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Should you use a Recruitment Agency?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

If you’re looking to fill a role in your business, you might be considering using a recruitment agency. However, before you get in touch with your local firm, it might be a good idea to consider whether you should be using one, especially if you’re looking at hiring into more senior roles.

Essentially, if you’re in need of a short-term flexible solution, lower level members of staff, or multiple people, then a recruitment agency might be a timely and cost effective option. However, if you’re looking to fill a senior or executive gap, then it might not be the right call.

While, in principle, a recruitment agency and a specialist executive search consultancy is the same - finding appropriate candidates for a specific role - the results and the processes involved are incredibly different.

Find out more about whether you need a recruitment agency below.

What do recruitment agencies do?

A recruitment agency is there to act as an intermediary between employers and job seekers, and offer services to support the recruitment process.

You can expect them to offer the following services:

  • Job advertising: They may advertise job vacancies on behalf of their clients to attract potential candidates. This can sometimes mean your businesses information isn’t included so the candidates go through the agency instead.

  • Candidate screening: Recruitment agencies may screen and shortlist job applicants based on specific job requirements, experience, and qualifications on your behalf.

  • Skills assessment: You might expect a recruitment agency to conduct skills assessments, aptitude tests, and other evaluations to determine the suitability of candidates for particular roles.

  • Interviewing and selection: They may conduct initial interviews with candidates and select the most suitable candidates to present to you as the client.

  • Reference checks: Recruitment agencies may conduct reference checks on candidates to verify their employment history and qualifications.

  • Temporary staffing: Recruitment agencies may provide temporary staffing solutions to their clients, such as contractors or freelancers, for short-term projects or to cover staff absences.

How do recruitment agencies find candidates?

An organisation might choose to hire a recruitment agency to advertise a role for them, which can involve using online job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn here in the UK. They may also look to advertise this role on their social media to support this.

Furthermore, they may also have their own database of potential candidates, and would match their skill set with the requirements of your role.

Due to the approach used by these firms, which is focussed around advertising roles and holding a bank of multiple people, recruitment agencies are very handy when it comes to filling lower level positions - as we mentioned above.

However, it might not be the best option if you’re looking for a leadership, or senior role. A generic recruitment agency can cast their net too widely for this type of position, where an executive hire requires a far more particular and specific approach.

The difference between a recruitment agency and an executive search consultancy

There are some pretty important key differences between a recruitment agency and an executive search consultancy.

Of course, you’re looking to hire very different employees with these methods, so it makes sense that, while the principle may be the same, the processes behind it are very different.

If you’re in need of an executive leader for your organisation, the executive search consultant will provide a very different service and approach, which is far more likely to garner results than through a recruitment agency.

  • In-depth consultation - When using an executive search consultancy, they will organise an in-depth consultation with you, to discuss the needs of your organisation, along with industry-specific details

  • Proactively searching - one of the words we mentioned above when discussing what a recruitment agency can offer is job seekers. When it comes to executive search, they are looking for the candidate, not the candidate looking for the job. As these top tier candidates are few and far between, especially those with specific industry experience, a proactive approach to finding them is far more effective.

  • Level of service - A good, reliable search consultant will be there to support you with all your executive level hires and will endeavour to build a strong working relationship with you, and deliver a high level of service. This might include guidance and advice with the interview process, onboarding and ongoing support once the candidate is placed to ensure it’s the right fit.

  • High quality of work - Due to the nature of the executive search process vs the general recruitment process, you will receive very specific candidates to review from your search consultant. They will work hard to provide you with the most appropriate candidates that meet your very specific requirements. With a recruitment agency, you may have a number of candidates presented to you, but the quality and appropriateness of these individuals may not be what you’re looking for.

Should you use a recruitment agency or an executive search consultancy?

It really does depend on what you’re looking for.

If you’re in need of a team of administrative assistants to support with a big project, then a recruitment agency could be a great place to start. The risks involved in a bad hire at this level are far lower, and you may be able to work on a temporary contract with these members of staff.

However, if you’re looking to find a new CFO who’s going to make a big difference to your bottom line, we’d suggest an executive search consultancy.

The risks involved in hiring an inexperienced or under-skilled CFO are extremely high, and the safest and most cost effective way to hire at this level is by utilising the skills and expertise of an executive search consultant.

If you need to find a highly-skilled, experienced leader for your organisation, get in touch with SPS International today. Our team of executive search consultants are here to help.


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