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Hiring: Should You DIY or Use a Recruiting Service?

Sean Peek
Sean Peek

When it's time to hire a new employee, do you court job seekers on your own or hire a recruiting service? Here's what you need to know about each method.

One of the biggest obstacles that small to medium businesses face is finding the right talent to  join their company. Startups and small companies need employees who are reliable, talented, and will help grow the business with their own ambition and energy. Usually, businesses either work with a job recruiting service, also known as a staffing agency, or develop their own hiring process.  

In this article, we outline the difficulties small businesses face when filling positions and the differences between working with a recruiting service or hiring employees yourself.

Hiring and recruiting challenges 

A common question, posed in this case by business.com community member and human resources expert Amanda Haddaway, is, "What are your biggest challenges with recruiting talent into your organization?" 

Depending on your industry, your business may face fierce competition from other companies for the best talent, especially from larger enterprises. According to recruiting software company Top Echelon, the top competitive industries to find talent include information technology, engineering, healthcare, manufacturing and marketing. If you're in need of a recruiter to fill a specialized position, winning over a promising candidate when a bigger competitor is offering positions with larger starting salaries, a host of benefits, and more upward mobility can seem daunting. 

If you're in an industry where talent is scarce, finding qualified candidates can be challenging, particularly when you're determined to do it yourself. You don't want to start the recruiting process and fill the position with any warm body who does the bare minimum, so you'll need to read dozens of resumes and schedule time to conduct interviews. This can be a drag on HR resources if you or your other managers are the only ones qualified to interview and hire applicants. 

Filling a position can take up a lot of your own time that could be better spent on other aspects of the business. If you're not experienced in hiring new help, you could end up with someone who doesn't live up to their application.

Using a recruiting service

There is are hundreds of hiring agencies and recruiting services out there you can hire to find the right talent for your open positions. Recruiting services eliminate the need for you to go through the time-consuming challenge of finding the right applicants for the job. 

Recruiting services offer several advantages to small companies looking to hire, the first of which is the obvious timesaving aspect for you and your management if you don't have an HR manager or department. You can concentrate on your main responsibilities while leaving recruiting to a professional. 

"Finding the best talent is a full-time job. By the time companies decide they need help, they are already desperate, and morale is down," said Brianna Rooney, founder of recruiting service Techees. "When a company can't find someone, or they are having people decline their offers, it takes a toll on the company and employees." 

Having experienced recruiters who are solely dedicated to finding the right candidate for your position keeps you unbiased in your selection, allowing you to select the best candidate with most talent for the job. 

Other cases where hiring a recruiter can be advantageous is when you're new to an area or opening a new location in a different region. Your network of contacts may only extend to your current geographic area, so a recruiting service with local knowledge may make it easier for you, according to Josh Williams of recruiting service Smart, Savvy + Associates

Recruiting services go beyond posting help-wanted ads on the usual job websites. They network and seek out the specialized talent that you're after, sparking interest in individuals who are already employed but open to a change. These agencies sell your company to these interested parties, and convince them that their talents would be more appreciated and rewarded at your company.

How to choose a staffing agency

If you decide to outsource your recruiting efforts, you'll want to ensure that your chosen hiring agency is the right fit. These four tips will help you choose the hiring agency that's best for your company.

1. Do your homework.

When evaluating a hiring agency, research them as you would any job candidate. Look into their website and LinkedIn page for more information, and make sure their experience matches your company's needs and expectations.

2. Interview agencies like candidates.

Not only should you research agencies as a job candidate would, but you should interview them as a candidate would as well. Ask the agency about their process, including how they find and evaluate candidates, how long it will take to fill the position, and how they will communicate any updates to you.

3. Evaluate their expertise and track record.

Extensive expertise and a strong track record are positive indicators that your potential partnership might be successful. An agency with a wide network reach, recent position fills and consistently updated databases is more likely to help you find the right candidate.

4. Be transparent with your goals and expectations.

As an employer, you need to clearly state the requirements of your open position and what you're looking for in an applicant. When possible, use specifics rather than subjective terms (for example, "five-plus years Excel experience," rather than "advanced Excel skills"). A good recruiter will listen to you and send only qualified candidates your way.

Hiring on your own

Professional recruiting services are likely to help you find great talent to add to your company, but the reality is that they can be costly. Typically, a recruiter's fee is a percentage (usually 10% to 20%) of the chosen candidate's salary. Depending on the position being filled, this can be a steep price. 

Recruiting talent on your own is far from impossible, and there are several methods and practices to help you find good candidates.

1. Be patient and realistic.

Temper expectations, especially if you're in a competitive industry. You won't find your dream candidate overnight. Plot out a timetable for your search, allowing yourself plenty of time to take in and seek applications. If you're a small company, you may not be able to find a top candidate who can do it all for the salary you offer, so balance out the type of worker you want with the pay you can afford.  

"Do your homework, and make sure your expectations for the qualifications of the successful candidate, and the responsibilities they will fulfill, are aligned with what the going rate in the labor market is," said Sylvia Helm, recruiting manager at TREW.

2. Streamline your application and hiring process.

"As many as 90% of candidates who start an application don't complete it," said Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions. "While the labor market is undoubtedly tight, the application process in most companies is so archaic that many candidates just walk away." 

Make applying easy, and also make the onboarding process quick and easy so you retain talent once you find it.

3. Develop an attractive company culture.

Creating a welcoming brand and culture is important to get candidates excited about working for your company. Offering a great work environment with benefits such as wellness programs and flexibility with working from home could make the difference in which company a sought-after candidate picks.

4. Use technology.

Don't neglect to use the technology at your disposal to get the word out about your position. There are plenty of job websites that only charge a small fee to post an opening, and many specialize in certain fields; for instance, HackerRank focuses on IT and engineering jobs, and Mediabistro specializes in marketing and media jobs. 

You may also want to dedicate a page of your website to a careers section of your company. This can act as a landing page you can direct interested candidates to from job post websites, social media and other sources. Here, you can describe what the position entails and what the job's responsibilities are, since space on other platforms can be limited. 

Andreas Rivera contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sean Peek
Sean Peek,
business.com Writer
Sean Peek is a writer, small business owner and SEO specialist. He began his career in digital marketing as a freelance writer in 2013 and has over five years of experience in the B2B space. You can learn more at lightningmediapartners.com.