Which agency to choose?
There is generally little benefit in working with more than one agency. In fact it can be detrimental as relationships are built on trust.
Also it makes it a lot more difficult to manage the process and keep up to date with where your candidates are coming from, which agency is dealing with which company, different people calling you about different roles etc.
It's far preferable to find an agency who can therefore manage the whole process in a more efficient way for you.
The first thing to do is ask around for personal recommendations. Clearly you can't openly ask your accountant or business consultant whom they would recommend but there may be other actuarial friends or discreet colleagues who could give some feedback on agencies they have used.
Some agencies employ actuaries as recruitment consultants. This adds extra value to the process in that the actuary has the technical background to fully understand your business needs, and particularly what your transferable skills are if you are looking to go in a slightly different direction. In dealing with professional people you can be confident of a quality and confidential service.
A key consideration is to not be swayed in your choice of agency by a sales led consultant as this can often mean the sale is more important than building a long relationship with the business.
After you have been passed lots in cv's and the interviews begin then it is a case of using your experience and instinct in selecting the right candidate for the position.
As the squeeze is being felt by business due to the current economic climate they are relying on specialist service sectors like recruitment agencies to deliver high quality staff for their business needs.
If in doubt about a candidate's ability to undertake work, why not ask them to run through a case or file with you during second interview? If they are a conveyancing solicitor, ask them to run through the procedure they would take on a file or if they are a graphic designer then ask to see some of their work.
Having a test or assessment is perfectly acceptable as this tests the candidate and allows you to make a balanced judgement on their ability.
After you have made a decision on the right candidate then ensure a written offer is made to confirm your intent and then insist a written reply of acceptance and this can save a lot of wasted time.