Recruiting refers to the search for or placement of employees and all related measures and processes. The goal of recruiting is to respond to the company's personnel needs in a timely manner and find qualified employees to fill vacancies as cost-effectively as possible. Suitable employees for a company are recruited either by the internal HR department or by an external personnel service provider. In this context, one trend that has emerged in recent years will increase in importance in the future: Recruiting processes are becoming going digital. AI, job and talent recommendation providers and mobile recruiting are trends to which more and more companies are adapting their recruiting processes.

What recruiting methods are there?

Basically, a distinction is drawn between internal and external recruiting. In internal recruiting, HR managers search for new employees within the company. Suitable platforms for this purpose can be the company’s intranet or monthly newsletter. Often, however, vacancies are also filled through employee recommendations or internal personnel development measures. In the latter case, qualified employees are transferred within the company on request, or self-motivated employees are prepared for the tasks that go with the new position by means of appropriate further training measures.

In contrast, external recruiting specifically targets skilled workers available on the labor market. HR departments or personnel service providers place advertisements at job exchanges, on social media channels and in the press or establish a presence at careers fairs and recruiting events. Such approaches are referred to as active recruiting within external recruitment. External recruiting can, however, just as easily fall back on passive measures, such as an applicant pool or the cultivation of employer branding.

What does the recruiting process look like at a recruitment agency?

While an HR department acts as part of a company, a recruitment agency works independently. For companies, this offers the advantage of separating time, cost and personnel-intensive recruiting from day-to-day business. The process essentially breaks down into the following nine steps:

1. Contact with a personnel service provider: First, the company with staffing needs – the client – chooses from a large number of personnel service providers on the market a suitable provider specializing in a particular sector or on skilled workers and establishes contact.

2. Meeting between the client and the staffing agency to analyze needs: Besides giving both sides a chance to get to know each other, the initial meeting focuses on analyzing the client's needs. It is important for the client to precisely communicate a clear requirements profile to the personnel service provider. Decision-making criteria are, for example:

  • (University) degree
  • Foreign language skills
  • Soft skills
  • Work experience
  • Expertise in a specific field or sector

In the event that the client has a precise field of application in mind but does not yet have a precise applicant profile, the personnel service provider can also take on advisory functions and provide support in creating this profile.

3. Personnel research in the internal applicant pool: Personnel service providers have a fixed pool of possible applicants who are waiting for an exciting (new) job. If it is likely that a candidate who meets the customer's requirements can be found here, this recruiting channel is also incorporated. Entering the specified requirements in a software system can then narrow down the pool of potential candidates.

4. Personnel search via external recruiting channels: If no suitable skilled worker can be found in the internal applicant pool, the personnel service provider turns to external recruiting channels. These are mainly:

  • Job portals
  • Recruiting events and trade fairs
  • Employees recruiting employees
  • Social networks

5. Review of applications: Ideally, various applications will be submitted in response to the personnel search. On the basis of the available documents, the personnel service provider reviews the applicants’ qualifications, professional experience, certificates etc. to verify compatibility with the client's requirements. The applications with the best match are filtered out and these candidates are contacted by the recruitment agency.

6. Interview between recruitment agency and applicants: A further step in preselection is made in interviews between the recruitment agency and the applicants. Even if they are not yet sitting in front of their potential employer, applicants should take these interviews just as seriously, as the recruitment agency will forward their profiles to the client along with an initial assessment. In terms of procedure, the interview between the recruitment agency and an applicant is similar to an applicant-employer interview. The applicant’s personal motivation and their suitability for the field of work specified by the client must be examined.

7. Forwarding of suitable candidate profiles to the client: From the round of interviews, those candidate profiles that most closely match the client's requirements according to the recruitment agency's analysis are forwarded to the client. From these profiles, the client in turn selects candidates to invite for an interview.

8. Interviews between company and applicants: In the interviews between the client and the applicants, which usually last 45 to 60 minutes, the applicants’ skills are discussed in more detail. More important here than in the interviews between the recruitment agency and the applicants are "soft criteria" such as mutual sympathy, trust and motivation, plus the question of whether the applicant basically fits in with the company. After the interviews and their analysis, the decision is made in favor of one applicant. The consulting expertise of the personnel service provider is often needed for this last step too.

9. Contract conclusion: There are a range of different contract variants. In the case of personnel leasing, an employment contract is drawn up between the employee (the winning applicant) and the personnel service provider. In this case, the employee receives his/her salary from the staffing agency but works on projects at the client's site. Equally widespread is the variant of direct placement, in which the work of the personnel service provider ends with the conclusion of a contract between client and applicant, i.e. an employment contract between employer and (now) employee.

Which recruiting channels does a recruitment agency use?

Similar to a company's own HR department, recruitment agencies use a number of external and internal recruiting channels.

Job portals

There are numerous job portals where job advertisements can be posted and applicant profiles can be viewed, regardless of the sector. A distinction is drawn between national/global job exchanges and regional providers. The customer's requirements determine the choice of job portal. A combination is often recommended.

Recruiting events and fairs

Universities, chambers of commerce and business associations regularly offer applicant days or recruiting events where recruitment agencies can find suitable candidates. For subject-specific recruiting, it is a good idea to attend appropriate trade fairs – especially for the STEM professions.

Employees recruit employees

This concept can be operated as effectively by personnel service providers as by companies themselves. The employees of a company recruit qualified professionals from within their own network, family and acquaintances by recommending a vacancy or job at a company. This is done on a voluntary basis and is thus an effective method of finding qualified applicants.

Social networks

Social networks such as Facebook, XING and LinkedIn reach an audience of millions. Like companies, recruitment agencies usually maintain their own social media presence. Exciting advertisements or personal messages from recruiters or headhunters can thus generate valuable contacts.

Internal recruiting pool

As with HR departments in companies, it is a good idea to first look for suitable candidates in the internal applicant pool. This can save time and money.

In the context of digitalization and globalization, recruiting too is evolving and is heavily influenced by trends such as mobile recruiting, AI and job and talent recommendation.

AI in recruiting and chatbots

The first AI approaches can be seen in "data-driven recruiting". Here, learning software tools are used to help find the right candidate for a particular job from thousands of potential candidates. AI tools that actively support applicant personality diagnosis are only a matter of time. Chatbots that communicate with potential applicants on career sites are controversial but increasingly widespread. These are a kind of text robot that asks the site visitor questions, but also answers them. In this way, applicants can get information about a desired job on a 24/7 basis.

Job and talent recommendation

Experts are certain that job and talent recommendation will find its way into the recruiting business. This practice involves recommendation systems that suggest potential employers to candidates based on their published applicant profiles (e.g. in social media). Properly done, this technology can relieve all the companies, applicants and recruitment agencies involved of a huge amount of work.

Mobile recruiting

Today, every second Internet page view (50.34%) is already made via mobile devices (1). Since the same trend is spilling over into recruiting, a career site optimized for smartphones and tablets is a must for companies and recruitment agencies. Otherwise, promising candidates risk migrating to rival sites that are optimized for mobile devices and possibly completing a successful application process there.