Team Building: How to Make the Most of Professional Recruiters - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: How to Make the Most of Professional Recruiters

Professional recruiters can offer landscape companies a level of experience and focus on a task that you can’t always devote all your attention to. Now let’s look at how some of the different firms operate, how to find a good recruiting firm and make the most of it.

How It Works

Pay structures will differ for professional recruiters.

The companies that Phil Steinhauer, CEO of Designscapes Colorado, works with charge an hourly rate. He says the average for them is $7,000 to $10,000 for each of the searches.

Lawnline Marketing charges a flat monthly fee per job position.

“This fee pays for our digital marketing team to create and execute campaigns, review and rate the candidates, as well as the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software,” says Tony Ricketts, owner of Lawnline. “This structure enables us to deliver as many top-talent candidates as possible. This model is more attractive because companies can make unlimited hires in a single job slot while our fees remain flat, which are far lower than a commission.”

While most professional recruiters are used to find people for management positions, Lawnline has an even split between finding employees for management and field labor.

“In the green industry, companies need lots of field workers and this position tends to have higher turnover rates,” Ricketts says. “This can become very expensive using recruiters with traditional pricing models. Because our flat-fee model allows for unlimited hires for a job slot, companies flock to us to bring them field labor. At the same time, companies love to use our digital marketing strategies to get in front of those hard-to-fill positions like experienced landscape designers and project managers.”

McFarlin Stanford doesn’t recruit field labor but focuses on recruiting for middle management all the way to executive positions like CFO and CTO.

“Ultimately, if you don’t have the right people in the right seats, why do you think your labor may be leaving?” says Chris Psencik, vice president of McFarlin Stanford. “If you’ve got a very weak middle management staff what you’re going to find is you’re going to probably have a pretty weak field staff as well, because why would they choose to stay?”

McFarlin Stanford receives a traditional percentage of the new hire’s annual salary but spreads the cost out over a span of 12 months to help companies with cash flow. If at any point the employee leaves before the 12 months are completed, they stop charging the landscaping company.

“At that point, we say, ‘Look, this person only made it nine months, you paid for nine months. We’re only going to be paid for nine months,’” Psencik says. “We’re equal. We’re going to find you a replacement because it’s more important for us for you to have that right guy than it is for you to pay us just for doing a job.”

Psencik says the timeline that it takes to find people will vary for different roles.

“We coach all of our clients that if you are looking to hire somebody for the spring, the time to make that phone call to us as a recruiter is not March 1,” Psencik says. “I want to be talking to you in December or January, to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.”

Signs of a Good Recruiter

Psencik and Ricketts both advise working with a recruiting firm with a background in the green industry.

“With the terminology used in the lawn/landscape field, it can be difficult for outsiders to understand exactly what the company is looking for and if a candidate can fill that role,” Ricketts says. “For example, a recruiter should clearly understand the difference between what a landscape construction foreman looks like versus a landscape maintenance foreman.”

However, Steinhauer uses a local recruiting firm that isn’t industry-specific and hasn’t had any issues.

Also, look at the strategies the recruiter will utilize. What are they doing differently to attract employees to your company that other businesses in the area aren’t doing? Ricketts says professional recruiters should not solely rely on online job boards or sending generic in-mails via LinkedIn.

“Does this recruiter have experience in successfully placing candidates in the landscape industry?” Ricketts says. “If they don’t, they may not be the best fit.”

Lastly, find out what tools the recruiter will offer as it is critical to be able to efficiently manage your candidates and move them through the hiring process.

Making the Most of It

If you do decide to hire a professional recruiting firm, here are some tips to make the most out of the partnership.

Because every firm is different in their operations and strategies they use, make sure you understand their methods and ensure clear expectations are set. Psencik says it is important for companies to have developed a job description, thought out the compensation and determined the role and responsibilities of a position they want to fill. He says being able to communicate what your business does and provides will make it easier for a recruiter to have those conversations with candidates on your behalf.

“It’s going to put us in a much stronger position to be able to have those conversations when it comes time to getting to a real decision,” Psencik says.

Steinhauer says they provide the professional recruiters a job description and personal attributes they’re looking for. He says their understanding of Designscapes Colorado has only improved over time.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting to know us, knowing our people and what our culture is,” Steinhauer says. “I think there’s a learning curve for both for us and for the recruiter to understand the culture and the type of people we want and what works for us.”

Ricketts agrees that providing detailed job descriptions, cultural insights about your company and honest feedback about candidates will only help recruiters deliver better potential hires. He also says it ultimately comes down to being a good company to work for.

“Have a good culture, offer a strong benefits package, be willing to pay top salaries for top talent, and provide a roadmap of what’s possible at your company,” Ricketts says. “Let’s face it, nobody wants to work for a company where they can’t continue to grow professionally, personally, and financially.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.