What Corporate Recruiters Really Want From A Staffing Agency

wasteLet me be really clear here to start this post off: I’m not hating on staffing agencies. In fact, far from it. I actually grew up on the agency side; I cut my teeth there. I made my bones there. And I clearly have watched Goodfellas like a hundred times too many. I’m grateful for my external recruitment experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That may come as a tremendous surprise to most of you, but as a technical recruiter working in-house, I get a lot of calls from agency recruiters. Like, a lot. And they suck.

Allow us to take a moment, to mourn for those whose heads just exploded from shock.

I want to give something back to the staffing agency world where I grew up. This is a “let me help me help you….help me” type of mini-festo.

More often than not, I tend to screen out the vast majority of staffing agency recruiting calls. The voicemails they leave behind provide some really good fodder for the team on really shitty days, and I’m constantly reminded of

A. Why I Left Staffing 

B. What NOT to do

These messages are too templated to be terrible. In fact, I could probably just replace the name of the recruiter and their staffing agency on each of those well scripted voicemails and it’d just sound like I had the same message on some sort of perpetual loop. But every so often, for reasons I’m not entirely sure I even understand, I feel like being punished. And occasionally, I answer agency calls. And then the games begin.

Hey, don’t judge me – a recruiter’s gotta have a little fun sometimes, too. Even if (especially if) it’s at the expense of other recruiters. I did 18 years in Catholic school as a kid, so I know a little something about self-loathing and guilt.

I get it that you’re just doing your job. You’re hungry and ambitious, and won’t take no for an answer. You’ve got numbers to meet and a quota to beat – whatever. Whatever gets you through the torment of constantly worrying about getting fired by your branch manager is fine by me. But some things are just unforgivable.

What’s even worse is that the things agency recruiters suck at the most are also the easiest to fix. So, stop being a robot dialing for dollars and clogging up voicemail boxes with some variation on the tired theme of your “unique and proprietary database with 16 trillion great candidates” and start being smart about how you engage with potential clients.

4 Ways To Suck Less When You’re Recruiting for A Staffing Agency

Here are some pretty good staffing agency rules for the recruiting road:

if_you_could_check_your_email-11. Don’t ask for my email.

Let me get this straight. You want me to shell out somewhere between 20-30% to have you help me find a candidate. When you call me and we have a conversation about a potential search, I’m not going to have a ton of confidence in your sourcing abilities if you have to ask for my e-mail. I’m asking you to find candidates that we either can’t find or don’t have the time to go out and get.

So, start off strong by showing me you know how to find or can figure out how to find my e-mail schema. Feel free to confirm it – it’ll impress me.

Oh, and if you aren’t yet familiar with tools that can help you find and verify e-mail addresses, learn up.

2. Intake Isn’t Just For Hospitals

fail-3Of course, I have a wealth of information about the role I’m taking out to search, since I kicked things off with the hiring manager when the role opened.

But when I reach the point of actually proactively enlisting outside help, one of two things is true: either the role has changed significantly, or I can’t grasp the gist of the role. If you’re a recruiter, you know what I’m talking about.There are ones you just can’t get your head around, really.

Either way, I want you to have access to the hiring manager so you can pick their brain about what their ideal candidate looks like.

On the inside (that’s what us agency-turned-corporate shills call it), we conduct intake meetings to get all of this information.

And yes, it’s important for you to do so, too, otherwise, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be doing much more than keyword hunting. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well consider yourself lucky that people like Glen Cathey and Stacy Zapar roam this earth with the sole purpose of making recruiting and sourcing exponentially more awesome.

3. Pull A Fake-Out? Get Out.

resized_the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world-meme-generator-i-dont-usually-take-a-long-lunch-but-if-it-happens-it-sure-as-hell-isn-t-a-hour-and-a-half-059a4fI’m going to be completely honest here: I hate managing people. It’s the least fun part of what I do. But mentoring? That’s what gets the creative Jamba Juice flowing. I love helping other really ambitious recruiters learn, grow and develop.

Helping them tap into a local network, or discover how to use one of those wizard-like tools the SourceCon crowd is always playing with is where I get my energy. So when a freshly minted agency professional approaches me to ask for time to network, have a conversation or ask a question, I’m always happy to oblige. Well, almost always.

Just don’t ask me to go to lunch for an hour under the guise of “I’d love to pick your brain” and have that turn into a 55 minute sales pitch. It’s disingenuous, dishonest, and pretty much kills any chance I’ll ever work with your company or send anyone your way.

4. Free Candidates: Inquire Within

nakedDon’t send me unsolicited candidates. Seriously. It’s that simple.

If we don’t have an agreement in place, I’m taking the information you send me and running with it. Trust me, you’ve given me enough to find the person in under 10 minutes, even if you do a half-assed attempt at concealing their identity. Never works, by the way.

Here’s what I don’t get. Why in the world would I buy the milk from you when you’ve already left the cow in my inbox? I get it…you want to prove you can nail the core candidate profile our company’s looking for.

But in reality, you have no idea how to describe what the hell it is we do beyond our tag line. You’re just matching keywords.

Actually, you know what? Keep sending those resumes to me.

Corporate and agency recruiters need each other to survive. It’s a fact. We live in a very delicate ecosystem where we have an interdependence on each other to do our jobs sometimes – like it or not. No one’s denying that. But if you’re an agency recruiter, you’ve got one of two choices: Ride along, live and eat well like the remora, or be relegated to bottom feeder status.

radloffAbout the Author: Pete Radloff has over 13 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, National Public Radio and Living Social.

With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Radloff also serves as lead consultant for Exaqueo, a high-end workforce consulting firm.  An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Radloff is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PJRadloff or connect with him on LinkedIn.




  • Stephen Nehez

    The people you describe are my competitors. I’m thankful for that. However, what you describe, by their actions, tends to lean itself to individuals who are most likely uncoachable. Therefore, your suggestions fall on deaf ears. Soon enough, they’ve fizz out and be replaced by another batch of schlubs. As the world turns….

    • Pete Radloff

      Probably right Stephen, but if we don’t give it a go, we’ll never change anything.

      • Paul Forel

        You can’t be serious! You just said you take advantage of the clueless by researching unsolicited resumes and then recruiting those people and in the same breath you say you want to help those same recruiters?

        Double talk in the extreme.

        You’re just another shark in the water, Pete.

        If you were sincere, you’d take those unsolicited resumes and return them with a note, chastising the recruiters for following the poor practice of sending resumes without approval in advance.

        You’re not anyone’s friend- you are just another recruiter.

        Paul Forel

        • Pete Radloff


          Thanks for the comment. Im not sure that I see the issue with it. I’ve tried to coach those folks, but to Stephen’s point above, it usually falls on deaf ears. So I’m going to take advantage of a free resume, yes. 9/10 The recruiters you email back don’t respond anyway. Almost 100% of the time, these are unsolicited and we have zero relationship. That’s a bonehead move on their part.

          It’s not my job to train them, that falls on their manager. My job is to hire the right people for our company.

          As for your dig about me being a shark in the water? I’m not going to stoop to name calling, but feel free to ask around about me and see if you get the same response. Highly, highly unlikely.

          • Paul Forel

            Hey, Pete, thanks for taking the time…

            First, to get the small stuff out of the way, please understand that all of us headhunters are ‘sharks in the water’. How we portray ourselves is up to each of us. My own clients and recruits would not think to characterize me as a shark but then, none of them are in our business.
            Our business is full of name calling, as you know- we go through that all the time. Get over yourself.

            My note overall is to say what a crack-up it is to see you post a blog that appears to be well-meaning until you remind [clueless/unprofessional] ‘recruiters’ that you will easily take advantage of their mistakes.

            So on the one hand, you giveth and on the other hand, you taketh away.

            That you say so publicly shows a lot of chutzpah.

            If you are going to take advantage of a ‘free resume’, then why do you bother to write a blog, letting us know you are ‘one of the guys’ when after all is said and done, you are not above picking up loose change off the sidewalk instead of looking for its rightful owner.

            You are playing both sides of the fence. If the people you are addressing are “boneheads” [that’s not name calling?] and are deaf, then why are you posting advice?

            Like I said, you are a game player. Admit.

            Gotta go, a F500 just said they’d take my resume and won’t hold it against me I’m not already on their vendor list. Must be my lucky day.

            KIss, Kiss.

          • Pete Radloff

            Good on ya Paul. I hope it all pans out for you.

          • Paul Forel

            Uh, Dude, you are the one who is talking out of both sides of your mouth.

            At least I don’t offer candy to the same people from whom I am going to swipe candidates.

            You remind me of that guy in the movie ‘Casino’ who spat into the cop’s sandwich before handing it to him.

          • derdiver

            Swipe candidates? They were offered up as a sacrifice! Your true lack of understanding of this profession tells me either you are not a recruiter or a truly poor one.

          • Paul Forel

            Look, Pete, your actions speak for themselves.

            First, you start off telling us you’re a regular guy, you used to be just like us, blah, blah, blah.

            Then you say you take advantage of anyone who leaves money on the table when the next person might instead:

            1. Return the email w/attached resume, chastising/advising that recruiter not to send unsolicited resumes since by law you can take advantage of them and hire their submitted candidates and not pay them;

            2. Delete the email w/attached resumes;

            3. Review the attached resume and if it had merit, continue the process as you normally would and if your company hired the candidate, pay the recruiter what they would be due.

            When you consider that in most cases, a hired candidate’s productivity reimburses the cost of the recruitment fee, you can do the ‘Christian’ thing and be a sport and pay for what you had been tendered.

            But no, you prefer to cop a freebie and justify it because the law allows it.

            Were a friend of yours to do something similar, would you follow this path? The answer of course, is no. You would hand the product back to your friend, teaching them how to follow procedure correctly.

            But in your corporate role, you either get your kicks by scoring a ‘free’ candidate and/or you can brag to your corporate highers about how you saved the company several thousand dollars. I suspect you do the research to identify the candidate yourself because you get a kick out of getting over on the ‘boneheads’ as you put it. The boneheads you claim to be endeavoring to coach.

            It’s a good cover, Pete, but it is too thin to not be transparent.

            So instead of starting off your blog by telling us what a swell guy you are, you are just like us, etc., etc. why don’t you just write a blog warning all the “boneheads” out there you are one of those corporate types who likes to take advantage of those who don’t realize they are putting their income at risk by sending unsolicited resumes?

            Then, you would have been speaking honestly and doing the unenlightened a favor.

  • derdiver

    Great post my man!!!

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  • There are some valid comments in your post – and we all know there are some really bad agency recruiters out there. But you know what, there are some really bad company/internal recruiters as well. Another blog could easily be written on how company/internal recruiters can be unethical, unprofessional and just plain bad. So it is amazing to me that you can say “I’m not hating on staffing agencies” while virtually the entire article is “hating on staffing agencies.” Let those without sin cast the first stone, Pete.

    • Pete Radloff

      Brian, I couldn’t agree with you more. There are bad apples on both sides. And have I goofed? Sure. Particularly back in my younger days. And I think that the corporate side deserves a lambasting as well (stay tuned, that’s in development)

      And it may seem contradictory given the tone of the article, but please be assured, that’s just more of my writing style. I fall into more of the “cant we all get along” crowd.

      Thanks for reading it!

      • Paul Forel

        You step on the faces of lame external recruiters and then you say “…can’t we all get along?”.

        Who’s kidding who?

        Pete, you are a hustler, pure and simple.

        As I said elsewhere, you could have taken Ray Liotta’s place in Goodfellas.

  • Jim Deorio

    Good to see you have such a high opinion of your self. Your condescending attitude towards Agency recruiters is extremely insulting. I can understand why you left the agency life and took your nice secure inhouse position, with your pompous attitude you probably couldn’t cut it in the real recruiting world. As an agency recruiter for almost 20 years I wouldn’t tolerate a glorified HR rep like yourself for 5 minutes…lots of other clients out there to work with who aren’t full of themselves.

    • Paul Forel


    • Pete Radloff

      Glorified HR Rep. Jim, that’s rich.

  • Orfie Krejberg

    Interesting post, Paul. What are the messages that staffing firms leave for you that would actually prompt you to work with them or return their call or even take their call. You touch on the mistakes they make, but what things do they do right that captures your attention in a good way?

    I’ve worked with quite a few HR Managers/Directors or Internal Recruiters who actually block me from connecting directly with the hiring manager. Sometimes it’s company protocol, but sometimes it feels like it’s they’re protecting themselves from looking bad and/or not wanting to relinquist that power. Either way, I completely agree that if a client reaches out to me for recruiting assistance, I plan on behing your partner and need you go give me what I need. You can’t send me to the store to buy groceries without a list of what to buy.

    I know plenty of in-house recruiters would easily look up any candidate resumes I send over, so I wouldn’t say that by you doing that it’s right or wrong. You’re taking advantage of having someone place information on your lap that’s there for the taking.

    • Paul Forel

      Hey, Orfie…

      Are you speaking to me or Pete? It sounds like you were speaking to Pete.

      You make some good points, assuming you are speaking to Pete.

      Anyone who posts, saying he is ‘one of us’ and then talks about how he takes advantage of ‘bonehead’ mistakes by newbie recruiters is a bum.

      • Pete Radloff

        Hey Paul, instead of trolling, maybe just hold tight until I come out with the counter-point post about what agencies want from corporate. And if you and Jim want to senselessly slander about my past performance, that’s cool. I sat at the top of the leaderboard for a Top 3 Global Staffing Firm for the better part of 3+ years. So I did just fine there. But please, feel free to keep on trolling.

        • Paul Forel

          Throwing dirt on the other guy will not save you, Pete. Misdirection is an old art form practiced by magicians and bs artists. By your own admission, you have low morals and don’t mind taking advantage of the cripples in our business. Like I said -read your own blog- you start off telling us how you are ‘one of the guys’ and then talk about how you take advantage of resumes that come to you unsolicited and work them instead of either schooling the lamers or simply hitting ‘delete’.

          As I said, if you had kept this to one message, coming right out and saying you take advantage of the sick, lame and lazy and let that be a warning and left out about how you are a ‘regular guy, just like us, etc.’, you would have been okay. We would call it ‘tough love’.

          You are not ‘like us’ when you take unsolicited resumes and process them, probably also claiming credit for having saved your company a recruitment fee.

          It can easily be anticipated you are busy and don’t have time to return unsolicited resumes, including a note about how not to do that, etc. but you clearly want your freebie cake and eat it, too.

          As you come right out and describe.

          Leave out the part about what a swell guy you are and just let’s leave it that you are a bottom feeder.

          “Hold tight”? What for? You don’t have anything to say we care to hear.

          You think you are the cat’s meow and I believe thou dost complain too much.

          We’re done here, Pete.

          – 30 –

    • Pete Radloff

      Orfie, you are correct. I didn’t address what things were good to do. And I’m not sure there is a magic bullet for that. But for starters, know my company and what we do. Ask me about our needs, versus assuming you know based on a public JD.

      Thanks for taking the time to read this, I appreciate it.

  • derdiver

    All I can say is that I have a very good feeling that Paul and Jim are mediocre recruiters at best.

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  • Sughania Calist

    Many vendors and/or end customers face problems with staffing agencies and many staffing agencies face problems with clients. To solve such issues and bring about a process adherence and transparency among the parties concerned, we have platforms like TRIM. For instance, if you are a client and you are looking for a good staffing agency, you can look them up at TRIM which not only tells about the history and ‘behavior’ of the staffing agency but can also give you a score based on their past performance or the lack of it. You can also raise tickets against any deviation from commitment or not living up to them.

Just add your e-mail!