I started out in business as a techy geek, so I understand why technologists starting a new venture spend so much effort getting the product just right. Yet I've learned over time that building the business is all about having the right team members.

Thus I'm frustrated when I see founders pushing off recruiting, or jumping to quick and cheap solutions, like Craigslist and free job sites.

I'm fully convinced that you get what you pay for with people. That doesn't mean you need to hire an expensive recruiter for every position, but it does mean that you must put the same time and effort into finding rockstar people, as you do in building a rockstar solution.

I believe the quality of your employees becomes more and more critical to survival and growth as the business matures.

In fact, according to a new book, "Recruit Rockstars," by Jeff Hyman, ninety percent of business problems are actually recruiting problems in disguise.

Hyman started his career at the preeminent search firm Heidrick & Struggles, and has built four companies, so he knows the ropes. He and I both believe the right people are the most competitive advantage you can have in business.

He provides some great guidance from his experience, which I learned the hard way, on how to select the right recruiter, when you do decide to get some professional help finding the right people. Here are ten key questions you should ask in selecting any recruiter or firm:

1. What are your search successful completion metrics?  

Competent recruiters should be willing to share the percentage of searches that they actually complete. Numbers in the 80 to 90 percent range indicate market-leading efforts.

Other measures to gauge process efficiency include the interview-to-offer ratio, and the offer-to-close percentage.

2. What percentage of your hires have stayed two years? 

This is often referred to as the "stick" rate for new hires. Eighty percent or higher is a good starting point, since twenty-four months is the current national average for job tenure with a company.

Low numbers here may indicate poor vetting of candidates, or an inadequate search.

3. On average, how long does it take to complete a search?

The national average is 90 to 120 days. An efficient recruiter who isn't overloaded with searches can often do it in half that time. The longer the search takes, the more money you are losing by not having the position filled and productive.

This cost can far exceed any search firm retainer. 

4. How many searches are they working on concurrently?

You want to know if your search will be one of fifteen they're working on, or one of three. Good recruiters limit the number of concurrent searches, so they can give each one the proper personal attention.

You want efforts to contact ideal candidates, rather than a total reliance on tools and lists.

5. How involved is the recruiter in the search process? 

Some search firms hand off all the real work to interns or call centers. Good recruiters develop their own candidate list, are creative and smart about how to message your opportunity, and are persistent in their follow-up. This can make all the difference in attracting the right candidate.

6. What is their vetting process for candidates?  

Make sure the recruiter fully understands your expectation of competency and culture, and is able to integrate that into their selection process.

Find out who will be doing the interviews, how many rounds are expected, and whether the process will be done in person, by phone, or Skype video.

7. What are the rules and size of off-limits list? 

Usually a recruiter doing a search for a company will agree not to recruit anyone out of that company for another client for a certain period of time, usually a year or two. Thus larger search firms with large clients in your niche may not have access to the candidates you need to fill a specific role.

8, How will they position your company and opportunity?

To attract the best candidates, they need to differentiate your company and your opportunity. Ask the potential recruiter to prepare a draft of the message they will be using, and make sure you agree that it will be compelling.

Create job invitations, rather than job descriptions. 

9. Will they provide complete visibility to the pipeline?

Just because you intend to use a recruiter doesn't mean you can totally delegate the hiring process.

You should ask for a report on progress weekly, and take the time to review who has been contacted, vetting progress, and interview results. Only then can you provide timely input and adjustments.

10. What are the terms of any replacement guarantee? 

Most firms will recruit a new candidate for no additional fee, if the first one leaves or fails to perform. A guarantee of one month is not worth much, since this barely covers the honeymoon period. The best will offer a year, since poor fits and failures will certainly be evident by that time.

With these questions, and the commensurate work on your part, you too can attract rockstars who can really make your winning technology a leading business in the marketplace.

Life is too short to get halfway there, and be held back by team members who don't share your drive and commitment.

Published on: Dec 13, 2017