Selection of the recruitment agency (2/2)

Recruitment agencies in Ukraine:

peculiarities of the national selection

How to select the recruitment agency 

Part 1

Part 2 Peculiarities of the national selection


How to select a recruitment agency, when practically each of them tells that it has:

- long-term experience,

- extensive database,

- individual approach,

- great list of satisfied clients,

and other standard marketing advantages…

Let’s puzzle out and distinguish really important selection criteria from phony ones.



  1. Scale of an agency. Is it important? Most likely – no.

The recruitment agencies may vary from 1-2 to 20-30 persons, from freelancers to "daughters” of Western recruitment nets...

The average (by staff) Ukrainian agency has 3-5 recruiters and 1-3 auxiliary employees. However, some quite successful agencies of only 3-5 persons are known.  

On one hand, a large-scale agency may be more experienced (good time is required for a good scale), but on the other hand the recruiters skill in such agencies may be very different and unpredictable.  During the market fall the majority of agencies experiences alternation of generations and employee turnover at clients lack is quite natural occurrence.

 Much as a law firm of two people (lawyer and secretary) may be well known and have a circle of influential customers, the small-scale agency may be able to render you a more personified service. Sometimes because they simply have a short list of clients. By the way, this means that their "hands-off list” is also short, i.e. they are freer in enticement of employees.


  1. Western or domestic brand?

Since I know the recruitment market of Ukraine very thoroughly (probably, as no other knows), I can assert that:

- the English name of a company is not always a certificate of its "western” origin;

- the Western affiliation may be quite formal – sometimes on terms of franchising, rather often – at  certain payment for the Western name usage. Naturally, the expenses on the "international affiliation” are repaid by the services premium price.

 - the "Western affiliation” may be fictitious at all. Some recruitment agencies enjoy confidence of an Ukrainian consumer to all subjects of the "Western” origin and simulate their Western affiliation and "worldwide scale”,  believing (often not unfounded) that there will be nobody to examine this legend…

3.      Client-list, its length and logotypes of well-known companies in it. It is also cannot be an index of the company’s reliability.

To verify the reality and successfulness of previous cooperation with any known to you company is problematic without having direct links with its manager. Especially, if to take into account that the company’s internal HR-employees, who contacted with you formerly, used to change their job more frequently, then recruiters. Not a trace remains…

Another aspect:  for taking the well-known brand company and putting its logotype into its own site and presentation, some agencies are ready to accept any order from such company for symbolic pay.

In other words, the similar agency "Pupkin Staff” can find, for instance, a yardman for Microsoft Company and now can put a logotype of such great "client” into all of its materials. Who will check the actual level of their collaboration? The Microsoft’s HR-manager contacted with the "Pupkin”’s people some years ago doesn’t work there now…The agency, quite naturally, will confirm the fact of collaboration, but will keep silence as to the present state of mutual relations (it is confidential, you know…). And it is yet more or less honest method of hyping. присутствовать


4.      Record of service in the market. Who will check? Who keep watch on the "Pupkin Staff” agen-cy and can confirm that it is working from 1995 (according to their site) and not from 2007 (actually).

When any manager tries to sell any service and declares that its agency is present in the market within 15-20 years, I remember a phrase of a well-known football coach. "It is not very important which is the name of your team. The talents of your players are important. The British premier-league has several teams of more than 100 years of age, which never were champions of the league”. 

Taking into account that statistically-average recruiter of Ukrainian agency is a girl of 25-30 years of age (as distinct from the Western one, who is usually a man of 30-45 years), the age of the brand should be evaluated from the viewpoint of possible accumulation of knowledge, database and technologies to be transferred from generation to generation… In any case, I would like to recommend consideration of the age and experience of recruiters, but not the agency’s age, verification of which id problematic. The logic is quite simple: the older is a recruiter, the better is its experience and his judge of characters…  

  1. With or without prepayment? 

Before the crisis the relation between the agencies:

a) taking a prepayment (10-30% of the total sum) and

b) not taking a prepayment, was about 50\50.

At present the percentage of the b)-agencies is naturally increased.

Is it a criterion of selection? По собственной инициативе

If the company is almost confident that it can find the required candidate autonomously, and the agency is invited only "just to be safe”, so, probably – yes. But maybe the agency will find the real "star” for us? - than let’s try to bargain.

However, if the agency is considered as a constant partner and the most valuable resources – human resources – are entrusted to it, an enthusiasm and loyalty of this agency should be stimulated from the very beginning. In this case the recruiters’ attention to the request will be more serious and responsible. The agency will search for the vacancy not according to the principle "if we will succeed – OK! If no – not a big deal”, it will try to fulfill the prepaid liabilities. I initiate, for instance, upon my own initiative a prepayment for my employees (designers, freelancers, programmers…) believing that my request will not be put into the old oak chest, but will be in the upper file of respective executor.  And besides, now I have the right to monitor the progress of the work and require acceleration.  


  1. Database volume – is it important?

One agency may disclose its database volume as 20000 specialists, another – as 5000; there are agencies even with a declared volume of 50000. Is it great? Who knows… After all, the client needs only a single person. And how this wealth may be verified? Nobody knows…The database is the holy of holies and an access to it is closed and locked.

Even if you could check number of resumes in the database, its volume is not essential. Not quantity is important in this case, but quality, as well as ability to use this database properly. 

You should understand that at present many applicants who sent their resumes some time (years?) ago:

-          scarcely keep desire to change their job;

-          have changed already the profession or position;

-          have changed phone, address or even the country;

-          are pensioners or  even - God forbid! – are dead;

-          are simply inaccessible.

Besides, many applicants used to send their resumes every year (or more frequently), so the database may store 5-6 resumes for a single man. Story of its life

The database is becoming obsolete like a living organism and changes rather quickly. The database volume matters (in other words it can accelerate closing of a vacancy), as was already said, at ability to use this database properly:

а) the agency uses so called active methods of recruitment, but not only "screening” of resumes taken out of Internet and database; i.e. the agency uses the database as a source of new contacts and recommendations to create a recruiting net for rare specialists;

b) the agency is specializing in your branch, your business direction, gathering an actual base of rare specialists.

In majority of other cases the agency is forced each time to create mini-database for each new project.


  1. Specialized or universal agency?

In the Europe the answer could be unambiguous. If in London alone several thousand of recruitment agencies exist, the market forced them long ago to sprawl into numerous slender niches under branch or profession criteria. As to our country, the branch specialization of agencies is only starting to be formed. Such agencies are numbered by unities, not by tens or hundreds (in financing, pharmacy and IT-spheres). Besides, our specialization is frequently a question of positioning, separation from competitors, but not a real advantage for clients…I don’t think that any agency of bookkeepers specialization will reject a request to find an engineer. Certainly, the specialized agency is useful at a search for rare specialists.  But if you need "a chief cook and bottle washer”, technologist and programmer? Appeal to several agencies is inconvenient   

On the other hand, inside some middle-size and great-size "universal” agencies an internal specialization of recruiters is arising gradually in accordance with demand/offer laws. One recruiter searches better for engineers, another – for programmer, and somebody else – for cookers… So, if you need many vacancies, it is better to use such universal agency with internal specialization.  


How they do it in the West?

In the Europe and USA the market of recruitment agencies is divided conventionally into two large groups on the basis of the service payment scheme.

1. Agencies with phased payment (about 30-35% of the market), which could name themselves as Executive Search-Agencies or Retainer Agencies. Their specialization are managers and rare specialists with annual salary of USD75’000 or more. The search is going on within 90-120 days, usually all over the country or even the whole world. The payment is made according to a schedule, independently on the final employment of a candidate. Typical payment schedule: irrevocable prepayment of 33% before starting the search; the next 33% - after 30-60 days against presentation of the first list of candidates and report on the developed market of candidates; and the last 34% - against presentation of the final report and final list of candidates or employment of any candidate.

 As a rule, these agencies work with a client exclusively in order to escape "squash” in the market of

such candidates.

2. Agencies of mass search or "Contingency Recruiters” occupy 60-70% of the market:

-          the agency’s service is paid usually against the fact of the candidate employment by the company-client;

-          the agency doesn’t guarantee the final result and full research of the market ("contingency” is translated into Russian  as "случайность);

-          the annual salary of positions don’t excess usually USD 70’000;

-          an exclusive is not foreseen, and frequently such agencies compete with others (in ASAP terms); their task is to claim candidates for the client as soon and as much as possible, before they could be claimed by competitors…

However, the first group agencies work from time to time under a scheme of the second one in order not to lose a client. And at the same time the second group agencies conclude contracts of exclusive type with the phased payment…


So, how to select an agency after all?


Ask an advice. From everyone.  From your colleagues, friends, clients of another reliable agency, association of recruitment agencies. From me J. Look through the media and Internet…

Thrust your intuition. You have to feel at ease with the selected agency. How much were they  interested? How the first presentation was conducted? Did they respond quickly? What is your impression? How professionally they explained the scheme of work, their advantages and nuances of cooperation? Put some tricky questions – how they will be answered?  Make a talking with director, with recruiter.   If no sympathy has arisen in your heart, you are not fated…


Be average-price-oriented. If you pay above the average level, you pay probably for the "brand”,  for entourage and their "skill in sales”. On the other hand, if you hunt for cheapness, there is a risk to deal with young and inexperienced recruiters, who clutch at any work trying to save its place in the market.  Ask them about methods of their work. If they differ only very slightly from methods of your HR- people, maybe there is no reason to give money to this agency…


Try. If you have time, give them 1-2 simple vacancies on approbation. Evaluate technology of the process and quality of the result. If you get lot of vacancies, but you have no contact with recruitment agencies before, made an attempt to work with several of them simultaneously. Within 3-4 weeks you will understand who suits you…



Sergey Yanovich Belyaev,

НАВИГАТОР®, Consulting Company

Association of Recruitment and Personnel Agencies

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