The right staffing partner is exactly that — a partner. That means you're looking to build a long-term relationship built on open communication, trust, transparency and alignment around shared goals. After all, the right partner is a staffing firm that offers consultative guidance and provides solutions with your business' best interests at heart, not one that just floods your inbox with unvetted resumes. 

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff when evaluating potential partners? Here are five essential questions that will help you find the best staffing partner for your company. 

does your firm fully understand my goals?

The proper function of a staffing agency goes way beyond sending you qualified candidates. Making the right fit means taking your company's goals into consideration and having an in-depth understanding of  company culture to ensure that talent can deliver value from day one.

The first step to successfully partnering with a staffing agency is reviewing your goals — both in the near-term (say, over the next 60 to 90 days) and over the long haul (the next one to five years). Be sure to talk to other business leaders about their talent needs, and try to map out some of the ways your organization's technology roadmap might create talent needs going forward.

Of course, when you're scrambling to find the right people for key vacancies, that kind of clear-eyed strategic planning might take a back seat to the more immediate goal of backfilling for key positions. Nonetheless, it's vital for you to think critically about the goals and metrics that ultimately matter to your business the most. Is the primary goal ROI and cost savings? Or are operational improvements, like greater efficiency and shorter onboarding time, what you're really after? Get a handle on the most important metrics, and you'll be well on your way to launching a value-added partnership. 

does your firm have an adequate network to support my talent needs?

Staffing agencies vary in size, and so do their talent networks, ranging from the truly global — providers with on-demand talent solutions for nearly every industry and role — to more narrow market- or niche-specific providers. Think project managers in Boston, say, or Houston-based sous-chefs.

Whatever the unique talent needs of your organization, your should also bear in mind that successful engagements with staffing agencies tend to scale up. After all, once your staffing partner has demonstrated operational and financial improvements based on a requisition of X employees, the next logical step is to ask, "What, then, would be the return on 10X?"

That's why staffing partners with sufficient versatility to scale your partnership often make for better long-term matches. And that's also why you should touch base with multiple department heads before moving forward. After all, while you might be backfilling exclusively for, say, finance and accounting talent today, are there potential talent gaps in other functional areas that you can foresee down the line? Staffing agencies that understand your precise needs can be a source of tremendous long-term value — and you're more likely to see that value when you partner with an agency that can deliver on those needs holistically.

can your firm deliver on my timeline?

Related to the size of a staffing agency's network is its timeline for delivery. As a general rule of thumb, larger staffing agencies — those that have deeper benches of talent and broader geographic reach — will be able to source candidates much faster than smaller, boutique firms.

At the same time, time-to-fill is also generally linked to complexity of the role in question. For instance, it will likely take longer to source, qualify, credential and train a registered nurse for a new hospital assignment than it will to place an entry-level picker on the floor of a warehouse. So be sure to discuss your ideal timeline for delivery with potential staffing agencies right away — because if they can't source the talent that you need when you need it, then you should probably start looking elsewhere.            

will your firm be completely transparent with me?

Besides aligning with your staffing agency on a timeline for delivery, be sure to ask potential partners what their offerings look like across each phase of delivery. This is particularly important when it comes to contracts and agreements, since these can get complicated. The key question is: Who owns the process — your organization or your staffing partner — during each stage of the engagement?

How that question is answered will have ramifications for multiple areas, including:

  • training and onboarding
  • onsite management 
  • compliance
  • record-keeping and reporting 
  • transitioning employees at the end of an engagement 

Finally, you should make sure these responsibilities are specifically spelled out in your contract. Feel free to ask your representative from the staffing agency to break down the pricing structure with you in detail, and keep in mind that terms of payment will differ from one staffing agency to the next. 

does your firm have methods of demonstrating ROI?

Bottom-line priorities are usually what drive businesses decision-makers to seek support from staffing providers, so it makes sense that bottom-line value is top-of-mind in evaluating their offerings. That's why, if aren't sure about the likely ROI on a potential partner's offering — or if you simply need supporting materials to take back to your internal stakeholders — don't hesitate to ask your representative to see case studies.

Pro tip: Just make sure these case studies feature clients with similar pain points, are of similar size and in your industry. 


No matter which provider you ultimately settle on, it's imperative for you to fully understand what you're getting into, and what you should expect to get out of it, from the beginning — otherwise, needless to say, the engagement is unlikely to be a success. But by keeping the five criteria outlined in this article in mind as you evaluate different staffing partners, and then actively tracking progress against your key metrics once the engagement has started, you'll be able to avoid surprises and achieve your business goals.