Types of recruitment agencies

In ‘white collar’ specialist recruitment you will encounter several common types of agency.

‘General’ agencies:

These are the ones that carry out the full range of ‘office worker’ recruitment. From logistics to finance to IT. The plus side of these is that they can handle different types of assignments in one collaboration if your company has recruitment needs in different areas. The downside is that such recruiters are often less prepared to handle difficult, highly specialised roles and are more spread out in the networks and candidate bases of these companies.

Specialised agencies:

These are those that focus on one range of positions, such as IT. Their recruiters often have a wealth of experience and network in that particular field. They find it easier to conduct an effective briefing with a hiring manager. They may, on the other hand, perform less well or refuse to accept assignments outside of their specialism if one arises with you – in which case you need to engage another company or look for another way to source candidates.

Global agencies (corporations):

Have recognisable brands and can, under global contracts, effectively serve clients in multiple locations around the world. They have large bases and budgets for paid advertising. They boast certifications and meet standards that make it easier for large purchasing departments to process collaborative agreements. On the other hand, employees often receive less attention, so they are less well trained and, through high turnover in teams, change frequently – it is harder to establish a personal, long-term relationship with such a company.

Boutique agencies:

These are smaller agencies, often local. Sometimes they are highly specialised in a specific sub-field, e.g. recruitment of SAP specialists, Gaming or dedicated services for start-ups. In such companies, you will often meet recruiters with many years of experience who know their craft. You can usually get to know the owners at the stage of the buying process and you will encounter more flexibility in the service itself. Unfortunately, this flexibility can come with a lack of processes and the quality of the service itself can vary greatly depending on who specifically handles your business at any given time.

Outsourcing agencies:

These are companies that specialise in ‘hiring’ IT professionals for the duration of a project, often referred to as ‘contracting’. The advantage of these companies is that they are often more familiar with the very processes involved in deploying IT staff as a service and have a base of specialists available almost off-the-shelf, without having to hire them in-house. They are sometimes worse at sourcing hard-to-find talent beyond their own base and first results pages on LinkedIn, as they are working on a large number of projects at the same time, only a small proportion of which will close.

What to look out for when choosing?

Obviously, important elements when making a decision will be the models of cooperation offered by the agency in question, as well as their pricing and employment guarantee issues (you can read more about the most popular models here). I won’t go into which model is best, as each has its pros and cons depending on your problem you are trying to solve through the agency. The same goes for price and guarantee period – the same price can be high or low, depending on your context. Certainly elements such as a high volume of assignments and even temporary exclusivity for the agency will allow you to negotiate rates effectively ­čÖé

Once we have the formal matters out of the way, I would focus on establishing 5 things:

  1. How did the agency understand my challenge and how would they approach it? What would the process of my assignment look like from handover to hiring the candidate? Does the agency have standards or is it flying freestyle? I wouldn’t buy the answer of “it depends” and about the “individual approach to each assignment”. It is supposed to be CONCRETE.
  2. Has the agency actually solved problems similar to mine? Does it have references or can it provide a case study similar to my situation?
  3. How standard is the communication with me on a project? Is it just ad hoc or does the company have standards for reporting progress? Can I see an example of such a report, if they exist?
  4. Will I be able to meet the recruiters who will be doing my assignment, or will they be hidden behind the account manager? A single point of contact on a daily basis is convenient, but it’s good to be able to communicate the most important information about the vacancy directly without the risk of it being distorted or lost along the way in the communication chain.
  5. Many agencies promise golden mountains at the sales stage and then bury their heads in the sand when the assignment causes problems. Sometimes clients need a result for tomorrow, so the salesman suggests that he is able to deliver such a result because he is afraid that if he does not, someone else will say so. I would test such a salesperson with the question “Which recruitments do you do less well with?”, “Is there an IT recruitment job that you would not take on?”. If the salesman answers that “with us, there are no impossible recruits”, I would look for another company. It is important to have a partner who will adequately estimate their agency’s capabilities so that I can consequently communicate effectively with my stakeholders and manage my project queue.

At this stage, clients very often ask about the size of the base or the number of recruiters in the team, but from my experience and surveys from our clients, it is the responsibility, commitment and genuine communication of the recruiters that makes the projects deliverable and the collaboration satisfying.

Once you’ve made the choice to bring one or more agencies on board for IT recruitment assignments, the next step is to structure the collaboration in such a way that you instil a sense of responsibility in the supplier and know what’s going on at all times.