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Does it make sense for a small business to use a recruiter?

The question:

I own a small travel agency in Toronto and need to hire someone who has the potential to become my "second-in-command." I posted the job online and was flooded with responses, but none of them have what I need (at least on paper, anyway). I'm feeling a bit lost, and thought maybe I should bite the bullet and hire a recruiter. My question is, how much can I expect it to cost? I am working off of a small budget, and I'm trying to figure out if I can afford this. What if they can't find the right person for me, or what if the person I hire doesn't work out? Will a recruiter find a replacement? How does it all work?

The answer:

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You bring up a great query, because people often tend to associate recruiters only with large multinational companies. It can be argued however that recruitment support for small to medium-sized businesses can be even more valuable in impacting a company's bottom line, given the pivotal roles many of their employees play.

Consider the following in determining whether a recruiter is right for you:

First, how much is your personal time worth? As you've discovered, the recruitment process takes up a lot of time: screening hundreds of résumés, short-listing candidates, scheduling and conducting interviews, checking references, negotiating contracts and salaries, etc. The recruitment industry was born out of a need to manage these processes.

Is it worthwhile for you to get external support for these strategic and administrative services, so you can focus on what you do best – building your business?

Second, once you've determined what your own time is worth, evaluate how much of a monetary investment is worthwhile for you to secure the best possible candidate through a recruiter's expertise.

Recruiters can interview close to 1,500 people a year. Good recruiters with experience have keen eyes for reading people. They can pinpoint a job seeker's motivations and intentions, match people's fit to company needs, and maximize contract and salary negotiations. In hiring your second-in-command, ask yourself: Will that precise hiring expertise and associated costs help grow my business?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it makes sense for you to consider a recruiter.

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The best approach is to work with one recruiter exclusively. He or she will make you a priority, and will work harder to get you the best talent.

Cost-wise, a recruiter's fee is usually based on a percentage of your new hire's salary. Keep in mind, with firms that operate on contingency, those fees are only paid once your recruiter has successfully found a candidate who you hire. It actually won't cost you anything if a recruiter can't find the right talent for you. We essentially work for free, until you hire someone we've found for you.

Many recruiters specialize in niche sectors, so choose a recruiter in your area who specializes in your industry. They are more likely to be connected to your industry's best talent.

Last but not least, what if a new hire doesn't work out? Ask your recruiter what their policy is on unsuccessful hires. Most companies offer a replacement guarantee within the first three-month probationary period in case the new hire doesn't work out.

Best of luck in your upcoming hiring journey!

Julie Labrie is the vice-president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto.

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About the Author
Globe Careers recruitment expert

Julie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions. After 14 years of recruiting top talent, she is a veteran in her field. Fluent in both English and French, Julie also provides bilingual placement and expertise. She works closely with both business and HR executives and job candidates, and can offer insights into the strategies, nuances and psychology of the hiring process. More

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