How do you select your recruitment partners?

With recruitment consultants currently "jostling" for business, deciding which one to use can be a daunting task for HR, says trainer Ross Clennett.

Most hiring managers, he says in a recent newsletter, are "faced with a blanket of white noise that has only minor variations on 'We're a boutique, specialist recruiter with a focus on high quality client and candidate service'", he says.

Clennett says managers who want the services of a high-quality external recruiter should look for one that:

# Is a specialist - "Evidence of delivering great candidates for roles that are similar to your vacancy is an indication that they can access appropriate candidates quickly."

# Asks great questions - "Anyone can take a job brief. A skilled recruiter will ask you probing, relevant and thoughtful questions about the vacancy, your selection criteria and your organisation's operations and culture."

# Respectfully challenges you - "A recruiter who is prepared to professionally question some of your opinions or requirements, with respect to your selection criteria and desired remuneration or skills mix, is most likely to be a recruiter who is prepared, when necessary, to be unpopular in order to deliver the best outcome for all concerned."

# Uses a wide variety of sourcing strategies - "Does this recruiter just 'post-and-pray' on job boards and give their database a perfunctory search, or will they use other sourcing techniques to access candidates that other recruiters cannot?"

# Conducts thorough evidence-based interviews - "A recruiter who uses evidence-based interview techniques can provide facts rather than opinions about how a short-listed candidate's skills, competencies and motivation closely match the key selection criteria for your vacancy."

# Undertakes basic background checks - "Depending upon which research you believe, between 20 and 40 per cent of candidates have resumes that contain one or more significant inaccuracies and/or omissions. Recruiters should be explicit in communicating what background checks have been undertaken on the candidate prior to referring them to you."

# Will be straight with you - "When I was a recruiter, a client once said to me that she always came back to me because I was prepared to tell her when I didn't have the candidate she wanted, rather than try and talk her into interviewing a candidate who was never going to be good enough."

# Is prepared to invest time in building a relationship - "How has the recruiter built their key client relationships in the past? What else of value has the recruiter provided to other clients, beyond candidates? It's not worth investing your time with a recruiter unless they can demonstrate they have done 'the hard yards' in building relationships with other clients."

Clennett recommends that HR and hiring managers discover all of this information by constructing a simple "recruiter interview template".

After gathering all the necessary facts they are better placed to make an informed choice when comparing different recruiters, he says.

He adds: "I would recommend each recruiter be given a chance to be heard on their own merits. Just because they work for a little-known company doesn't mean they aren't any good, and conversely working for a household-name recruiter is no guarantee of quality."