What is more profitable: a recruiting agency or a freelance recruiter?

    Everyone who has at least once looked for Hadoop or Erlang developers knows that such searches require a lot of time and effort. To optimize the work and get the maximum result in a minimum of time, complex vacancies are often outsourced. Resigned to the need to hire a contractor, the company faces the main choice, which will determine how the further work will proceed. Who is better to hire: a recruiting agency or a freelancer? Which of the options is more profitable in terms of the ratio of invested funds to the result? Who will close the vacancy faster and more efficiently?


    Option 1: Freelancers

    Traditionally, freelancers (not only recruiters, but also designers, programmers, copywriters and everyone else) are chosen for one reason: the budget. Freelancer services are always cheaper: he works without VAT, he does not need to pay for office rent, pay money to a pension fund, etc. According to statistics, the choice of a freelancer halves the cost of recruiting. This is a big plus, but freelancers have their drawbacks.

    The first and main of them is the lack of processability in work. A freelancer is forced to fulfill not only his direct responsibilities in finding candidates, but also take on other people's functions. He is his own “salesman” (looking for new orders, offering his services), his own manager (looking for a way out of difficult situations, coordinating the process), his own PR man (trying to appear at important events for the industry, write current posts on social networks, writes columns for publications). All this takes time and is to the detriment of the main occupation of the recruiter - the search for candidates.

    The second is isolation from the professional environment.. Communication and cooperation are designed to make work more productive. A specialist working on his own does not have the opportunity to seek help from colleagues in a difficult situation, which makes it more difficult for him to solve problems. In addition, it is more difficult for an autonomous recruiter to grow professionally: a freelancer learns only from his own mistakes, being, in a sense, divorced from recruiting trends.

    The third is relatively modest resources . Freelancer is an independent combat unit. He uses only his own database of candidates, the size of which does not go to any comparison with the bases of agencies. This means that out of his field of vision there are many qualified candidates, and the choice of the client is limited.

    Sometimes companies have to pay twice for choosing a cheap contractor - if not in money (by contacting another provider), then in time, having lost a few extra weeks or even months. In addition, in business, time always has an expression in monetary terms.

    Option 2: Recruiting Agencies Specializing in a Specific Area

    Saying “recruiting agencies” in this post, we mean companies with specialization in specific areas of the market : the selection of IT personnel (such as iChar ), sales managers, top managers, marketers, etc. The specialization confirms the expertise of the recruiting company in the selected areas and to some extent serves as a guarantee of the result. As a rule, candidates know the brand of the agency and readily consider the vacancies offered to them.

    The main reason companies are in no hurry to conclude an agreement with a recruiting company is, again, the cost of services. It would be pointless to pay more if, as in popular advertising, there was no noticeable difference between the agency and the freelancer. But it is - and there are also several reasons for that.


    The first number in the list of benefits is the very process that freelancers lack. Turning to the services of a recruiting company, the client can be sure that a whole team will work with him systematically. The entire recruiter’s working day will be devoted to finding candidates, the key account manager will be involved in the project support, and there’s a separate specialist for PR. The structure is the elder sister of efficiency, and with it in recruiting companies everything is in order.

    The second reason is the resources of a recruitment agency. A specialized company always has its own accumulated base of candidates over the years , to which all recruiters have access. This is a closed search channel that allows you to find a candidate who is not looking for work right now.

    Third -professionalism of recruiters , their presence in context. Rotating in the industry day by day, they constantly improve their professionalism, adopt the experience of colleagues and can turn to them for help at any time. It happens that agency recruiters go to freelance, but companies try to keep the best of them in their staff.

    Working with an agency always implies guarantees that a freelance recruiter cannot give. So, when closing a particularly complex vacancy, his colleagues are connected to the specialist responsible for it. When working with a recruiting company, force majeure (a sudden illness of a recruiter, his life circumstances) ceases to be a threat because one employee is replaced by another if necessary. In addition, the client always has several levers of influence on the recruiter. Any question can be solved both through team lead and through account manager - communication with them provides additional opportunities for solving complex issues.


    Anticipating the controversy, we anticipate the objections that may arise from those who support the freelancers.

    “But freelancers have better motivation.”

    Recruiting services are paid after the employee goes to work. The mindset of the objectioner is as follows: until the freelancer closes the vacancy, he will not receive money, while the agency’s recruiter has a salary. It turns out that a freelancer is more interested in success?

    Not. Agency recruiter receives a bonus for closed vacancies, and for him financial motivation does not lose relevance. Think about it: does anyone really choose a contractor, thinking that he will either do the job or die of starvation?

    The agency's recruiter, along with a freelancer, works for a personal brand and builds a reputation for itself. Moreover, the recruiter of the agency is controlled by the head and KAM (key account manager), which serves as an additional incentive for him.

    “But a freelancer works more than just from 9 to 18”

    Normalized working hours are not about recruiters. Both the freelancer and the specialist from the agency equally cannot afford to finish the work at exactly six in the evening. Recruiters always try to adjust their schedule to customers and candidates, perfectly understanding the specifics of the business in which they work. If the candidate can communicate with the recruiter only at 9 pm, both the freelancer and the agency employee will agree to these conditions with equal enthusiasm.

    “But agency recruiters also become freelancers”

    It's right. Indeed, among freelancers there are very professional recruiters with experience in consulting, capable of getting anyone out of the ground without outside help. But there are few of them. There are various reasons for leaving the agency - not only the achieved ceiling for career and professional growth.

    Instead of a conclusion

    We have not discovered any America. The choice between an agency and a freelancer still depends on the client’s willingness to pay (or take risks) and on the desire to have guarantees. If the need for savings is stronger than the threat of risk, nothing prevents the company from choosing a freelancer. If the funds allow and the requirements are high, the priority contractor is still an agency.

    We visually compared freelancers and recruiting agencies in this table:


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