Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency
Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency

Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency

If you’re considering seeking professional help to assist you in your job search, you may have come across recruitment agencies and staffing agencies.

At first glance, the two terms may seem interchangeable – after all, they are both a form of recruitment in which you enlist someone else’s help to get a job.

But these two types of companies are vastly different.

Understanding the difference between the two will help you decide which agency is best placed to help you with your job search.

Similarities Between Staffing Agencies and Recruitment Agencies

It’s easy to understand how confusion arises when it comes to staffing agencies and recruitment agencies. They can seem fairly similar because both have strong relationships with employers and job seekers.

Both types of agency act as a middle man between the employer and the applicant.

They understand what type of applicant the employer needs, and they also understand what type of job the applicant is looking for.

With their knowledge and access to a large database of candidates, the recruitment consultant can make that perfect match, working on behalf of both parties to find the right person for a specific job role, whether it’s a permanent employed position or a temporary short-term contract.

Now that we’ve explored the similarities, it’s time to look into the key differences between a staffing agency and a recruitment or employment agency.

The Distinct Role of a Staffing Agency

A staffing agency specializes in the recruitment of temporary employees.

This may relate to finding suitable applicants to work specific shifts (such as supply teachers or nurses) or it could concern work placements lasting two or three weeks, or even six to twelve-month contracts.

Staffing agencies are valued by employers because they often have a large pool of candidates who are available to work (often at short notice) and who have already been vetted by the recruitment team.

This means that the employer does not have to worry about arranging background checks or verifying qualifications or professional licenses.

In some cases, the employer doesn’t even need to undertake any formal interviews or review any CVs or resumes. They can simply rely on the staffing agency sending the right person to do the job.

Employers use staffing agencies for a variety of reasons.

They may need immediate cover due to staff sickness or vacations. They may need additional resourcing to help them during a busy or seasonal period, or they may need someone to come in and work on a specific project.

Why Register With a Staffing Agency?

As a job seeker, there are many reasons why staffing agencies may be the best option for you and your career:

Returning to Work

You may be looking to get back into work but do not want the commitment of a full-time position. Perhaps you’ve taken a career break or a sabbatical and you’re keen to resume parts of your career, but you cannot commit to working in a permanent role.

The ad hoc nature of many temporary job roles available through staffing agencies means that you can pick and choose when you would like to work and base it around your commitments.

Explore a New Role or Profession

You’re keen to break into a new role or new profession. Many staffing agencies specialize in temp-to-hire contracts.

This is where employers can recruit temporary staff with the potential to make the role permanent.

It’s a win-win for both parties. You can see if you are a good fit before deciding if it’s right for you. For an employer, it can significantly lower their recruitment costs and give them more flexibility.

Often, job seekers are drawn to temporary contracts because they can be a great way to break into a new profession or to work for specific employers.

Earn Extra Money

You want to earn extra money alongside your permanent job role. Staffing agencies can offer a wide range of seasonal jobs, which can be beneficial if you are working in a role where you have ample free time.

For example, if you’re a teacher, you could use staffing agencies to supplement your income during the summer holidays.

If you only work part-time, you could use staffing agencies to take on additional shifts with the freedom to pick and choose when you want to work.

Gain Experience in Middle and Senior Positions

Staffing agencies are not just for entry-level job roles. Many employers are now seeing the value of using staffing agencies to fill mid to senior-level management positions.

A company may be working on a specific project and need an additional resource, but they may be worried about the implications of adding to their permanent workforce.

They can choose to hire temporary staff on specific contracts that allow the business to complete projects without being tied to new employees.

Many mid to senior-level executives like the challenge of this type of consultant/project manager role where they can go in, get new experience and build new contacts, before moving onto the next job role.

It’s a type of career advancement that can be used strategically to move up the career ladder whilst remaining in complete control over your career choices and your working patterns.

Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency
Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency

The Distinct Role of a Recruitment Agency

In contrast to a staffing agency, a recruitment agency (also known as an employment agency) tends to focus on permanent recruitment.

They will be given a detailed brief from the employer and will be tasked with finding the right candidate for that position.

The recruiter’s main responsibility will be to find the ideal candidate who can meet the long-term aims and ambitions of the employer, rather than an immediate solution to their staffing needs.

The recruitment agency may be far more attuned to where candidates are likely to be found. They can use their professional insight to advertise the job role in niche areas (such as trade journals) or specific job boards.

This gives them access to a greater pool of candidates than the employer is likely to achieve on their own.

This means that recruitment agencies may take much longer to find the right candidates than staffing agencies. In some cases, it may involve head-hunting specific individuals (who may not be actively looking for new employment) and helping a potential applicant to understand why this job role is a good career move for them.

Once the recruitment agency has found a selection of suitable applicants, the responsibility for interviewing, background checks and decision-making lie with the employer.

When the employer has made an offer to a successful applicant, that person may have to complete a notice period before starting their new role.

This contrasts directly with staffing agencies where the recruitment team handles the interview process on behalf of the employer and applicants are typically ready to work immediately.

Recruitment agencies, or employment agencies, are often used by employers for more senior permanent positions. This is because the employer may not have the time or resources to invest in a significant recruitment campaign. They may need additional expertise and the contact database of their chosen recruitment agency to find the right person for the job.

Why Register With a Recruitment Agency?

Here are a few reasons why you may find that working with a recruitment agency is best for your specific career path:

Permanent Job Roles

If you are looking for a new permanent job role, it’s wise to register your details with a recruitment agency. This is particularly true if you are relatively senior in your career or you are working in a niche industry.

Often recruiters will have contracts with employers which means that they can be tasked with finding potential applicants before details of the job role are advertised publicly.

This means that you may have a greater chance of getting that dream job.

Short-Term Temporary Contracts

There are opportunities for short-term temporary contracts with recruitment agencies.

However, these roles typically relate to helping employers cope with specific resourcing demands or lay the foundations for reducing the amount of time it takes to hire a new employee.

It allows the employer the chance to test a new employee before deciding if they are the right fit.

No Need to Wait Until You Leave Your Job

You don’t have to be unemployed or out of work before you register with an employment agency.

Simply having your details on their database means that they can come to you with suitable opportunities even if you feel happy with your current employer.

Focus on Finding the Right Candidate for the Employer

Although the recruitment agency works on behalf of both parties, their primary focus will be to find the right candidate for the employer. After all, they will be paid a commission by the employer for all successful matches.

This means that even if you believe you have the right attributes for a specific job, if the recruiter does not agree, they may not put you forward for the position.

Or you may be overlooked because the recruiter has found other applicants who are better suited for the role.

Improve Your Resume

As an applicant, you can work with your chosen recruitment agency to bolster your resume or improve your interview technique.

It’s in their interest to get you a job, so they are likely to provide professional expertise and support to improve your employability.


Unlike the temporary job roles available with staffing agencies, recruitment agencies are far more specialized.

They will have many more candidates on their database than job roles. This means that you aren’t always guaranteed to get a job through them, as they can only recruit for the jobs that they have available.

If you’re under pressure to get a new job quickly (perhaps you’ve found yourself out of work unexpectedly), you may need to focus on short-term contract work whilst waiting for the recruitment agency to match you to the right long-term position.

Staffing Agency vs Recruitment Agency: Which Is Best for You?

You may already know by now which type of agency is best for you.

For some people, it’s immediately clear that either a staffing agency or a recruitment agency offers the most appropriate career support. For others, it may be that they choose a mix between the two.

You may find that you need a permanent position, so you register your details with a recruitment agency. While you’re waiting for them to find you the right job, you can also sign up with a staffing agency to benefit from ad hoc shifts or to try and find a temp-to-perm position.

Recruitment agencies and staffing agencies both play a hugely important role in the jobs market and applicants should make the most of their professional expertise to get ahead.

You need to be clear about what you are looking for from your next career move.

Are you looking for a senior or permanent position or are you happy to take short-term contract roles that fit around your lifestyle?

Final Thoughts

While there is some overlap in the roles of staffing agencies and recruitment agencies, there are specific differences between the two.

Staffing agencies tend to be better equipped to help you find short-term work, whereas recruitment agencies are experts in matching potential employees to long-term or permanent positions.

Whichever type of agency you decide is right for you, make sure you do your due diligence on your chosen agency.

  • Research which types of business they regularly recruit for (some have niche specialisms)
  • Ask if they can offer any career guidance to help you improve your employability
  • Make sure that they understand what your skills are and what type of job you are looking for

The only way you can use a staffing or recruitment agency to your advantage is to be completely honest with them about your professional experience and your ambitions.

Once they have built a personal connection with you, they’ll be more motivated to match you up with your dream job role.

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