Choosing the right recruiter

Vern Brownell understands the need to establish relationships with the best recruiters. When he was CTO at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., turnover was only 5 per cent per year. Although he didn’t have to replace many departing employees, Brownell arranged for a few trusted recruiters to let him know when they found an outstanding candidate regardless of whether there was a job opening at the investment banking firm.

“One such candidate was so strong that we immediately created a spot, and I just heard he was promoted to director,” says Brownell, who is now CEO of server blade vendor Egenera Inc. He knows the reason Goldman Sachs has such a star is because the recruiter understood the company and knew what would make an exceptional employee.

Brownell realizes the single most important job of management is to stock the company with top talent. High-impact employees are the ones who make suggestions that save the company lots of money, or solve problems executives may not even know exist. The challenge is these senior-level staffers are the hardest people to find and hire.

Why mention recruiting during a time of rising unemployment? First, the slowdown won’t last forever. Economists are predicting at least a partial turnaround sometime this year. Second, many IT positions that were eliminated to save costs will need to be filled during the recovery. Third, there’s still nothing more important to a manager’s success than the quality of his team.

Regardless of market conditions, there’s always a direct correlation between the calibre of candidates and the calibre of the recruiters who find them. If you work with the best recruiters, odds are the best candidates will follow.

Top-notch IT pros want to see a company’s commitment to hiring other quality people. Therefore, higher-level candidates make assumptions about the company as a whole based on the quality of the recruiters the firm trusts to find employees and bring them on board. If a business has low standards for the recruiters it uses, this sends a warning that the company also has low hiring standards.

Generally most recruiters fall somewhere along a continuum of two extremes – those who supply r