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Exploring Outsourcing Options

While not cheap, employee search firms can help you find the right match

Three years ago, Barbara Carr, executive director of the SPCA Serving Erie County in Tonawanda, New York, needed to hire a comptroller. Instead of conducting a time-consuming search on her own, Carr contracted Dopkins & Company, LLP, an accounting and human resources consulting firm, to help her find the most qualified candidate. She was so impressed with their services that she now uses them whenever she needs to fill an executive-level position at her shelter.

Search firms or human resources consulting firms can offer an impressive variety of services to aid in every step of the hiring process. Such firms can do everything from writing and placing ads to interviewing and testing candidates. They can even contact references and conduct background checks, explains Terry Terhark, senior vice president of Aon Consulting in Findlay, Ohio.

You can hire a search firm to handle the entire hiring process or only selected pieces. For example, some shelters might do everything in-house but let a search firm administer personality or other assessment tests. Terhark says firms can administer tests developed to assess an applicant’s skills, integrity, initiative, teamwork, and more. Firms can also coordinate drug testing.

One of the benefits of using a search firm, according to Carr, is that they check things she never even thought to check. Using a search firm also saved her time. Dopkins conducted a search, screened applicants, and then presented Carr with the best applicants they’d found. All Carr had to do was interview them and pick the one she wanted to hire.

Using a search firm is not cheap, however. Fees vary widely depending on the level of the position being filled. For example, flat fees for filling an hourly position range from $300 to $700 per hire, while flat fees for an executive position start at $2,000 per hire, depending on the desired skill set, explains Terhark. Search firms also commonly use a percentage-based fee structure.

Mark Koziel, CPA, director of placement services and human resources consulting for Dopkins, says you can expect to pay between 15 and 30 percent of the first year’s salary. However, if you want to select hiring services in a more a la carte fashion—having the firm administer assessment tests or conduct background checks on each candidate, for example—the fees will be per candidate instead of per hire.

When searching for a firm to assist you in filling employment vacancies, Terhark recommends selecting one with experience in handling positions in animal care and control or in similar fields. For example, Carr used Dopkins to find a comptroller because the company had extensive experience in the accounting industry. Search firms do not need to hold any kind of professional certification, so “look for someone with experience and a good list of references,” says Terhark. Call those references and ask how long it took the firm to find candidates, how happy the references are with the firm’s services, and if they would use the firm again. Finally, Terhark advises that you look for a firm that can be flexible and willing to customize its services to meet your unique needs.

For more information about using a search firm, contact Aon Consulting, 1100 East Main Cross Street, Suite 15, Findlay, OH 45840; 419-422-7995; Or contact Dopkins & Company, LLP, 200 International Dr., Buffalo, NY 14221; 716-634-8800;


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