What to Ask When Selecting a Recruiting Agency

There are a lot of recruiting agencies in the United States: about 20,000 staffing and recruiting companies that operate a total of nearly 40,000 offices. A little over half of the companies mainly provide temporary and contract staffing, but many of them offer recruiting and permanent placement, outplacement and outsourcing, and human resource consulting services.

With so many recruiting agencies to choose from, how can you be sure you’re choosing the right one? What kinds of questions do you ask when selecting a recruiting agency?

We’ve got you covered. Here’s a handy list of questions to ask when choosing a recruiting agency so you can find one that best fits your needs and organization.

Company history

Treat your search for a recruiting agency as if you’re finding a new employee to add to your team. In a way, you are. Just as you’d ask a job candidate for their work experience, you’ll want to know an agency’s company history.

How long has the agency been operating?

This is a good question to start with to get a feel for their background. It’s not a sure indicator that they’re the best agency for you by any means, but you’ll get a sense of how reliable they are and how well they’re performing. The longer an agency has been in business, the more likely they have their process down to a science. They likely have a longer list of satisfied clients, too.

What does your agency specialize in?

If you’re looking to fill positions in IT, and an agency specializes in medical staffing, that probably won’t be a good fit. Many staffing agencies specialize in certain industries, while others offer a wide variety of services. Depending on the positions you need to hire for, you may want a recruiting firm that specializes in your industry, or one that can provide general services.

What is your turnover rate?

Recruiters are the heart and soul of any recruiting agency. So it would make sense that a good agency would invest in their own employees. Turnover rate may generally run high in the staffing industry, but a low internal turnover rate compared to other firms are a good sign that recruiters and managers are happy with the company.


After you learn about the agency’s history, take some time to learn about their recruiting process.

How do you source, screen, and select candidates?

Does the firm handle background checks, employment eligibility, drug testing, and skill assessments? Who administers the tests and how do you receive the results? How in-depth are the background checks? How soon in the process do they speak to the candidates? Every agency’s process is different, so it’s your job to find one that matches your preferences.

How long does it take to complete a search?

A recruiter completes a search from 90 to 120 days on average. Their answer will tell you if a recruiter is efficient, rushing the process, or possibly drawing it out.

How many searches are performed at the same time?

A good recruiter will limit the number of searches they’re working on at the same time so they can devote the proper attention and time to each one. You want a recruiter who will do each search well to get you the best candidate, not one who can juggle a lot of searches at once.


You know a little about the agency’s background and how the agency typically operates. Great! Now, is their performance up to snuff? Find out with these questions.

What is your client satisfaction like?

Ask the agency for client satisfaction ratings and testimonials. Bonus points if you get testimonials from clients who are in the same industry as you. High client satisfaction is a likely indicator of good performance.

What is your percentage of successful completion?

A good agency will jump at the chance to share their completion metrics with you. If the agency has a completion rate of 80% to 90%, that’s a great sign that they’re excellent at what they’re doing.

How many of your new hires have stayed for 2 years?

Also called “stick rate,” this is the percentage of candidates that have remained at their placement after 2 years. Since 24 months is the current national average, aim for a stick rate of about 75% or 80%.

How are you different from your competitors?

An agency should be able to point out what makes them different from competitors fairly quickly. Maybe it’s their screening process, the personalized attention they give to searches, a high client satisfaction rate, their guarantee policy, and so on.

Working with you

Finally, it’s time to get specifics about how the recruiting agency will work with you.

Who will I be working with?

You may hire an agency after meeting with an account manager, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be working with that person. Ask who you’ll be working with. Will one person source candidates, conduct background checks, and reach out to applicants? Will you work with multiple recruiters?

What are your rates and fees?

Rates and fees can widely vary, depending on if they work on contingency or retainer. They may bill separately for screening services and testing, or those might be included in other fees. No matter what your budget is, find an agency who is transparent about their fee structure so you know exactly what you’re getting.

What will our working relationship be like?

In order to find you the best candidates for your positions, a recruiting agency needs to get to know your company first. Observe how they try to understand your needs. Did they meet you in person? What kind of questions did they ask? Did they “get” you?

Your relationship will run much more smoothly if the agency knows your industry, preferences, values, and needs. They’ll need to know how to frame your company and the positions to job candidates. And they should be open to sharing results and details with you as often as you like.

What is your guarantee?

Many agencies will find a new candidate at no additional cost to you, should the first one fail or leave early. Pick an agency whose guarantee policy you agree with, whether they offer you a refund or offer a longer guarantee period than their competitors.

Find the right agency for you

With so many recruiting agencies out there, you can afford to be picky. Find an agency that you can trust, one that inspires confidence in their skills. You should have a good feeling about their professionalism and capability. With the right agency, you’ll find talented candidates for your positions in no time.