The P’s of Onboarding a Recruiter

A while back, I wrote about how to set up your recruiter for success. Recently we’ve  put together an outline on what we need to know when we bring on a new client, and I figured it was useful enough that I’d share it. I think this works for both new in-house recruiters (for very small companies) or third parties, though it’s certainly targeted at the latter.

I call it the 4 P’s, mostly to be clever. This post applies to both recruiters and companies, since as an employer, you want to make sure your recruiters have what they need.

Once we’re ready to work with a new client, we need to go through an onboarding process, so we know how to do a great job finding the right people. Here are the four topics we go over, generally in approximate order. Not including the preamble (ha! a fifth P!), this can take 1.5-2h, so it may work best over two phone calls or meetings.


First, we ask the client to sell us as if we were a candidate – what’s the standard patter they use. Sometimes we help edit that or ask leading questions to make sure that 1) we understand and 2) it’s credible; a great example is when a startup calls themselves “the world leader in X,” when either 1) they’re not yet or 2) that’s because X doesn’t exist. (We’re the world leader in Rooster-themed technical recruiting, at least as far as I know.)

Once we have that and we reflect it back, we will then dig into details that are almost never covered, but which candidates will want to know, especially for lesser-known companies and better-informed candidates. Where does your money come from? Are you profitable, and if not, what kind of runway do you have? Who are your clients, and how diverse are they? How many people are on the team, how many are in engineering, what’s the goal number? (We also find out how much of this information we can share, or if it can just inform a general pitch.) What’s the background of your executive team and/or investors/advisors?

Out of this conversation, we’re trying to create our own versions of this pitch: a 2-minute version we can say out loud in our own voice, and a six-sentence version we can put in email to people we know.


Next, we want to know how they like to go through the hiring process. Some companies have a way of doing this already, many don’t. Virtually every non-massive company wants to say that their process is lean and fast. Sometimes that’s even true.

Our goal here is to understand how things have worked, and to provide clear guidance that we need the process to move quickly: Recruiting is a Race. We do try to establish a process if one doesn’t exist: i.e. “we’ll send you a resume, in 24 hours you’ll decide whether to talk to the person and set up a phone screen, if that goes well you’ll do X…”, etc.

We try to keep this short, but it doesn’t always work.


What are you planning to offer – cash, equity, etc. This is also a time to talk about telecommute v. work from home occasionally v. always in the office, core hours, etc. Straightforward stuff but let’s get it out there per position, and if there’s some concern, let’s figure it out now.


(You can swap Packages and Positions if it’s easier)

Here’s where we go into detail on the roles they want us to start working on. Ideally we have job descriptions – if we do, those are a great place to start. We read the JD’s beforehand and have questions set up, and also see if they lead to any kind of larger questions about the people they want. (The Power of the First Question applies here, too – you can show how thoughtful you are as a recruiter.) If there are technologies we’ve never heard of or don’t understand why they might be relevant, we ask about them. If the JD describes a person who doesn’t exist, we talk about that and really prioritize skills, and then listen to what the hiring managers say.  We ask if they’ve hired someone similar recently, and look at the resume (though we have probably already done this).

Once we’ve finished the pitch conversation, we know what matters to them in general: this is our chance to dig deeper and get it right.

… and that’s it. There are other pieces that are worth covering, but this gets us started on an informed, credible foot.