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Let me begin by saying that the following article is intended to provide a brief outline of the benefits of building a longer-term relationship with a trusted recruitment agency.  A few readers may feel like turning off at this point.  Unfortunately the reputation of the recruitment industry doesn’t help encourage trust or even an expectation of it.  Use what I set out here as a starting point to how a hiring manager can see past the smoke and mirrors to gauge which agencies are worth talking to as potential partners and which aren’t.

In the past, too many businesses have prioritised short-term profit maximisation or appeared to see how little they could get away with whilst still justifying their fee.  Far too many hiring managers have been left with the frustration of piles of inappropriate CVs through which they need to trawl or worse still wasted time for candidates and hiring managers when someone is set-up for an interview where they have no chance.  I sympathise with the frustration of leaders seeing so little effort or understanding from their agency, no wonder some have given up all together and tried a DIY route on LinkedIn or their own website.

At the risk of seeking of seeking empathy for the apparent villain of this piece, this wide spread bad practise has also caused frustrations for those reputable businesses seeking to do a good job.  Their first barrier is getting heard or standing out as any different to the charlatans.  When they do get an opportunity to speak with a hiring manager, a culture of distrust of just low expectations can mean their discussion stays just transactional, covering one or two job descriptions at a cursory level.  This actually increases the risk that this well-meaning agency won’t fully understand everything the hiring manager needs and so may inadvertently repeat the bad experience of an inappropriate candidate suggestion despite their best efforts.  If they do achieve a good match and start to build trust with a particular hiring manager, in recent years they may then face of centralised review by a Procurement department focused just on driving down costs without looking at the quality of services delivered.

Our sorry tale doesn’t sound too promising does it? However, the good news is that if it were all doom and gloom then MBN Solutions wouldn’t be thriving and growing, which is it.  Businesses like ours have managed to make a difference and show what can be delivered.  We are also very grateful to our customers, hiring managers, who have been brave enough to take the plunge, experience a true partnership and often fight battles internally to ensure they continue to get real service.  The good news is the reward we see they gain, through analysts we placed who go on to thrive in their career and are now coming back to us as hiring managers themselves.

So, how can a hiring manager see past the smoke and mirrors to gauge which agencies are worth talking to as potential partners?

We’ve seen three tests applied effectively:

  • Does the agency understand the roles you are talking about? Test them on their knowledge of the discipline and skills needed.
  • Talk to those who have used them before.  Ask for one or two references and talk to those hiring managers about their experience.
  • Meet face to face.  It sounds terribly “old school” but in a people business chemistry matters – meet up for a coffee and chat to test your gut reaction.

Once you’ve identified an agency that appears to be “one of the good guys” and knows what they are doing, then comes the task of identifying the principles of forming a mutually beneficial partnership that give you better advice over the years.  Here are a few behaviours we have found help both sides help one another:

  • Be honest about where your strengths lie, explaining your specialisms and where you still need to learn or grow.
  • Take time to listen to the client.  Rather than thinking of the next fee, listen to understand, so you grasp the challenge and vision from their side.
  • Share what you know, whether through putting on events or connecting people or just thinking creatively when you get these crisis calls.

Our industry may not be quite as damned as politicians, journalists and bankers, but at times it isn’t far behind.  MBN Solutions seeks to be different and grow through our clients experiencing that difference in service.  If you would like a confidential chat with one of our consultants, email us at