20 Questions to Ask Staffing Agency Before You Hire Them

Hiring an international staffing agency is a huge step for your business. If you need a flow of employees from abroad, choosing the right staffing agency that values long-term cooperation rather than short-term gains is essential.

We want to help you select the best staffing partner, so we included 20 questions you need to ask before hiring them.

Also, throughout the article, you will see how we at Hire Abroad solved common problems employers have when hiring recruiting partners.

Let’s get right to it:

1. How do you ensure the vacancy is understood and communicated correctly to the jobseeker?

Each week, new requests have different conditions and require different skills from job seekers. It’s easy for agencies to lose sight of what information belongs to what recruitment agency and what client.

The worst thing that can happen is when a person travels to the Netherlands, Belgium, or Germany and finds out only after arriving that the information provided was incorrect.

The most critical moment in the jobseeker’s customer journey is their arrival. If this doesn’t match their expectations, they will have negative emotions, and there is a high probability that they will leave the staffing agency in the first few days.

Before sending a jobseeker abroad, recruiters must make sure that they have properly communicated and understood all the information.

How can recruiters do that?

For example, a recruitment specialist can email all the correct information received from the staffing agency to the jobseeker, asking for confirmation that it is understood and accepted. Another way, which slows down the whole recruitment process, is to ask the person to sign a pre-contract wherein they state that all conditions are understood and accepted.

If the staffing agency does not have a recruitment process in place to ensure that relevant information is communicated and understood, the percentage of people that will not be satisfied the moment they show up will be high—a bad first start at your recruitment agency and not suitable for your branding in the sourcing country.

Remember that lousy experiences spread faster than good ones.

2. What is your vacancy fulfilment time?

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Photo Credit: Sora Shimazaki

Speed is king in international selection, especially at moments when clients are suddenly scaling up. For example, during the season, many manufacturers hire more workers during summer.

In those times, confirming the requested person is essential as soon as possible. If your client feels that you always fill their open positions the fastest, they will give your staffing agency a more significant piece of their international working pool.

So, when you start working with a foreign recruitment agency, it’s good to know how much time it takes on average for them to fill vacancies, especially once they know even more about each type of candidate you are looking for.

The time it takes to fill a vacancy starts when you send the request and ends when the recruiter has verified that the right candidate has accepted the job offer.

If you see that the agent knows what they are doing very well and gives detailed answers to your questions, you can ask them how they can assist your business in speeding up the fulfilment time.

Adding unnecessary steps slows down the whole process. If speed is what you want, work with an agent you trust, so you don’t need to worry about your recruitment. If this trust is not there, it’s better to give your recruitment to another agent or do it yourself.

3. What is your vacancy fulfilment rate?

Next to speed, a key factor for fast growth is the fulfilment rate. However, managing your request well and proposing the right candidate to the client works like a snowball.

If you do this regularly, your clients will send you more offers. Most recruitment agencies will likely not have a fulfilment rate, but this is essential data for growing your business.

It is better to work with one more prominent staffing agency with a high fulfilment rate (90% or higher, for example) than to gather many little international companies with a 50% rate each.

The process of working with an additional staffing agency is very time-consuming. Working with each additional staffing agency costs time better spent concentrating on your core business. It’s the same for international companies.

Why would they add more Dutch employment businesses to their portfolio if they are unable to fulfil the requests of their existing clients?

It only creates frustration and dissatisfaction. It’s better to have a few satisfied clients than many unsatisfied ones.

4. How do candidates rate your service?

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Photo Credit: Tumisu

The most important factor when hiring a new foreign recruitment agency is to look into how well-liked the service is by its clients (candidates interested in working abroad).

Usually, every staffing agency has a Facebook page and Google reviews. If they offer excellent service, this is reflected on these platforms.

Even better is when they measure the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a universally used tool for measuring customer satisfaction. Just for reference, job seekers will be able to rate a particular recruiter or staffing agency in the Netherlands, Germany, or Belgium 9 days after their arrival.

The fact that the agent measures NPS tells a lot about how much they care about their customers because customer satisfaction is the key to success in the hiring process. If people are happy, everybody in the recruitment chain will be happy, including you as a Dutch company.

If you cannot find reviews or they look unreliable, you can also Google the company owner’s name and check their registration address on Google Maps. A little background check can never hurt.

Do online reviews matter?

When speaking to recruitment agencies in the Netherlands, I’ve heard several times that online reviews don’t say anything: the only experiences shared on the internet are the terrible ones. I don’t agree with this point of view.

People will speak about your business online and offline if you create excellent service. 

Word of mouth is arguably the most effective marketing tool there is, especially in international talent acquisition. Approximately 50% of word-of-mouth recommendations happen offline and 50% online.

When you have created a bad reputation online, your reputation will also be bad offline. The staffing agency must look at the online comments and sincerely take them into consideration to improve their services. It’s best to comment on each of the reviews that are given online and show that you care about people.

When potential candidates land on a website, the stakes are huge, so they check reviews before they click the registration button. It’s a very standard story but often forgotten in the international market.

5. What criteria does the agent use to match candidates?

The criteria used by the recruitment agency to match your positions to their candidate pool is what makes the difference between good and great agents.

A good staffing agency has experienced recruiters who have a high level of responsibility. We have researched in the past what makes good recruiters so good.

We found that the best recruiters share that they feel a lot of responsibility and have extensive knowledge and experience in the market.

They feel responsible for the candidate to ensure their pleasant journey abroad. A responsible recruiter will go the extra mile for the candidate, offering more details to ensure they get the job they are hoping to get.

The problem with this model is that it is not scalable. The more international jobs there are, and the more candidates who apply, the harder it becomes for this responsible recruiter to avoid bias and match the right candidate to the right job.

Significant staffing agencies are using data to match vacancies to candidates: data collected from people who previously left to work abroad matches the profile of the new job seeker. If you combine data matching with having responsible recruiters, you have a golden, scalable matching tool.

The worst agents are the ones that charge money to the job seeker.

Surprisingly enough, some agents still charge money for finding work abroad.

We would advise adding in the cooperation agreement you sign with the new recruiting partner that they guarantee no fee is charged, in any shape (you might be laughing, but sometimes they call it “creating a CV charge” or “travel cost,” for example).

According to Dutch law, it’s not allowed to charge people a fee for finding a job. It is the worst matching criterion. People who are willing to pay the price will be the ones getting the job. Hmm… how does that result in a good match?

6. How many confirmed people do not show up (without providing information before arrival)?

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You all know how frustrating it is when you request a group of people for a new client. Your recruiting partner confirms that a group of people are ready to go, and you stop recruitment activities, but on Monday morning, you see that none arrived at your client’s location. You have an angry client, a disappointed job coach, and a mad CEO.

Having confirmed people actually arrive in the Netherlands, Germany, or Belgium is almost impossible. In our experience, people’s chances of succeeding when they come from abroad are consistently higher than people from other places in the Netherlands, Germany, or Belgium.

There are two main problems with people who are living here:

  1. They are without a job, not without a reason. There is a large chance that they have lost their employment elsewhere. So, these types of people are agency-hopping from one to the next, looking to make money rather than build careers. If you are working with international companies from a specific country, it might be worth checking if the person has worked with them before. It will avoid disappointment.
  2. People who are living in the Netherlands at the moment are applying at many different staffing agencies. They simply check what job opportunities are available and ask for them while looking for the right opportunity. Once they collect all offers from different industries, they eventually decide on what role they want to play, disappointing the other staffing agencies.

So, people coming from abroad are more likely to show up. To ensure they show up, the international recruitment agency should create a level of commitment.

When speaking to an international recruitment agency, it is essential to know their no-show rate. How many confirmed candidates are not showing up without informing the Dutch employment agency?
An acceptable no-show rate is one that is lower than 10% over an extended period. A higher no-show rate will drain too many operational resources and energy from your organization and your clients.

7. What is your candidates’ average duration of stay, and how do you measure this?

The average duration of stay of people selected by an international recruiting partner is the most important KPI. It is a summary of EVERYTHING from how good the recruiter is at informing the applicant to how high the no-show rate is and how satisfied the candidates are with the provided service and the job itself.

The duration of stay is a crucial factor in growing your turnover and sales. The longer people stay, the more satisfied your clients will be, and the more likely they will be to ask for more people who are similar.

Duration of stay can be measured in different ways

There is just one big problem. All staffing agencies have their own way of measuring this data.

For example, some staffing agencies measure all the people who have started in the last full calendar year. Measuring information using previous-year data is useful, but it doesn’t estimate the duration of stay correctly. Many people just started and will likely work for longer than a year. So, when you ask for the average stay duration, it is good to understand how this is measured.

You can compare it to those recruited through another staffing partner or your agency directly. You can only compare apples to apples in this case.

Another data problem in measuring the duration of stay is when the staffing agency is hiring many people for seasonal jobs.

For example, students who want to work only in the summer or people who want to go to the Netherlands, Belgium, or Germany just for the Christmas period. These significantly impact the overall average duration of stay of people recruited by the agency. In this case, the duration of stay is shorter, but that doesn’t mean that the agency isn’t successful.

When you speak to an international recruitment agency, it’s good to go into these details. If they are client-oriented, they should have their story ready regarding their candidates’ duration of stay.

8. How do you ensure that your recruiters are up to date on what is happening in the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany?

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Photo Credit: Alex Green

In the beginning, you can not be sure how good a particular agent’s selection will be. Going to work abroad is a huge step for job seekers. You should consider what essential questions you would ask if you were about to work in another country. It’s probably a step you never made yourself.

So why didn’t you work in another country? Was it a feeling of insecurity? Were you not clear on what would be waiting for you? Recruiters must understand the journey potential candidates are going to make and what they can expect when going to work in another country.

It’s great when the recruiter has made the journey themselves, but it’s even more important to get into the details of what is happening in the country where people will work—not only work-related topics but also other challenges jobseekers will face.

Think about, for example:

  • Language problems
  • Cultural differences
  • Housing expectations
  • Safety concerns

9. What is your earning model?

The margins at international recruitment agencies are small. The money you pay to an agent significantly affects the staffing agency’s net result. So, you need to know how much you will have to pay the agent.

That fee can be paid in four different ways:

Fee Per Hour

The fairest is probably as the team member works at your client. You share part of the hourly income with the recruiter. The moment the employee stops working for your client, you no longer need to pay a fee to the recruiter. This model is a great way to motivate external recruitment agents to improve their business so that their applicants stay as long as possible.

The better they do their job, the more they are paid, and the better it is for your agency.

Many Eastern European agents are more short-term-driven, so this is an excellent tool to move them to a long-term business thinking model. There is no way to grab money fast in this type of earning model.

A problem with this type of fee is that you, as an agent, are stuck paying the price for a long time, which involves a lot of additional administration inside your company.

I would advise you to use an hourly fee with a potential staffing agency with whom you want to build a long-term relationship: agents that you see as partners in improving your processes and business and who want to be involved in your business model.

One-Time Fee

A one-time fee is paid after successful placement. This successful placement period can be either on the arrival day, after two weeks of employment, or later.

The one-time fee varies from 150 euros per arrangement to 1,500 euros. The cost is based on the kind of people hired and the caliber of the services rendered by the international staffing agency.

For the agent’s business model abroad, this is most likely the most attractive fee. From a business perspective, it is always better to collect money now than later. The money can now be used right away for the company’s development.

But for a Dutch employment agency, this model isn’t ideal, as most staffing agencies abroad have a shorter-term mindset compared to Dutch agencies. The chances are high that the business model of the international agency will be to send as many people as possible without concern for the duration of their stay.

For example, the one-off fee is a great way to scale up very fast in the high season. Use this to your advantage.

Payment Per CV or Proposed Candidate

There is another payment model in international recruitment, where the Dutch employment agency pays a one-off fee for each candidate’s CV. There are two main problems in this type of model:

  • CV Selection
  • Time intensiveness

CV Selection

CV selection doesn’t work in the international recruitment process. You might require people to speak the basics of English to get a job, and this is fine. But how does writing a proper CV in English help the job applicant to be a better order picker, for example?

These things have nothing to do with each other. Besides that, approximately 30% of the CVs are not correct. So, are you going to select a factory worker or an order picker based on a CV written in English?

Can you imagine how much of an additional headache this is, for example, for a Portuguese person who barely knows how to write a CV in their language but, based on their skills and personality, would be a perfect order picker?

Time intensiveness

Instead of taking the workload away from your agency in the Netherlands, you do the actual recruitment yourself based on a CV. You need to have people aboard who speak the same language as the person writing the CV, and you need to create the trust of having a limited brand name in the country the person is applying from.

Any combination of the above

What may be ideal for employment and international recruitment agencies is an hourly fee and a one-time fee.

The combination of both types of payment is attractive for foreign recruitment agents to earn more in the short term but still have a vested interest in the duration of their stay as part of their income depends on this.

In the past, I’ve not been a fan of the one-off fee as it doesn’t inspire me as a Dutch business owner to build up relationships and a business model for the long term, but having in mind that most of the international recruitment agents have a different mindset than I do, the combination of the one-off fee and the hourly fee might be an ideal mix.

Along with asking about their earning model, it’s good to go into further detail and ask why they chose this earning model.

10. How much do you charge for your services?

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

What you pay is what you get. Before you start speaking about pricing, it’s good to summarize your expectations—basically, how vital the points above are for your staffing agency.

If you’re in a very competitive market, the recruitment agent’s quality and service are less important than sticking to prices that other agents offer.

Prices range, in that case, between 35 cents per hour and 50 cents per hour, often with a maximum pay of 1040 or 2080 hours. Why would you pay more if you’re only after people, and the recruitment process and the chances that a person shows up are less critical for you?

It’s also a matter of how expensive it is for your organization to onboard new colleagues. If onboarding goes smoothly and doesn’t require too much of your operational resources, then a “worse” selection doesn’t matter.

Not many staffing agencies know exactly how much it costs to onboard a new foreign worker. One staffing agency stated that it costs 350 euros per new team member, which is higher than expected. But if you add up all the expenses of onboarding a new colleague, for example:

  • First night in the accommodation
  • Transportation from the accommodation
  • Introduction day
  • Costs going to the municipality
  • Introduction to the client
  • Introduction to the new housing
  • Empty beds between the new arrival and departure of an old colleague
  • Training the new colleague at work
  • Organizing contracts
  • Organizing work clothes and transport
  • Other expenses

350 euros to onboard a new member sounds OK.

Interestingly, most staffing agencies don’t know how much their recruitment costs per worked hour. Not knowing your costs is baffling. Although staffing agencies understand that recruitment is an integral part of their business model, their recruitment is often less cost- and efficiency-driven.

It’s part of the whole earning model, which should be profitable. If the business model’s hiring is not useful, it doesn’t significantly impact the entire business. As long as the quality of the selection is good, it’s OK.

When staffing agencies outsource their recruitment, this becomes a different story. Without a proper selection and an acceptable price, an external staffing agency will soon run out of business.

Many agents are starting and stopping in the same year as an international staffing agency (aside from the fact that, unfortunately, many agents care less about the people who are recruited and are more interested in short-term gain). So, a fee per hour paid to an external staffing agency forces them to become more efficient and better.

Setting the right price for each client is quite hard. You can calculate this according to our total cost, but a better model is to pay for the added value you bring to a staffing agency.

If the staffing agency requires less value and agrees to accept people that don’t speak English, for example, it’s OK to work even under the total cost per hour because each jobseeker will not make it to hire, which costs the international agency money.

The more people and the more efficiently you hire them, the bigger the choice for both staffing agencies and candidates, and the better the selection will be.

So, before talking about the fee with the international staffing agency, it’s good to know at least the following:

  • How much does onboarding cost?
  • How much do you spend now on recruitment per worked hour?
  • How long is your average duration of stay with these costs?

After answering these three questions, you will know a reasonable price for international recruitment agency services.

11. How do you ensure the quality of the selection?

How does the international recruiter ensure that the people going abroad meet the quality you expect as an employment agency? How are the candidates’ English-language competencies checked, and what standard is used for measuring the level of a certain language?

We all understand that answering “what is your name?” doesn’t mean someone speaks English. You can also do background checks of the quality in other ways, such as by checking references.

This slows down the recruitment process dramatically, and it’s always questionable how reliable these references are. Also, who creates CVs these days with references? Most people use their mobile phones when they apply for work. Have you ever tried to write a CV on a mobile phone?

From your side, what language skills you expect in selecting staff members should be evident. It’s excellent if employees can speak English, but a brilliant youngster who finished his master’s degree will likely not be motivated to work for a long time as an order picker.

Setting the right requirements is essential here. If only the basics of English are needed to perform the job, why ask for excellent English-language speakers? If conditions are set correctly, the chances for long-term, satisfying employment for both the candidates and the employer will increase drastically.

12. What actions do you have in place to reduce the no-show rate?

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Photo Credit: Lukas

How does the professional staffing agency ensure that the number of people who confirmed the job offer arrive at the job or accommodation they are supposed to come to?

Using, for example:

  • Service agreements, wherein the jobseeker agrees that he informs the recruiter on time in case something changes in his plans
  • A copy of the transport tickets, whether by plane, train, or bus, for example
  • A call from the recruiter a day before the departure day
  • A reminder by SMS or email about the departure and arrival information

The above points are not necessary. It is all about your trust and relationship with the candidate. If they feel comfortable and know the details about the job, the likelihood that they will show up is very high.

13. Do you have licenses in your country to perform recruitment activities?

Especially in Eastern European countries, international recruitment agencies have a bad reputation in general; for example, in Lithuania, many stories go around of people treated inappropriately by recruiters when they were interested in working abroad.

Often, they pay money to a recruiter, travel abroad, and find out that nothing is waiting for them. Once back home, their recruiter is gone, and they have nothing and nobody to go to.

What is taken for granted in the Netherlands is not that standard in many Eastern European countries.

Another problem is that many Eastern European countries suffer from talent loss. The number of people migrating from their nation to the West is much higher than the birthrate. The population is shrinking.

Because of the two reasons mentioned above, the Ministry of Labor introduced licensing for active staffing companies. Some countries, such as Latvia and Romania, are very strict in setting rules and regulating staffing companies that work in international recruitment.

It can be quite a struggle to explain to these authorities how we offer our services remotely instead of having a traditional office. But we can’t expect these institutions to move at the same speed as their business colleagues. Other countries within Europe that require a license to recruit people are, for example, Slovakia and Hungary.

So, if you are speaking to agents from one of these countries, do the necessary background checks to ensure they have their licenses in order.

14. How big is your recruitment team?

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Less important than the other key questions, but still a great item for avoiding future risks, is how big the total recruitment team is.

If you rely on recruitment from external parties and suddenly lose a recruitment channel because of the business owner’s reasons, it creates additional stress in the organization.

Knowing who picks up tasks is good if the recruiter is on holiday or sick. You could even agree that your colleague takes over part of the responsibilities in case of illness. Breaking the flow can harm the business in the future, so come up with some solutions.

15. What tasks can you perform for us aside from candidate selection?

Working together with an external staffing partner can help you smooth your hiring process. For example, if the recruiting agent is collecting data from the job applicants, this can be easily transferred to your internal system.

With this, you gain speed in the recruitment process, and your operation can spend time speaking and listening to the new candidates instead of filling in all kinds of documents.

Another way to save time is to let the external recruiter ask the applicant to fill in all the requested data and collect all the materials (such as a scanned ID) to create a working contract in the Netherlands, Belgium, or Germany.

Let automation work to your advantage and spend your energy in places where it is needed most. People!

16. What are your company’s values?

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Photo Credit: Thirdman

If you see the international recruitment agency as a long-term partner, one with whom you can grow your business together, it’s essential to know each other’s values and how they align.

The best long-term partnerships are those with companies that share similar values. Having these aligned with each other makes communication smoother, especially among different countries and cultures that are often remote.

Without clear values, there will be nothing satisfactory to take the cooperation to the next level and give that extra push to the partnership when it is needed most: during crisis times but also when business is booming.

A similar view of running a business is that it creates connections that go beyond a money-based market.

It sounds very cliché, but it’s creating a better world.

17. What is the average type of person you recruit?

It’s good to know the specialty of the recruiter. It requires different recruiting skills to recruit craftspeople compared to, for example, people who work in logistics.

Each company has its own specialty, and it’s hard to be good at recruiting all different types of international staff.

You will have to know who the average worker is in your organization. In cases where the foreign staffing agency works with a similar persona, it’s a great advantage. They will likely know how to find these types of people and what companies they will be the best fit for.

It is hardly likely that small staffing agencies are good at recruiting all sorts of different people. Of course, nothing is impossible, but likely, the service quality of these staffing agencies will not be high compared to those that focus specifically on the market.

18. With whom do you do business, and could you share references?

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This is one of the key questions that is rarely asked, which is really surprising. Most of the staffing agencies you work with should come through referrals. It’s rather logical that if companies you enjoy working with have good experiences, you will cooperate well with them.

So, when you start working with a new staffing agency, why not ask them with whom they are already working and ask them for a reference you can call and do some background checks? Some staffing agencies are afraid that the reference will send people to their competitor instead of their agency.

The more different job offers an agency has to offer to their job applicants, the better the match that can take place. If candidates can choose, they will select the job offer that suits them most, benefiting all parties involved.

It’s not your direct competitor you should be afraid of; it’s more often another country that goes in favor of the job seeker.

19. What do you do extra to make jobseekers happy?

The average duration of stay of your candidates is the best KPI for measuring the quality of the selection of a staffing agency and it depends on the jobseeker’s satisfaction. You can ask the following essential questions:

  • What do you do, as a recruitment agency, to make jobseekers happy?
  • How do you make sure that they will be satisfied when they arrive?
  • Do you stay in touch with them after their arrival?
  • Do you connect them to other people?

There are many ways to satisfy potential candidates. The satisfaction of people is not in the hands of the employment agency but of the recruitment agency.

The question “What do you do extra to make jobseekers happy?” will answer how well the staffing agency understands the customer journey of jobseekers.

20. What can you do to grow our sales or save costs?

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Photo Credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

The last one of the essential questions you must ask an international recruitment agency when you plan a new partnership is how they can help you grow your sales and/or save costs. Eventually, you’re looking for a potential staffing partner to increase sales or save costs.

That is not only to be found in the acquisition of new talent, but there can also be other ways to save on costs or grow sales. Think about introduction videos that the agent can shoot with potential candidates and that you and your sales squad can take to prospective clients.

Or let the agent organize a relationship trip where you and your clients can see where people are coming from, try to understand the culture, and then make an informed decision. It’s a win-win situation for the staffing agency and the client, where applicants will eventually go to work.

In a partnership with the right staffing agency, you’ll help each other save on costs. When working together, many tasks overlap. Try to eliminate these duplicated tasks by importing data or documents.

Another way to save on costs is to optimize the entire hiring process and see it as a whole picture where both the international recruitment agency and the Dutch employment agency are involved. That way, you can streamline the entire hiring process and come together as a clean and lean organization that is scalable and ready for growth.

Another excellent example of cost-saving is outsourcing tasks to lower-cost labor countries. For example, if you create a network with a staffing agency in Eastern Europe, why not use their contacts to connect to translators and website builders?

Eastern European IT specialists are among the best in the world. You manage to work with recruitment agents from these countries; working with IT specialists should work as well, right?

Final Words

Hiring a recruitment agency should be easy if you go through the list of these 20 essential questions and pay attention to all the things we have pointed out.

But you no longer have to search for recruiters.

All you will have to do is send us a vacancy and Hire Abroad will distribute it to recruiters with a proven track record and match perfect job applicants they will later contact and propose.

We provide a 100% guarantee that all data is collected before the candidate departs, which reduces the no-show rate to just 5%

This is just one of many benefits we offer, but you can always get more information on what Hire Abroad can do for you.


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