Ready for some good news? Across industries, hiring freezes are starting to lift. As many businesses recover from the first round of Covid-19 layoffs and begin to plan for and implement a strategy for the next quarter and beyond, we are seeing an increased number of companies entering a recruitment phase and hiring back the staff they once lost. 

While it can be tempting to cut costs and manage the hiring process internally, the truth is your leaders should be leading, not recruiting. Having your top managers spend valuable time scouting for talent in their LinkedIn networks isn't only a waste of their time, but it is also not a wise economic move. 

The alternative? It's time to get serious about investing in a well-connected recruitment firm to take over the grunt work and find the leads that are going to make your business thrive. But before you sign on the dotted line, you first have to do some digging. Not all recruitment firms are created equally, and even the most well-known and pricey options might not be a good fit for your needs. Here are five must-haves you should be looking for when vetting a potential recruitment agency. 

1. They have full-time employees and pay them a base salary

When you place your dollars behind an agency, you want to make certain that they have a dedicated team in place that's going to deliver quality results. 

Recruitment agencies are notorious for hiring contract or gig workers and paying them solely based on the number of successful placements they get. While this model may be incentivizing for some, you want to make sure that the agency has at least a few full-time employees as it shows that they are serious about investing in their internal team. 

Look for employers who have multiple full-time employees and do your research to make sure that those employees are paid a base salary. 

2. They have significant reach in your local area

Before you take meetings with the biggest and most expensive firms, consider what kind of reach they actually have in your geographic area. 

The top nationwide agencies are great at large-scale recruitment, but if you want to find top talent close to home you may be better off looking at more niche options. Not only does it feel great to be able to support a company with roots close to home, but you just can't fake that kind of boots-on-the-ground knowledge of your local job market and prospects.  

3. They have legitimate client reviews, not just pull-quotes on their website

We've all seen websites with splashy pull-quotes from clients that are raving about how amazing their services are. While these are great for initially attracting potential clients, make sure you are doing your due diligence and vetting the legitimacy of a firm's reviews. 

Ask for a list of clients who would be willing to give you five minutes of their time for a quick recap of their experience. If you cannot get a hold of anyone by phone, fire off a few emails or LinkedIn messages to confirm. The onus is on you to do the research, and make sure that all those nice things that prior clients are saying actually check out. 

4. They talk to and vet candidates before sending them over

You are hiring a recruitment firm to give you the best employee leads possible, which means you should expect more than just a list of names and resumes from their database. 

Before you invest your time going through your company's internal interview processes, clarify what the agency is actually committing to doing for your company. You want your recruitment agency to have individually contacted and screened each candidate prior to sending them your way. This will help weed out any initial surprises, as well as set your internal team up for success. 

5. They pull people that place

At the end of the day, when you're hiring a recruitment agency you want to make sure that you are getting bang for your buck. If they are feeding you candidates that don't quite fit the bill, it's time to set a meeting and pivot your strategy.

Don't forget, your recruitment firm should feel like an extension of your internal team. Look for an agency that excels in offering creative solutions to problems, creates strong and smooth communications lines, and actually pulls candidates that end up becoming your next unicorn employees.