How are your Candidates Treated by your Search Firm Partners?

Recently I facilitated a session on “Recruitment Trends and Best Practices” for a large group of senior Recruitment and HR leaders from a large global technology company at their annual HR Leadership offsite in Chicago.  This organization is one of the better ones I have worked with in terms of their focus and investment in talent.  They understand that the acquisition, development and engagement of talent is the number one priority for their HR team.  Their partners in the business look to them as experts in talent.  They don’t care about the traditional recruitment metrics so many companies get too focused on such as “cost per hire” and “time to fill”.  They see the acquisition and development of talent as an investment for their business and not as a cost.  Anyone who has worked with me knows that I share a very similar view when it comes to talent so working with this client over the past few months has been a great experience for everyone involved.

During my session with them, we spent a great deal of time discussing one of my favourite subjects – the candidate experience.  I could tell right away by the audience’s initial reaction to this subject that this wasn’t one of their leading practices…..which puts them on par with most organizations.  In their goal to invest and build a robust recruitment function focused on the acquisition of the best talent in the market they had neglected to look at their process from the candidates perspective.  A successful recruitment function must take into consideration the perspectives of the recruiters, the business leaders and the candidates in terms of each stakeholders’ experience throughout the process from beginning until the end.  Not a lot of organizations take the time to understand what their candidates go through in their hiring process – if they talk to any candidate, it’s usually the one who is hired so tough to separate the great feeling of being hired versus the actual experience they went through.  I have written a lot over the past years that organizations need to take the time to understand their function from a candidates’ perspective – it’s just not about the impact to recruitment but to your business as a whole.

This is a very reflective exercise for the HR and Recruitment leaders from the companies I work with on this subject.  We all have the advantage of being a candidate at some point in time so we have walked in their shoes and need to remember what was it like for us as a candidate.  Getting back to this session I was facilitating, we discussed all the areas of the function and process that they were concerned with in terms of a potential negative candidate experience.  What was very interesting to me was the one area of the function they failed to identify as possibly leading to a negative candidate experience was through their extensive use of search firms.

This organization leverages and invests in as many sourcing channels as possible to find talented candidates.  They partner with a large number of search firms not afraid of the monetary investment in this pricey sourcing channel.  Their interview, assessment, and selection process is one of the more comprehensive I have seen.  Everything this organization does within their recruitment function aligns directly to their HR Mission Statement of acquiring, developing and engaging top talent but when I asked the question of what was the experience of their candidates when sourced and presented by their search firm partners, none of the leadership team could answer.  They estimated that around 40% of their hires were through search firms and nobody had even thought about the impact to a candidate’s experience.

Again, thinking about the candidate experience in dealing with search firms can be a very reflective exercise.  Most of us have likely been contacted by a search firm or independent recruiter at one time in our career.  My experience has been both positive and negative – there are a few firms I really respect and appreciate the way they dealt with me but there are a larger number of firms who were frustrating to deal with as a candidate.  The great firms were the ones who treated me as a candidate with respect and provided timely and honest feedback and communication.  The poor firms  were the ones who seemed to be playing games with me and lacked transparency and timely communication.  How well do you know your search firm partners and the way they deal with your candidates?

Most organizations fail to realize that the search firms they partner with on candidate searches are an extension of their own employer and business brand.  You have given the search firm the authorization to represent your company in the market.  Search firms touch so many candidates throughout a search and most companies don’t spend the time to understand the search firm’s process and candidate messaging.   We hold our internal recruiters to high standards in terms of the way they communicate and manage candidates so why don’t we hold our search partners to the same standards.  When’s the last time you asked a candidate presented to you by a search firm how their experience was…..especially the candidates who didn’t get the job?


Simon Parkin is the Practice Leader for Recruitment and Talent Management at The Talent Company –     Simon is recognized as a global thought leader in the acquisition and management of top talent and has successfully transformed the Talent function for organizations of all sizes. Simon works closely with clients to build, develop and innovate their Recruitment, Talent and HR functions. He is a former global leader of Recruitment and Talent for a Fortune 100 company. Simon is a featured speaker at a number of HR and Recruitment conferences across North America and an author of many acclaimed articles on innovative Recruitment, Talent and HR trends and best practices.  Simon’s full profile can be found at


3 Comments to “How are your Candidates Treated by your Search Firm Partners?”

  1. Thanks for another interesting article. One of my assignments in my 30 year HR career with Imperial Oil was to manage our corporate recruitment function. Our primary focus at that time was on campus recruitment in the context of a fairly competitive labour market. Understanding that the recruitment process was the first point of contact for candidates we were determined to have the process be friendly, efficient and professional.

    We were not frequent users of search firms but I do know that we were not overly curious specifically about the candidate experience with those firms.

    On reflection it is clearly important to have a clear criteria for the ideal candidate experience and to apply those criteria to the selection of a search firm.

    I’ve recently been outlining a framework for the relationship with a search firm. I’d be pleased to share these with you.

  2. Hi Simon, thanks for sharing. This is an important topic that indeed gets overlooked. Your external vendors are partners and very valuable to the holistic experience for the candidates. These interactions will impact the experience positively or negatively, and can weigh heavily in an offer process. It is imperative that recruiting/talent advisors set clear expectations and service level parameters for both the corporate team and vendor. The “valued vendors” are an extension to your team when engaged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: