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Finding a Domestic Staff Recruiter and how to work with them

There are so many new domestic agencies out there. It feels like a new one opens every day. Today, more than ever, it is essential that employers and their representatives do their due diligence and ask the same questions of each agency while “shopping” around. My bet is that most agencies will not pass the muster. It is a troubling fact, however, it is a fact nonetheless for employers as well as for those looking for work.


The following questions are important for both employers and applicants.


So how does one vet a domestic agency? Here are a few good tips. By no means is the following list exhaustive.


Make sure you understand how the agency works?

If an agency is not prepared to put their terms and conditions onto paper, move on. Seriously… MOVE ON! Transparency and clarity from the beginning is essential in any relationship. If the agent isn’t prepared to do something so basic, it will always be a guessing game as to what your responsibilities are or, for that matter, what their responsibilities are to you. A contract or terms of conditions should indicate that the recruiter works for you as opposed to the candidate. NOTE: Sometimes working in the best interests of the client means balancing those with the interests with those of the candidate. Balance is key. That, however, is a different matter altogether.


Do they have references?

This is a tricky one. Many agencies are under Non Disclosure Agreements so references can be problematic for them to obtain. Then again, why not ask the question and see how the agency handles it?


Ask your friends?

The domestic placement field is a small one. It is likely that your friends, out a friend of a friend, has had experience with the agency. Always consider the source, but sources do matter.


Understand what kind of agency it is:

There are two types of domestic agencies (by now, there might be others… not necessarily a good thing). They fall into the categories of either contingency or retainer based. The former will take on any, or most, jobs being offered. Their job boards are filled with positions waiting to be filled. 


The latter will vet the client and job and ensure that a successful outcome is likely. For more information on the difference between these agencies, please visit One will provide you with plenty of attention while the other will likely be a resumé referral service that provides you with candidates, appropriate or not. What you are looking for depends on you. There is no one size suits all solution here. For some, contingency is a precise fit. For others, a retained service is the way to go.


One other thing… With retained recruiters, never be afraid to ask about their deposit to placement ratio. In other words, what percentage of deposits collected translate into actual placements? What is their history? What is their success rate? It is an important question, and reputable agencies should be able to respond. They should be collecting that data if they are professional. If they cannot, move on as some agencies are simply in the business of collecting deposits. It is a truth so beware!


Understand the agency’s expertise:

These days domestic agencies are opening up like coffee shops (and the coffee being served varies in quality). They are not created equally. Some will most definitely be better than others. Ask them directly about their expertise in the private service field. They should be able to answer the inquiry without hesitation. For example, do their recruiter employees have actual experience working in private homes. If they do not, how are they going to understand your needs and expectations. If they do not, my suggestion is to move on. They likely will not be able to “connect” with you on a professional level.


Ask them who your primary point of contact will be?

With many agencies, the first person an employer speaks with is either the owner or someone senior within the agency. In many cases, that initial conversation will likely be the last as the client is passed along to a junior employee. Do not be afraid to ask who the primary point of contact will be and what qualifications they have to achieve success. Clients are entitled to know this information. Agencies should be accountable to answer these kinds of questions. If they cannot, move on.


Are you getting the “move on” motif? Do not be afraid of it! Do not be afraid to move on. There are other agencies out there.


Ask agencies how they find their candidates?

The good agencies have built their relationships with good candidates over many years. They have engaged in a process of diligent nurturing and cultivation and the results matter. Agencies count on these qualified individuals over unqualified leads. It might not be these individuals who are the perfect candidate, but it might be one of their referrals who are ideal for the job. A trusted referral is as good as gold.


Asking agencies how they find their candidates is an important question and if an agency is incapable of providing a convincing explanation, move on. There are those two words again (my apology). A deep and robust database of candidates is key. Failing that, an ability to mine those connections is the next best thing. Some recruiters are lazy (surprise, surprise) while others are very creative in their approach in seeking strong and suitable candidates. In this labour market, creativity is essential. If they can’t think outside of the box and identify how to do so, move on. As an employer, you are looking for those creative and resourceful agents. Avoid the lazy “inside the box” ones.


What kind of positions have they recently placed?

Any agency worth its muster should be able to answer this question. Do they have experience placing the kinds of positions you seek? Do they have expertise in placing these positions? How did they do it? What is their success rate?


What are their terms?

It is odd but I have encountered potential clients who do not care about this item. For Portico, this is a “walk away” response. If a client does not care about our terms, we do not care about their business. Sounds harsh, I know, but there are real reasons for it. Clients need to understand methodology, responsibilities (their’s and the agency’s). If the agency seems to be reluctant to disclose, that is a red flag. Move on! If the client refuses to sign on, that too is a red flag, and so the agency should move on.


Clients should know about costs, procedure, guarantee periods, the kind of support the agency is equipped to offer, and the ongoing support they are willing to offer. And, it should be in writing!


How do they develop the all-important job description?

Job descriptions are what recruiters go to “market” with, and, as such, they are critical. To what extent is the client involved in the job profile development process? Are job profiles developed in such a way that acknowledges the intricacies of what employers seek or are they boilerplate versions of what the agency has recruited for before? Retained agencies should never go for boilerplate. Their service should be bespoke. Employers should be involved in the process of developing an accurate job profile that is in alignment with their needs and expectations. It is key to ultimate success. Time and effort should equal success.


What is their methodology for vetting candidates?

This is an extremely important question that is rarely asked. How do agencies interview candidates? What is their process? What steps do they follow? What kind of questions do they ask? How do they test for hard and soft skills? How do they compare one candidate to another? What protocols do they have in place to maximize the ability to eliminate candidates who are untruthful and have backgrounds that includes malfeasance? How do they differentiate between the honest and not so honest applicant? What are their red flags?


Is the recruiter being transparent?

Do they know jurisdictional labour laws? Are they prepared to say when they believe you are in breach of labour law? I have always thought of this as a test of integrity. If a recruiter is prepared to flout labour law, they do not have your best interests in mind. That should matter — if not today, then tomorrow. If they do not know, they should say so. There is no shame in this. Recruiters are not lawyers and do not expect them to take on that role. If they do, I suggest moving on.


What is their recruiting process?

Different recruiters will follow different processes. A few will claim to vet (reference and background) their candidates prior to presenting them to you. I would be dubious about such claims, primarily for reasons like costs associated with background checks. Take for example a busy recruiter presenting up to 200 candidates on a monthly basis. That means 200 candidates with background checks (which need to be conducted with the candidate’s approval) being conducted at a cost of $200 plus for each candidate. That amounts to a cost to the recruiter of approximately $40,000 per month. Ask yourself if that is within the realm of the expected? Do you believe a recruiter is spending that amount of money on candidates who may or may not convert into placements. Being transparent, I find that highly unlikely. 


Also, ask what a background check includes and who they use to conduct checks.

Generally speaking, the transparent recruiter will indicate that background checks are conducted when an offer of employment is pending. All offers can be made contingent upon a successful background check result.


Reference Checks?

These days reference checks matter less and less due to liability issues. Few employers will provide a negative reference as it exposes them to matters regarding employment liability. It is essential that a recruiter understands how to conduct a reference check. Usually this means reading between the lines as opposed to the lines. It is the difference between literal thinking and intuitive thinking. A good recruiter will have the latter. A poor recruiter will be limited to the former.


Support through the hiring process

Many recruiters will simply disappear from your radar once a placement is made. Ask about the kind of support you can expect during a search process, during a hiring process, as well as afterwards. Are they present, if required, through the interview process? Do they provide support in the drafting of an offer? Do they have the ability to provide you with a bullet-proof confidentiality agreement? Do they have the ability to draft a live-in arrangement agreement that is in alignment with jurisdictional law? What else can they offer?


The above is a sampling of the kinds of questions employers should be asking the recruiters they are considering engaging. Due diligence is important. Not doing so may result in disappointment, failure and monetary loss.


I recognize that the above is far from exhaustive, but it does provide a degree of guidance for employers choosing one agency over another. I also think it provides some useful insight for those who are looking for work and deciding on an agency who will best represent their interests. 


I wish employers success as opposed to failure. I wish candidates achieve their goals. That is what Portico Inc.’s business is about. I wonder about those other businesses out there? Seriously, I do.


That said, good luck finding that ideal employee whether it be through Portico Inc. or another agency!

© 2023, Portico Inc.

Positions We Place
  • Housekeepers

  • Cook/Housekeepers

  • Executive Housekeepers

  • Nannies

  • Laundresses

  • Elder Caregivers

  • Personal Assistants

  • Office Butlers

  • House Managers

  • Private Chefs

  • Butlers (Household & Corporate)

  • Domestic Couples

  • Estate Couples

  • Chauffeurs

  • Companions

  • Corporate Flight Attendants


© 2017 - 2021, PORTICO INC.

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