The good news is you have more options than ever to get the job done. Partners, old and new school, abound.
The bad news is that having as many as “15 very specific, hard-to-fill engineering openings” and NO internally dedicated sourcing capabilities are an indication your firm is seriously at risk unless this is a one-time thing.
That said, the traditional answer is to look up Kennedy Career Services’ “Red Book’’ of executive and professional firms that specialize in manufacturing and cross index with specialties in the engineering disciplines you seek (as well as having a presence in the upper Midwest/automotive/equipment- assuming these fit your situation). Call them and make a package deal.
Not in the Red Book directory are many small 'mom and pop’ contingent firms with as much knowledge and capacity (given today’s technology tools) as the 'big dogs'. You’ll find them supporting and learning from each other at popular recruiting-related Websites and quietly but visibly lurking on LinkedIn Groups where the Engineers you want to hire are networking.
On the non-traditional side, there are excellent recruiting/sourcing contractors working for one company at a time for 3-12 months and fully capable of taking on your entire load. They are the profession’s Jedi Masters. One way into that high-end network would be to give Jeremy Roberts who heads up SourceCon, a niche conference for recruiters and candidate sourcing," a call and ask who he thinks are the top 5 contractors- preferably those that have competed in sourcing competitions during the last few years. Call them and ask if they are available and, if not, who they would recommend.
Or, avoid the hassle (sourcing the above on your own) and simply call someone who brokers recruiting contractors like Leslie O’Connor, president of Search Wizards.
If you do have some internal capability to go after Engineers identified by Lead Generation specialists (they find them, you sell them) you might want to work with Steve Lowisz at Qualigence (in Detroit) or Sheila Greco, SG Associates.
Selecting them is easy (most people work to make it very hard). My three rules:
1. If the people on the team haven’t been in business at least 3 (preferably 5 years and more), walk away. Invite them to come back when they have survived at least one downturn.
2. Ask if they placed or worked on similar positions i.e. hard to fill engineering positions and can offer 1-2 names and contacts you can call to confirm. Do your due diligence.
3. Given that you have negotiated a fair package, you should have a weekly call to review progress and discuss the actual names of the people they’ve spoken with. Their work product isn’t just the folks you end up hiring but ALL the people they touch while representing you. You will include in your contract the possibility that down the road you might hire these leads and owe a residual commission but every contact they make in your name should find its way into your database.
A final note: If you are going to be doing this over and over, you need to build internal capability or make a longer term deal (Recruitment Processing Outsourcing) but that is another question.
SOURCE: Gerry Crispin, CareerXroads, Kendall Park, New Jersey, October 21, 2013.