Your initial work has been successful, whether you’ve reached out to a business or if they’ve reached out to you, the opening conversations have gone well and now it’s time to have a deeper chat about the role in question and take the job brief. It could be face to face or over the phone, but the scenario is always the same. This is where you learn more about the role so you have the information you need to fill the role.
But before you start thinking about filling the role and what you are going to spend your commission on, the truth is that this stage isn’t always the home run that it looks like.
In-house teams are looking for an expert to partner with – this is your chance to show that you are that expert.
What should you cover for the job brief?
So let’s get into the nitty gritty of it. From the agency side, this stage is a fact-finding mission, where you are aiming to get all of the information that you need in order to be able to work the role properly.
But it is also an opportunity for an in-house recruiter to find out about you and get an idea about how you go about your work. Are you going to be asking me interesting and insightful questions or will you go through the same spiel that I hear from 99% of agencies?
This is a real chance for you to stand out from the crowd.
Before you kick-off the job brief meeting, I will expect you to have done some homework. This doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert on any of these subjects but you should have a general idea of the following:
What does my company do?
How many people work at my company?
What size is the team that the role is available in (dev team etc)
Where have we ‘worked’ the role? (Linkedin/Job sites etc – basically, where have we advertised the role).
A lot of the above is covered in depth in my previous posts:
Having just a little bit of knowledge in these areas will get you off to a good start. Dropping tidbits into the conversation will show me that you’ve done some research into my company. It will also help avoid awkward situations such as if I ask you if you know what the company is or what our product does (I’ve been in meetings where recruiters haven’t had a clue – again, I’m not looking for you to be an expert, but I do want you to have some understanding. It’s my job to fill in any gaps for you).
We can split the job brief meeting into two parts
Part one: What I expect you to ask in the job brief meeting
First up, let’s make sure that you are covering off the basics when talking about the role – this includes questions like:
Overview of the role
- What is the role and the candidate profile that I want you to look for?
- What information can I tell you that isn’t on the job description?
- What is the salary range for the role?
- Is there any flex with this?
- Is there a bonus/commission?
- How often are salaries reviewed?
- If a candidate starts and does well, how long can they expect to be there before their first pay review?
- Do you give stock options?
- If so, what is the value and how long do they take to vest?
- Where is the role based?
- Is it 100% office based?
- Is there flexibility to work from home?
- Can the role be 100% remote?
- What benefits do the company offer?
Make sure that you dig in here and have a full understanding of all the benefits on offer so you can fully brief the candidate.
How does it work once a candidate is submitted?
- How many stages?
- How many on-site interviews?
- Are there any technical tests?
- Is this set in stone or is it likely to change? (Translation – are there any hiring managers that deviate from this?)
Why is the role available?
Is the role a new one or are you replacing someone?
How do I submit candidates?
Do you go through an ATS (and can you get this set up) or do I email candidates directly to you?
I cover some of these questions here:
I recommend that you have a look at that post and don’t work any roles until you get the information you need.
All pretty standard so far, and usually all I get, apart from being asked if other agencies are working the role and if you can have the role exclusively, and sometimes finishing with the promise of having candidates across to me in no time.
Part two: What I’d like you to ask for in the job brief meeting
What is going to make you stand out from the crowd?
Time for a little bit of In-house honesty here – just because we are having this conversation doesn’t mean that the role is yours. If I walk away with question marks, I can still decide that this partnership isn’t right for me, or as a minimum, I will be watching the first week or two of you working the role with an extra focus.
This is your opportunity to stand out from the competition and to leave me feeling fully confident that you are going to be the miracle worker that I’ve been looking for.
I want to hear questions like:
How long has the role been open?
This should help you gauge how difficult the role will be to fill – usually, the longer it’s been open, the harder it should be for you to get results. On the flip side, if the role is newer, and the team doesn’t have the capacity to work it, then it could be an opportunity to fill your boots and get an easier win.
If the role has been open for a long time, the next question will help you gauge if there are different avenues you could be using.
What have you already done with the role?
It amazes me that I never get asked this question as you will get a number of benefits:
- it will give you insight into if the role has been worked to death already or if the role hasn’t been touched yet. Has the role been actively sourced, or have the team just put out an advert with the hope that the right person will apply?
- If you find out what job sites, social networks and other avenues have been used already, it automatically narrows your search down so you can hit the ground running. If you know what hasn’t worked, it gives you the opportunity to use other, untapped, resources and methods straight out of the gate and saves you the time of going over old ground that has already been proved to be less than fruitful.
Has the role been advertised?
- If so, where?
Just like above, this gives an insight into what already hasn’t worked so you can immediately start using avenues that are untapped.
What tools have you used?
Similar to the last question, this will help you discard the CV boards and tools that haven’t been successful in the recruitment for this particular role and let you focus on things that the in-house team hasn’t been using. It will also give you some insight into what different teams are using when working their roles. This can turn into a treasure trove of chrome extensions and resources that you could be using too.
Email validation and discovery
Online grammar and spell checking.
A number of these are paid accounts – it is worth keeping an eye on appsumo.com where you can grab some great tools on lifetime deals (usually costing $49) rather than having to pay monthly or annual prices.
What challenges are there with filling the role?
- Is the role particularly niche?
- Are there a low number of qualified candidates?
- Is the hiring manager being unusually picky
- Has salary been an issue?
- Has there been a large amount of turnover in the team where this role sits?
- Does the company or team have a bad reputation in the area you are looking to hire?
Perhaps it will be one or two of these reasons, or maybe it will be all of them combined!
In one of my previous roles, we had a number of sales roles based in Germany. The team had a pretty high turnover across the previous couple of years and word had spread about it not being a great place to work. On top of this, I was working with a very picky hiring manager who was looking for candidates with skills and experience way above the salary we had to work with. Because of this, and the business being unwilling to change any of their expectations for the role, it had been open for 6 – 9 months. From an agency perspective, this would be a huge indicator that this is a role I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near as my chances of filling it were not going to be very high.
How many candidates have you submitted for the role?
This question is a great opportunity to find out more about what the in-house team has been able to do so far. By finding out how many people have applied or have been sourced directly and how many have made it to interview stage (be it telephone or face to face) will give you an idea of if you will be able to attract candidates through advertising or if you will need to go out directly to find them. It will also give you an idea of what profiles the hiring manager is looking for and an understanding of what they’ve been missing. This should help you to target candidates.
It is always worth asking if you can see the profiles of candidates that haven’t quite made it as it will give you some sort of blueprint to work from.
What questions are candidates asking you when you are screening them?
If the in-house team are being asked similar questions regularly then it is likely that you will be asked the same sort of things when you are screening candidates. It is well worth finding out if there are any particular things you need to know about the technology the company is using, benefits, remote working, commute, particular aspects of the role or anything else that has been coming up, so that you can inform the candidate as you speak to them, rather than having to go back to the in-house team and then back to the candidate, or worse, bluffing the answer and hoping for the best.
The job brief meeting wrap up is also important. From the agency perspective, don’t make any promises that you aren’t going to be able to keep. If you see any potential issues at this stage, such as being out on salary or the job spec being over ambitious, then it’s good to get it out in the open. It is also a good idea to set some realistic expectations around when you expect to be able to start sending good quality candidates across.
This is also your chance to set timescales around when you will get feedback from the in-house team following on from submitting candidates and then from their interviews.
My whole purpose of working with agencies is to be sent strong, qualified candidates, who have a good understanding of the company and the role. You need to make sure that you are fully up to speed with exactly what your client is looking for before you start working the role.
There is nothing worse from an In-house perspective than speaking to a candidate that has been provided through an agency and having to explain everything to them. If I am paying 15% – 30% in fees for a successful placement then I expect my life to be easier. Sending a candidate across without much of a briefing might get you the odd placement but it doesn’t bode well for a longer term relationship as it gives me a little glimpse into how you work.
You need to be 100% comfortable with the role at the end of the conversation. If you aren’t sure about things, ask questions. Remember, the goal of the in-house team is to fill the role so they want you to have as much information that you need.
This is the stage to show that you are going to add value, get the information that you need, to agree and lay down the ground rules for your new partnership and to show that you are the experts that I’m looking for.