As a candidate or client seeking the best recruiting firm, you’re met with a lot of noise. Type “recruiting firm” into a search engine and your social feeds will be littered with promotions hyping firms as the latest and greatest.

Eric Kean, Principal of The Lee Group, offers some pointers to cut through the noise. Lee Group Search, a premier executive search and recruitment firm that serves clients coast to coast, prides itself in its authentic approach and commitment to transparency when partnering with candidates and client companies.


During your initial phone call with a recruiter, anticipate multiple questions about your background and skillset and the dynamics of your personal situation in relationship to both (in fact, if the recruiter isn’t inquisitive, that’s your first red flag).

“Interview them just as much as they interview you,” Kean suggested.

What he calls a “quid-pro-quo” exchange should be a genuine conversation. Whether you’re a candidate or company, ask, “Tell me about you. Why should I work with you?” Listen carefully to the response. If the voice on the other end is vague, stumbling or hedging, look elsewhere.


Be wary of a recruiter tossing around the word confidential. In almost every case, a recruiter uses that word to be evasive.

“There is one situation where it’s actually confidential and that is in the instance that the client company is doing a confidential replacement, meaning they want an employee to remain in a role during the search process without that person knowing.”

Overuse of the word confidential typically is a sign that there’s a lack of trust.

“They’re often trying to protect their interests, so they’re more concerned about their interests than yours,” Kean said. “Ask yourself if that’s the kind of relationship you really want to be in.”


As a candidate, you want to understand precisely how the recruiter you choose to work with does business.

“You really want to grill the recruiter, in a nice way, of course, about how they work when they place a candidate,” Kean said.

It’s less about getting a name and more about understanding their process from the inside out. Is the firm working with human resources or directly with a hiring manager or a combination of both when placing candidates? Your goal is to ascertain the working relationship that the recruiter has with the client company. Again, a reluctant response is also a suspicious one.

“Typically, the best case scenario is the recruiting firm works directly with the hiring manager and yes, human resources can be involved,” Kean said.

With today’s technology, a recruiting firm’s worth is about its history and success building professional working relationships among candidates and companies.


If you’re a candidate, make sure you ask for references. Let the company you are considering doing business with give you examples of the successful placements it has made. That will give you insight into a firm’s track record.


As important as asking the right questions is listening for the right answers. Listen for thorough, detailed responses.

At the end of the day, let your gut be your guide. By asking the right questions, you should get a good sense of whether you’ve found the recruiting firm that will work to meet your hiring needs.

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