. They are probably pooling from a large list of professionals that reach out to them looking for work.

If the agency has a large talent pool or a well-known brand, they will be able to find you great hires faster than those without.

This isn’t to knock smaller agencies, though. We all have to start somewhere. Some agencies may not have been around long enough to gather a large collection of ongoing candidate talent, stellar reviews, or business connections. In fact, these smaller or newer agencies may charge less for services (and may be fantastic at their job), but expect the process to take a little longer.

If you are in a rush to find great candidates, you want to go with an agency that has a larger talent pool.

How Strong Is Their Communication

Here’s a big one. How good is the company at communicating with you?

Think of it this way: the recruitment process is going to be a bit arduous. You are going to need constant feedback from the recruiter for any further questions, updates, or human resources-related info. If you are dealing with temporary workers, you are going to need even more communication with the agency to make sure all paperwork and payments are handled properly. If the company is bad at communicating or responding, you are going to be in for a frustrating experience.

Firstly, keep an eye out for any reviews regarding lack of communication (whether from other businesses or employees). This should be a huge red flag.

Secondly, note how well the company responds to you during the inquiry and negotiation process. They don’t need to be immediate, per se, but you should be able to sense good communication skills. Are they quick, thorough, and well-explained?

If a recruiter drags their feet with you during the inquiry and negotiation process, you probably want to look elsewhere.

Questions to Ask Before Working With a Staffing Agency

“Recruiting should be viewed as a business partner, someone who is critical to the success of the business.”

– Matthew Caldwell.

Bonus round!

We have explained the main things to look out for when choosing a staffing agency, but what’s next? Once you start talking to the recruiter or representative about the process, your needs, and pricing, what should you ask about?

Let’s rapid-fire some important questions you should ask before making your final decision.

1. What’s their experience with your field?

If the agency isn’t specific to your industry, ask them if they have ever worked in it.

For example, if it’s an overall agency and you work in sales, ask if they have ever hired for sales positions before. If they are honest and state they haven’t, ask what they know about the position or if they are willing to learn.

In a way, you are interviewing the interviewer! Ask the recruiter if they are willing to put in the effort to learn about your specific business needs. Like we said, don’t let them sell you on a good ‘overall’ employee.

2. How do they handle bad placements?

A bad hire can be a detriment to your time, money, and existing team. Unfortunately, the best employment agency may whiff on an employee every once in a while. Sometimes it can be impossible to tell a bad fit during the interview process (a lot of candidates lie to get jobs, after all). While an expert recruiter should sniff these lies out, some slip through the cracks.

What does the agency do about bad hires? Do they handle the firing? Do they refund you?

3. Do they look for diversity and inclusion?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies are not only necessary but often within legality. If a staffing company bends outside of the law to discriminate during its vetting process, your business could end up in trouble. There are a plethora of laws when interviewing and hiring employees. Make sure they are professional in that regard.

If they seem uneasy regarding the question or have a history of issues, run.

4. What are your methods of searching?

Finding out how an agency finds its candidates can give you an overview of how successful they are. The agency should be able to quickly and professionally note all of its resources and how they handle them. This will give you an idea of their talent pool and former success and can give you a guess on their average timeline.

It’s also possible they have candidates in your field ready to work, especially if they specialize in your industry.

Once again, this is a chance to gauge their overall professionalism.

5. Do they handle their entire process?

Some staffing agencies only bring you candidates. Some agencies follow through the entire process, from vetting to hiring, acting as an extension of your HR department.

As mentioned before, it all depends on your business needs. If you only need help finding talent, then the former may be applicable to you. If you want a company to do everything from paperwork to drug testing, then you may need a full-service employment agency.

If you are a small business without an HR department, you might want to find a company willing to do it all for you (wink, wink. Like Tier2Tek).

6. What’s their take on company culture?

This is another general fielding question. You can get a sense of how much an employment agency cares about your business needs by asking about their thoughts on culture. Are they looking to hire a great employee, or are they looking to hire a great employee that fits your company’s existing culture?

Overall, you should care about company culture. Therefore, you should want a staffing agency to care about your company culture, too. If you are doing temporary hiring, a quick candidate that doesn’t fit in with your existing ideals can be a detriment to your workforce.

Interested in more info about company culture? We broke it down here.

7. How do they handle high-volume staffing? Is it a different process?

If you are looking for a ton of new hires or seasonal employees, you want to make sure the agency can handle it. Some agencies simply do not have the capability or manpower to handle high-volume staffing.

Also, how can the company make sure that all of the many hires are great employees? Is their process for high-volume staffing more in-depth? Does it take longer, or do they use multiple recruiters for one job?

There’s a lot to delve into if you are looking for a large number of candidates.

8. Will I be working with one recruiter or multiple?

Let’s get back to communication. It’s crucial to have great contact with the recruiter during the entire hiring (and after onboarding) process. Some companies will give you one specific recruiter for your job. They will be the one that handles everything regarding your account (recruiting, vetting, interviewing, paperwork, payment, and communication).

Some companies may have a plethora of recruiters on the job, especially if it’s a high-volume client.

Find out if you are going to have a dedicated account manager or a few specified recruiters. If you are hiring for a small number of roles, you might want the more personal experience. If you are hiring for a lot of roles, multiple recruiters can speed up the efficiency.

9. What do THEY look for in great candidates?

Oh, how the tables have turned!

While the majority of your conversations when working with a staffing agency should involve what you are looking for in a candidate, you can always ask the inverse. What does the recruitment agency consider a great candidate? What are they looking for overall?

Not only can this give you an idea of how professional the recruiter is, but it can also give you some new ideas on what you are looking for in an employee. Working with a staffing agency should be a back-and-forth process, after all.

10. What makes them special?

This is an overall question. Ask the staffing agency to sell themselves to you. Why should you work with them? It’s your business, after all.

Keep an eye (ear) out for any hyperbolic statements or obvious lies. An unprofessional company will try to sell you with ludicrous claims or blatant sales talk. Any extreme success or claims should be taken with a grain of salt.

Wow! We brought the article full circle! That’s a great way to end it.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, go with your gut feeling. Working with a staffing agency should never be a painful experience, and a legitimate agency will offer a guarantee or refund on any ongoing issues. While the time factor may be lost, you should never lose money, even if it’s a bad staffing agency.

Just stay aware of fair business practices:

  • Does the company seem legitimate?
  • Do they have good reviews?
  • Have they displayed great communication?
  • Do their recruiting specialties align with your needs?
  • Do they seem to care about your business’ success?
  • Do their prices and timeline align with your needs?