Why do some companies ask recruitment agencies for a ‘search and select’ service?

Recruitment agencies who provide a ‘search and selection’ service do, well, exactly what they say they do. If a company needs a job opportunity filled urgently, then ‘search and selection’ agencies will be used to search for the best candidates and select the best people to submit to the employer.

Trying to find suitable candidates for job vacancies can be a tricky process, especially if a specific job requires a niche mix of skills. For busy companies, the meticulous search and selection of candidates can exhaust a lot of time and resources. Therefore, a lot of companies will hire recruitment agencies to do the job for them. This saves a lot of time and hassle for the company, and lets them get on with other things.

How does a search and selection agency get paid?

Understandably, recruitment agencies do not do this out of the kindness of their hearts, so they are normally paid a fee for their services. This fee can come in different forms, but usually it is dependent on two things: the contract term of the specific job (i.e. permanent, fixed-term contract, contract or temporary) and the salary (or contract/temporary pay rate) that the candidate will be earning.

The fee is usually calculated in terms of a percentage. Therefore, the recruitment agency earns more money if the candidate is getting paid more. The individual recruitment consultant who finds and places the candidate then gets a cut of the fee. This commission is added to their basic salary, so if a recruitment consultant does a lot of deals then they can earn a lot more money.

Sounds great, but it’s not that simple. It is very rare that a company will only ask one agency to find them candidates. It may seem a bit cheeky, but the company tends to only pay the agency once they have found them the candidate (understandable really!).

This means that they can get as many agencies as possible looking for the best candidates and then only end up paying one of them. This breeds healthy competition between recruitment agencies and makes them work even harder to find the best people for the job.

How does the search and selection process work?

The various agencies will all normally receive the job description at the same time. Then the heat is on! Once the role is released, it’s all about using speed, cunning and persuasion to find the most suitable candidates and to get them to agree to being represented by you.

Search and selection agencies tend to use their own personal CV database and internet jobsites to conduct keyword searches, which help them find relevant CVs. It’s then down to the recruitment consultants to contact prospective candidates, convince them to go forward for the job and conduct initial telephone interviews with them to assess their genuine suitability.

Usually, each agency can only submit a limited number of candidates for each role. If a candidate is selected for interview and then eventually offered the job, the recruitment consultant will guide them through the process, helping them to be as prepared and well-informed as possible. After the candidate has started the job (or sometimes after they have finished their probationary period) the recruitment agency will finally be paid their fee. Phew!

High-street vs. office-based search and selection agencies

Search and selection agencies tend to come in two forms: high street and office-based. High street agencies tend to deal face-to-face with candidates who walk in off the street. They then work to match their ever-burgeoning pool of candidates with a broad range of job roles. These roles often tend to be less highly-specialised.

Office-based agencies tend to focus on very specific areas of the job market. They become specialists in finding candidates with very specific skills (e.g. I.T. consultants) or people that work in particular sectors (e.g. the public sector).

What roles make up search and selection recruitment?

Various careers are available in search and selection recruitment, but they tend to fall into three main areas:

  • Resourcers/trainee consultants tend to be the more ‘junior’ team members. These guys deal primarily with the candidates and not directly with the clients. Resourcers do the real leg work by searching for the candidates and contacting them in the first instance. This is a great way to start in the industry, as you can learn more about it as you work your way up the ranks.
  • Recruitment consultants/account managers are generally in charge of various client accounts. It’s their job to build and maintain client relationships. This ensures that job requirements are continuously given to their agency. They also have the final say in deciding which candidates are sent forward for each job opportunity.
  • Business development consultants attempt to gain new business for the agency by expanding the client roster. This job is more sales-focused and can involve cold-calling, making sales pitches and going to business meetings.

Whether you decide to work in a recruitment role in an office-based or high street environment, you essentially get the best of both worlds: you help deserving people to find employment, and you get to balance that with the thrill of getting commission.

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