How to Select a Staffing Agency

image of a woman wondering how to choose a staffing agency

The success of any company is largely due to the quality of their employees. When businesses need additional support with staffing — whether that be recruiting for full-time roles or bringing in temporary workers, they often turn to staffing agencies for support.

Like any other key vendor relationship, having the right partner makes all the difference.

But how does an employer choose a staffing agency in the first place? 

Selecting a staffing agency seems relatively simple on its surface — contact the staffing agency, let them know what talent you need and for what duration. Then, wait for them to present you with great candidates. The agency recruits, selects and assigns the talent. They also provide payroll for the duration of the assignment.

Savvy employers realize that it’s not quite that simple. As with all employment matters, things can get significantly more complicated. Having the right staffing agency relationship is vital.

Research the following before choosing a staffing agency:

  1. References and third party validation.
  2. Recruiting expertise in your industry.
  3. Recruiting process.
  4. What do placed talent/applicants say about them? 
  5. Legal/Compliance/Risk management expertise.
  6. Resources for managing employee issues.

Keep reading to learn more about what to look for when deciding what staffing agency to work with . 

6 Factors to Keep in Mind When Selecting a Staffing Agency 

1. References and third-party validation.

The first thing to look for when vetting a possible agency partner is their references. Just like you can learn a lot about a potential hire by checking references, you will learn a lot about a company through what their clients say about them. 

In addition to talking directly with a staffing agency’s clients, you can learn more about them by looking at their online reviews and other customer satisfaction indicators like third-party survey data. 

Websites that specialize in displaying customer ratings and reviews will give you great insight into how clients feel about a company. For staffing agencies, the most credible source of customer review data is reported by ClearlyRated through their Best of Staffing award program. 

Staffing agencies who have earned a spot on ClearlyRated’s “Best of Staffing” list earn this recognition for extremely high customer satisfaction ratings. The “Best of Staffing” honorees represent those firms with customer satisfaction scores in the top 2% of the industry in the U.S.

While third-party validation won’t tell you if a staffing agency is a perfect fit for your company specifically, it’s a great first step to create a targeted list of agencies to explore further. 

2. Recruiting expertise in your industry.

Every agency has their own niche or industry focus and your best staffing agency partner will be one that specializes in your industry. 

The benefit of working with a specialized firm is that they will understand the unique nuances and issues of your industry. They will also have established talent networks that will enable them to fill open roles faster.

Good ways to evaluate if a potential staffing firm has experience and expertise that would benefit your company include:

    • A partial list of clients in your industry.
    • A sample listing of positions they have recently filled in your industry. 
    • Take a peek at open positions on the company’s online job board to get an indication of whether or not they regularly recruit for the types of roles your organization needs.

3. Recruiting process.

There are many ways a staffing agency might go about recruiting talent. Look for a company that has a process-driven approach that fits your needs. 

If they have a well-defined recruiting process, you will be much more likely to get consistent results from them. You won’t be dependent on a specific member of their team that works the way you like. 

Not only should they have a clear process, they should be able to tell you how they measure success. For example, do they place a bigger importance on speed, or quality of talent? 

That knowledge will allow you to assess whether a staffing agency could be the right fit. If their approach is clear-cut and they measure success the same way you do, they might be a good match.

4. What do placed talent/applicants say about them?

As much as you want to know what a staffing agency’s clients think of them, you can also learn a lot through what their placed talent says about them. 

Remember, you’re known by the company you keep. People often don’t make a clear distinction between the staffing agency and the client (often referred to as the “host employer”). So the way your partner treats talent will be a reflection of your organization. 

An employer’s talent brand is too important to risk damaging it by aligning with the wrong staffing partner. This is especially true if your company is a consumer brand and bad employment experience could also affect your customer experience. 

You should also consider the staffing firm’s internal turnover. The staffing firm’s ability to retain their own employees says a lot about how they attract, evaluate and treat talent. 

Review sites like Glassdoor can give you some insight into what employees and talent think of the staffing agency.

5. Legal/Compliance/Risk management expertise.

Although the staffing agency was once deemed fully responsible for whatever happened when an employee was under their payroll, that is not always the case anymore. 

Responsibility and liability are increasingly being shared by both the host employer and the staffing firm. As such, it’s important that your staffing partner is fully compliant with local, state and federal employment regulations and best practices. It’s also important that they have systems and processes in place to respond to potential legal issues. 

If your staffing partner isn’t following best practices when recruiting talent on your behalf, be prepared to face the possible consequences — as Amazon had to do in 2015, when they were sued along with their staffing partner.

To avoid a similar situation, you might ask questions such as: What are their HR and legal departments like? How knowledgeable are they on industry-specific legislation? 

A good staffing agency will protect not just their interests but yours as the host employer as well. They will be knowledgeable enough to advise you about potential risks and issues you hadn’t anticipated. They will inform you and help you avoid problematic situations.

6. Resources for managing employee issues

Of course, in a perfect world, there would never be any employee issues. But the truth is, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, in the workplace, there is always the possibility for challenging situations to surface.

Your staffing agency should be able to tell you about what processes they have in place to not just deliver great staffing outcomes but also respond to issues that could arise in the workplace, such as:

    • On-the-job accidents, injuries or illness. This is especially important as we continue to work through the implications of the COVID pandemic.
    • Employment disputes or conflicts.
    • Allegation of harassment or misconduct.

While you undoubtedly have systems and processes in place to deal with those matters, you want to make sure that your staffing agency has the resources and practices in place to respond effectively to them. You also want to make sure that the agency will partner well with you if and when issues arise.

Overall, choosing a staffing agency is a lot like choosing a partner. You’re hoping for a long-term associate that will prioritize your needs and be reliable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable in areas that are important to you. 

And if you want to learn more about how to attract and retain talent – with or without an agency partner – consider watching this webinar, Talent 2021: Strategies and Tactics for the “Next” Normal, presented by Jenifer Lambert, TERRA Staffing Group’s Chief Strategy Officer. 

Jenifer is a staffing and talent engagement expert with decades of experience in the staffing industry. She is a sought-after speaker and trainer in the industry and is a regular presenter on TERRA’s HR HotSpot webcast series, a free, monthly webinar series that features presentations from industry leaders and HR experts, covering a wide range of topics related to today’s workplace.

Watch her full webinar here:

How TERRA Can Help 

TERRA Staffing Group is a leading staffing agency, headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. We work with many companies across a variety of industries in the Seattle-Puget Sound, Portland, Phoenix, and Denver metro areas.

Our monthly HR HotSpot webinars provide guidance, solutions, and best practices for HR professionals and business leaders.

And if you find yourself needing staffing support, don’t hesitate to reach out to TERRA. Our expert team is eager to be a resource to you!

Whether it be for temporary or permanent work, we will provide staffing solutions that are tailored to your specific business.

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