This article focuses on contract/temporary staffing vendors, and may be useful for Procurement and IT departments at all size companies in preparing a RFP for "Temporary Staffing / Staff Augmentation / Contingent Staffing Services". It may also be useful for IT and Corporate Management to learn the Staffing Vendor Selection issues.
From a client perspective – try to understand your vendor's business involving their processes, costs, challenges etc. Once you do, you will be better armed than your competition in order to give your internal departments and vendors relevant data, which will eventually lead to your vendors coming through with the best talent with lower risk.
1. Basic Vendor Screening
• How long in business (experience counts). Don’t give credit to “individuals” industry experience – you want to know about “company” experience. When hiring temporary staff, company is more important than the individual(s) you deal with. Minimally, the vendor should have been in business 10 years, and gone through a few different economic cycles and recessionary environments.
• Ask for types of clients they have experience with. Have they worked with clients in an industry similar to yours?
• Meet some of the vendor staff. See if you have access to vendor’s senior management. Many companies have offshored their initial candidate sourcing. But quality produced by these offshore recruiters is significantly lower than US based recruiters. Are these the people you want to represent your company? What is the turnover among the client facing “account management” and “recruiting” staff.
• Ask what type of background checks they perform on the candidates. Minimally, they should be verifying US employment eligibility (not hiring illegal aliens) and criminal background checks. See related article “11 tips on hiring and IT Consultant”.
• Are they adequately insured? Typically, you want to look for Commercial General Liability, Professional Liability (Errors and Omissions), Employers Liability and State mandated Workers Compensation and Disability policies that carry at least $2MM per claim limits.
2. Capacity and Hiring Volume
• Ask how many consultants do they currently have deployed at clients sites. If you want to be extremely thorough, ask them for some proof (e.g. using 10,000 per month as an average cost per consultant, if their bank statement shows payments of $100K in a month, that means they have approx. 10 consultants).
• Also ask for a list of new consultants they have placed in the last 12 months. This will help you understand the “volume” of business they do on an active basis. For example, if they have 100 consultants currently, but placed 10 in last 6 months (meaning 90 of them were placed more than 6 months back), that does not demonstrate an “active” recruiting team, just shows long term engagements.
3. Recruiting Process
• Identify the depth of their process and the quality checkpoints.
• Ask them types of questions they ask candidates during the recruitment and screening process
• Ask about their candidate interview process. In IT industry, it is very common for consultants to be located in different states, where an in-person meeting is not feasible. Your vendors should be interviewing these candidates using some video conferencing technology. See related article “11 tips on hiring and IT Consultant”.
• Ask sources of recruitment (e.g. online job boards, internal databases, referrals etc.). If they are able to substantiate 10%+ hires via referrals, you will have access to candidates not easily available to their competitors.
4. Financial health
• This is very important as temporary staff gets paid by the staffing services provider, and there are co-employment and other legal issues at stake. There have been cases where you need data from a vendor going several years back. Therefore, you need to deal with a vendor who has good chances of surviving through all kinds of economic cycles.
• Ask for their Revenues, P&L statement, Balance Sheet etc. A reliable vendor should be profitable, but profit should not be high like 30% of the revenues. Ideal vendors will have profit between 5% to 15% of revenues. Anything less implies “risk” and anything more implies “fat margins”.
• If you want to be extremely thorough, ask them for some proof. Once again, bank statements can show a lot, but not many vendors will be willing to share this data.
5. Candidate Payment Process
• Assure and impose process for candidate payments. Regardless of who employs the candidate, the candidate should be getting paid once every two weeks, and no later than once a month. If candidate does not get paid at least once a month, they will leave.
• In worst case scenario, the vendor should be paying their subcontractors within 5 business days of receiving payment from you, the client organization. (Note: subcontractor is not same as consultant working at your site)
6. Co-Employment Issues
• What checks are in place, in case a government audit is requested, the client company does not end up being recorded as candidate’s “employer”. There was a case a few years back, when Microsoft fought a battle with government entities on this issue. You want to assure that you are taking appropriate measure to protect your company.
7. Markups and Costs
• Understand the vendor’s markups and costs (i.e. how much do they markup after all their costs). Know about vendor costs, as each vendor has different structure. Some vendor offer health benefits / paid vacation etc, whereas others do not. Regardless, there will be some costs such as employment taxes, workers compensation and other state mandated statutory costs. Ask them for breakdown of these costs. When doing this analysis, keep in some IT candidates you hire will not be employed by the vendor you deal with, but another subcontractor (which is acceptable and encouraged - see related article “11 tips on hiring and IT Consultant”). Typical markup are in the 25% to 50% ranges, depending on benefits, costs and other variables.
8. Industry affiliations
• Is the vendor affiliated with an accredited industry staffing association? If yes, you have some confidence that they are aware of trends, laws and best practices. If they are not, you should ask yourself “why”. Why is this vendor not willing to invest in themselves?
• Ask for technology vendor partnerships e.g. IBM, Oracle, Microsoft etc. While this is not critical, it will help you understand the vendor’s specialties. If they are associated with some technology vendor as a partner, ask if candidates have access to exclusive learning material and training provided by these industry partners
9. Timesheets and Invoicing
• Ask about their timesheet collection / time reporting and invoicing process. If you, as a client, already use an internal time reporting application, ask the vendor if they will accept this data, which will remove the headache of consultants working at your site of by filling out multiple timesheets.
10. Temp to Perm Conversion
• Ask the vendor of their policies regarding hiring their consultant as your employee. You should be aware that many times the consultant is not directly employed by the vendor you are dealing with, and the vendor may have “non-solicitation” clauses with their subcontractors. Don’t impose Temp to Perm conversion, as that will limit access to good talent. But it is important for you to know what you are getting.
11. Vendor Pool
• Ask about their experience when competing with other vendors. Ideally, you as a client, depending on your company size, would want to have between 5 to 25 active vendors. If you have less than 5, you may not be accessing a large enough candidate pool, and if you have more than 25, your vendors are not very motivated to work in an environment with excessive competition. You need to find a balance, and need to work with a vendor that has experience in environment such as your.
12. Post-Sale Follow Up
• What is the process of vendor follow ups, after they place a consultant?
Good vendors should have a process for consultant and client follow ups, like 30-day, 6 month, and one year? In addition, senior management should meet with you at least once a year, with quarterly in-person meetings with your account manager.
To summarize, identify the pain points of your current job. If having inadequate IT staff is amongst the top 3 reasons of your current challenges, you need to invest time in forming, screening, developing and maintaining relationships with the right staffing partners.