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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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