Should I use a recruitment agency to hire employees?

Phil Kendall

May 2018 ⋅ 5 min read

If you've ever gone through the process of writing and posting a job ad, sorting through the applications, and then sitting down to interview the candidates, you'll know how much time and effort goes into recruitment.

Finding the right people to add to your team can be tough. Especially if you own your business or are the manager of a particularly close-knit team, you want to be sure you're making the right choice.

It's little wonder, then, that so many employers turn to recruitment agencies to help them fill those all-important roles.

But is a recruitment agency always the right way to go?

In this blog post, we'll be taking a lot at what recruitment agencies actually do in exchange for the fees they charge. We'll also be helping you decide whether an agency is right for you by weighing up the pros and cons of using one versus handling recruitment yourself.

Ready to find out if recruitment agencies are right for you? Let's go!

Jump to: Pros of Using Recruitment Agencies | Cons of Using Recruitment Agencies

Part 1: What do recruitment agencies do?

Put simply, recruitment agencies aim to fill job vacancies on behalf of a company or business owner in exchange for payment. Recruitment can require a great deal of work, so the idea of passing it all over to a team of people know the process like the back of their hand can be very appealing.

But there's more to recruitment agencies than posting jobs online and sorting through CVs.

Their services can vary from company to company, but here are some of the things that recruitment agencies typically offer to business owners:

  • Help writing job descriptions. Many agencies will help employers refine their job description and job ad so that it's as appealing to jobseekers as possible.
  • Post job ads. Your recruiter will usually know the best places to advertise your role, and will take care of any uploading and data entry required to get your ad up and looking good on job board sites. 
  • Handle enquiries. Even if they have yet to apply for the role, a lot of jobseekers will have questions about it. A recruitment agency will usually respond to all of these on the employer's behalf.  
  • Engage with prospective talent. Most recruiters spend a lot of time searching CV database and social media sites like LinkedIn, looking for candidates. If they think they've found — or already know of — someone who could be good for a role they're recruiting for, they'll reach out to them via phone, email, or private message.  
  • Screen applicants. Most recruiters will usually get in touch with job applicants individually to ask a few questions about themselves, their experience, and motivation for applying before passing their details on to the employer. 
  • Shortlist applicants. Once they've checked over the CVs and spoken to the applicants, your recruiter will come to you with best candidates.
  • Check references. Either before or after inviting them for interview, many recruiters will contact an applicant's referees to check that they actually have the skills and experience they mentioned on their application.
  • Arrange interviews. Most business owners will inform their agency of choice of the dates and times they'd like to conduct interviews. The recruiter will then contact the shortlisted applicants and fit them into convenient slots.
  • Help with selection. In some cases, a recruitment agency will even help employers making their final decision, offering sharing their impressions of the candidate and providing a second opinion where requested.

There are numerous other services that recruiters can provide — many of which are aimed more at jobseekers than employers. It's worth speaking with several different recruiters to find one that offers the kind of services that you require.

Part 2: The pros of using a recruitment agency

There are plenty of good reasons to work with a recruiter to find your next team member. Here are a few of the main advantages to outsourcing your recruitment process.  

Find staff quicker

As a manager or business owner, recruitment is unlikely to be a major part of your typical working day. Recruiters, meanwhile, source talent all day, every day, so you can be confident that they'll get the job done faster than you ever could.

With decades, if not centuries, of collective experience between them, the best recruitment agencies know how to reach out to candidates, what to look for in applicants, and how to streamline the process of getting jobseekers and employers together.

Reach more people

Recruitment agencies don't just post job ads online and hope that people will see them — they'll scour their databases, run searches on social media, and actively reach out to anyone who could be a good fit for the role. 

Plus, with their network of contacts and knowledge of job sites, recruiters are able to reach far more people than a single employer could ever hope to.

Recruit for hard-to-fill roles

If you're struggling to fill a role either because it requires a very particular skillset or there's a lack of talent in your immediate area, recruitment agencies can usually help. With access to industry-specific job boards, a recruiter is far more likely to find someone who's right for the role than an single employer advertising on generic sites. 

Focus on running your business

It's hard to juggle the everyday tasks of running a successful business while searching for new staff. By passing this task onto a team of professionals, you can continue focusing on your business rather than reading dozens of CVs, covering letters, and application forms. 

Part 3: The cons of using a recruitment agency

There is, of course, a flip-side to using a recruitment agency to fill roles at your business. The most common cases for handling your hiring entirely in-house are as follows: 


The amount you'll pay for a recruiter to bring you your next employee will differ greatly depending on the firm you use and the options you choose. As a ballpark figure, however, many recruitment agencies charge anywhere between 10–20% of the annual salary for the role you're hiring for, while others will set a flat fee. 

While there's nothing inherently wrong with this — you're paying for a specialised service, after all — the cost of hiring in this way can be a big hurdle for smaller businesses to overcome. 

Lack of branding

Ever noticed how many jobs advertised online don't mention the actual company? That's because, often, recruitment agencies keep their client's name a secret until the last possible moment (so that jobseekers don't bypass them and they lose out on their recruitment fee). 

When you've worked hard on your company's branding and are hoping to hire likeminded people, an agency keeping your business a secret until the later stages of recruitment can seem rather counter-intuitive. 

Lack of control

It's true that you'll be the one making the final decision, but by asking a recruitment agency to find your next employee for you, you have to trust them to represent your business properly while they do it. 

Poor public perception

Rightly or wrongly, there is something of a stigma attached to recruitment agencies today, with many jobseekers sharing stories of recruiters calling them out of the blue and pressuring them to apply for jobs that are 'perfect' for them even when they're not.

Ultimately, recruitment agencies are in it to make money, so they'll be much more aggressive about finding candidates than you might be — whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on you. 

Final Thoughts

Deciding to use a recruitment agency doesn't mean that you're incapable of managing recruitment by yourself. Rather, it's a decision to hand that responsibility to someone else either to yield better results or so that it leaves you free to focus on other aspects of your business.

That being said, the majority of small businesses are usually better off handling recruitment for themselves, either by placing and managing their own ads or having a dedicated member of staff who handles the entire recruitment process.

In-house recruitment can be time-consuming, but significant savings can be made by doing it yourself, and by overseeing the entire process you can be confident that you're hiring the right kind of people, not just filling a role with someone who matches it on paper.