The alternative to conducting your own search for staff is to use a domestic employment agency. There are many benefits to searching with the help of an agency
and many employers would not even consider other options. This article will give you a look at why agencies are valuable, leaving you with a simple equation: do the benefits of the agency equal the cost of your time and money spent doing the search yourself? (Hint: In almost every case, the answer is yes!)
Step by Step Expertise. From start to finish an experienced placement agent can guide you through the hiring process. Chances are that an agent has placed similar service staff in another home very much like yours. They will know to bring up all of the important details concerning the position, type of personality, and work environment that make a successful placement. So the beginning or planning phase of your hiring process requires only your response to standard questions a counselor knows to ask. As you continue through the steps to find staff the agency will have suggestions pertaining to your situation that should save time and make your part very simple. Likewise, the agent will do all of the legwork, compiling the paperwork, screening the candidates thoroughly, and coordinating telephone and in-person interview schedules. They are also the perfect “buffer” in sensitive discussions between the employer and potential employees. They can be impartial and very candid with questions about personal items and salary negotiations, helping get to the point right away.
Reach. The placement agency has its greatest advantage over the individual when it comes to reaching top candidates. Most agencies market to candidates 24/7 in various publications, by constant referrals, and other direct advertising, resulting in a tremendous pool of applicants in an ever-expanding database. The individual performing a one time search is limited to the area and time where they are searching, and will not know about the many candidates available elsewhere. This reason alone is the basis for the agency fee. The company’s overhead is based on the continual updating and searching for qualified candidates to be on “standby” for the employer with specific requirements. So a client is really not paying for the hours it takes to handle their one placement, but for the cost of keeping an “inventory” of candidates. The other, less tangible factor of a great candidate database is knowledge of "problem candidates". Agents who have been in the business for a number of years will encounter and deal with applicants who look good on paper, but exhibit behaviors WAY out of line with the profession. Many agency owners network witheach other for this particular reason as well. If someone's file is know to be fraudulent, or they had a recent problem at a job, there is a good chance that an agent was involved. You WANT this information network working for you.
Selecting an agency should be based on the type of position you are trying to fill. The higher the level of applicant needed, the more reach you’ll want, and the more specialization you'll seek. Focus on the firms that show a history of expertise in their field, especially those with staff or owners who worked in private service themselves. Just like the top Household Managers, great staffing agents have "an eye" for the right candidates after dealing with multiple placements over the years. There are several agencies that are capable of placing staff nationwide and some even worldwide. Check with a few companies to determine if they are comfortable to talk to, understand your needs, and have made similar placements. You might want to use several companies to have a larger pool of candidates to review, but depending on your time constraints this could overburden you and complicate the process. You might also consider an agency that is able to access candidates through partner or split agreements with other agencies. This will save you from having to work with more than one person on your search and will avoid the same resumes coming from more than one source. Most high level positions will require the reach of a national agency, but some of the “support” positions are better served locally. These include live-out or part-time childcare and housecleaning. A local agency will typically have a selection of employees within driving distance that can be replaced quickly if necessary. Check your local yellow pages for their ads, and have your House Manager or Personal Assistant conduct the initial screening process.
Screening Experience. The employment agency’s second function is screening the applicants they attract. Every day resumes and profiles reach the desk of a recruiter and have to be reviewed for their potential success in a new position. This is where the most time savings are offered to the client. Extensive files are created on each qualified applicant, preliminary interviews are done and strengths and weaknesses assessed to determine where they will be a good match. An agency will present a client with only the applicants they know are a fit for the position requirements and the personality of the household. Doing so allows an employer to skip the entire preliminary review process of the random resumes they would find advertising a position on their own. They need only be concerned with identifying the strongest applicant among the few carefully matched profiles from the agency. Also because the agency is continually interviewing, checking references, and compiling documents, the time from start to finish on a top-level hire is greatly reduced.
An ideal schedule when hiring through an agency would look like this:
Day 1 – Contact one or more agencies to discuss your staffing needs. You should have a very detailed job description to give the recruiter or they can walk you through the creation of one. Have the agency contracts sent by fax to review terms and fees, and return signed agreements to those you wish to work with. (If a fee is due to initiate a search you may be asked for a credit card payment or to overnight a check.)
Day 2 – The agency begins its search for qualified candidates that match your criteria. Files could be forwarded to you as early as the afternoon you return a signed agreement. It is more likely, however, that an agent will contact each candidate that seems to fit the position and re-interview them for the specific job. They will also verify the applicant’s availability and desire for the position. This step could go on for days or even weeks depending on the level of skills and unique characteristics necessary. An agent should have a good idea of who is immediately available within 24-48 hours. If the initial candidates are not suitable, more resources may be employed, such as contacting other partner agencies for resumes of their top applicants.
Day 4-5 – Ideally, within a business week, you will be presented with a few top choices form the agent’s files for you to review. It is not uncommon to end up hiring the first or second applicant you see, because the work of the recruiter can bring the best match right to the top of the list for you.
Day 6-7 – At this stage, assuming you have two or three candidates that interest you, it is time to conduct interviews. Most employers speak with potential applicants by phone before meeting them in person. This is a wise idea, especially if you have to fly the prospect from another location to meet with you. By speaking on the phone you will identify the top one or two candidates to meet in person. Make travel and interview arrangements with the help of the agent or directly with the applicant yourself.
Day 7-14 – Conduct extensive in-person interviews with the selected candidates. Go through all of the preparation and steps suggested in the chapter on interviewing and clearly discuss all elements of the job while they are on the property. Misunderstandings about employer expectations are the greatest reason for employees leaving a new job. Make sure everyone is clear on all the details of the position.
Day 14-21 – Make a decision on the best employee for your needs and lifestyle, and make a formal offer. It is best to put it in writing, either right away or as a follow-up to a verbal communication of the deal. There should not be much haggling because the financial terms of the offer will be very close to the amount previously discussed with the agency and the candidate. Once the candidate accepts, set a start date and arrival time if they are traveling or relocating. Then consult with the agency to finish official background reports and identification paperwork on the new employee.
Mission accomplished! Help the new employee get settled in their position and possibly the new living quarters. Welcome them to your home and give them the necessary equipment, paperwork, and information for their job. Also have a meeting with other staff to introduce the new person and explain their fit within the team. Work closely with them to convey your preferences and service needs from the start. Developing a “custom” employee will be much easier than trying to correct differences later on.
One exception to this average timetable is the Trial Period. Should you want to hire a candidate that is not presently working or that can be flexible with time off of their current job, a one or two week trial period is a good idea. This is especially relevant in positions that require cooking or specialized knowledge such as formal service. If you choose to have a trial, make sure the terms are clear, including the pay, the functions, and the schedule expected during the week(s). You can make a formal offer to a candidate during or after the trial period.