5 Questions to Ask Your Recruiter or Search Consultant

Did you notice that recruiting agencies and job boards keep playing bait-and-switch with their clients, constantly changing their focus, service and fee structure?

Theirs has turned into a buyer’s market, thanks to a miserable economy. And it definitely hurts.

Good for you, the buyer – IF you know to ask the right questions, and how to compare apples to apples (without getting distracted by the occasional orange or lemon the other side throws in, just to make their offer look extra yummy).

In my experience, the following five questions should serve American and German companies in Germany and in the U.S. well, when evaluating organizations, recruiting agencies or job boards for helping them find and hire bilingual or multilingual, highly qualified employees:

  • How do you ensure that my resume database search results and job posting responses are really relevant and up-to-date for my company’s and industry’s very specific requirements in business between the U.S. and Germany?

This is a good one, because it helps you tell the good from the bad from the ugly right from the get-go. “Why, you can search 26 trazillion resumes,” should get your alarm bells ringing all at once.

Why? Our niche market saw a relatively constant number of not more than 5,000 candidates being available for employment on an annual average over the past ten years. (Based on official U.S. and German government figures.) Only a subset of this group of usually highly trained and qualified individuals uploads their resume into such general databases. And of those, an even smaller fraction is likely to fit your company’s particular job profile.

Of course, if you like playing the odds on company time and money, make a bet and spend your budget on that resume search! You have to be a very daring and adventurous spirit, though, because searching such a database without national or regional limitations will cost you extra.. Which brings us to another question you should ask:****

  • Are my resume database search options and job advertising exposure limited by region or nation?

Frankly, you don’t want that, if searching for and reaching out to candidates in all of the U.S., and Germany / Austria / Switzerland at the same time would add to your expenses.

Why? Given the odds and numbers, it would severely limit your company’s chances of finding that machine tools sales engineer or bilingual English-German finance analyst or VP International Sales who might just be the right match.

That is because the mobility and willingness to relocate of most available candidates in our niche is way above average. Someone who has decided to leverage their language skills and familiarity with both the American and the German business culture  to advance their career usually has done enough homework to know their odds of finding an employer exactly where they currently are. (No, not even in that automotive industry hotbed Detroit, MI anymore.)

And they do not necessarily expect relocation compensation. A good example: bilingual German “Green Card” lottery winners with business experience in North America, looking for the right U.S. employer to “transfer” their career to the United States. No visa hassle involved for the future employer – how’s that for a deal?!

Another excellent question – we get it a lot from new clients who have been “burned” before by spending a lot of money on more “general” approaches –  is:

  • Why would my company be able to identify and reach different qualifying candidates  through your service – as opposed to those who upload their resume or search jobs on that job board that advertises a “trazillion resumes” in it’s database?

Okay, I admit: The Germany-USA Career Center is by far not the only niche recruitment platform with a very good answer to this particular question, and for very good reasons. They have to do with branding, visibility in both countries and particular industry verticals, focus on the different search styles and patterns, cross-cultural considerations, privacy concerns… Still love this one. Ask us!

Another good question to ask your potential recruitment services sourcing partner for finding and hiring German-speaking employees in the Germany or the U.S. is a very basic one:

  • What is your business model?

In most cases worth your company’s consideration, you will find that question answered in some way on the respective agency’s or organization’s website. The answer will still tell you a lot about your chance of success for finding German-speaking, engineers, managers or executives for your American or German company.

Why? If it is a membership-based organization, their success doesn’t depend on the client’s – your company’s – success’. Their bills are paid by government sources or through membership dues anyway. Personnel search and recruitment efforts are commonly handled by interns (“Praktikanten”) .

I have seen one case where the organization’s lengthy resume database disclaimer said that job seekers can be charged for updating their CV! Moreover, some of these organizations have a nasty reputation for keeping a “candidate carousel” going, by recruiting talent for one member firm, then later “poaching” that same corporate member for the benefit of another member company looking to hire a candidate with a matching profile.

If the website, or business card, puts it more general, like “Business Consulting”, there is a chance you may be dealing with someone who is  an expert with their particular industry in our niche, with an excellent network and resources.

But there is also the possibility that it is just a fly-by-night, sideline operation. I know of cases where an “intern” handles – supposedly – recruitment of German-speaking employees for American companies or German companies, because the owners or directors of that “consulting” OR business association outlet have to focus on their day jobs.

The last question in my shortlist will help you figure out how helpful the recruiting database services or job advertising efforts of a particular firm will really be for your company in the American or German market.

It’s also a good one to ask larger recruiting agencies or online recruitment service providers for your industry vertical:

  • What resources will your firm put at my company’s disposal for our search, and what kind of charges do apply?

The rule of thumb I learned from conversations with Germany-USA Career Center clients:

The more complex or complicated the answer to this question, the greater the chances that your company will be disappointed with the actual results, once the first bill becomes due.

It’s that simple.

Gerd Meissner

Gerd Meissner manages the Germany-USA Career Center (www.Germany-USA.com). Since 1997, the agency has helped U.S. and German companies find and hire employees and independent representatives for their cross-border operations.

Gerd is also the author of the critically acclaimed company biography “SAP – Inside the Secret Software Power” (McGraw-Hill). His contributions have appeared in the New York Times,  in Germany’s Der Spiegel, Italy’s La Repubblica,  and Spain’s El Pais, among many other well-known publications.