It’s time to fill a position. Contracting out the placement can be one of your smartest hires.

What it is

Recruiters, search firms, staffing agencies, headhunters—by any name, they help you find the right fit for a job opening.

Why you need it

Representatives from these firms can source and screen candidates, check references, and assist with interviews. When hiring on your own, “you can be swamped with resumés, and waste a lot of time going through [CVs from] people who are under-qualified,” says Vivian Fung, senior recruiter at Goldbeck Recruiting in Vancouver.

Read: Create an efficient hiring process

While you’ll still have to interview recruiters, you’ll be looking at a handful rather than hundreds of candidates. And, once you find the right firm, you can use it for future searches.

How it helps

Consider the direct and indirect costs of taking on recruitment. Beyond time, they include lost opportunities and productivity if the job remains open too long; workplace stress if personnel assume additional duties; and the chance of a less-than-ideal (or wrong) hire. Those costs can easily exceed the recruiter’s fee.

Read: How I dealt with a growing practice

Good to know

With recruiters’ databases and contacts, “we can tap into an entirely different pool,” says Danielle Bragge, partner at The Headhunters in Edmonton, Alta. She notes a lot of high-level candidates work with recruiters exclusively, and don’t look at job boards or apply for jobs directly. This lets you access better talent, quicker: Bragge can sometimes have qualified candidates within days.

Search experts support HR efforts in many other ways, says Shadi Ghani, senior director of client services at IQ Partners in Toronto. For financial services clients, her firm has handled searches for positions ranging from product managers to sales reps.

Services can include consulting on job descriptions, providing insight on compensation trends, and assisting during negotiations. The right tactics increase the odds your preferred candidate will accept an offer, says Ghani.

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How do you know if you’re getting the best recruiter?

Lisa Porlier, Toronto-based managing director for search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, gives these tips: Ask about experience and processes, and check references (ask how the recruiter kept other clients informed and handled challenges).

Who can help

Find listings at the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services, and the Directory of Canadia Recruiters.