Take Our HR Skills Assessment to Get a Custom Learning Plan


Deciding on the right recruiting approach can be challenging for any HR department and company. In many instances we simply don’t have the time to invest in a traditional recruiting approach. That’s where staffing and staffing firms come in.

What Is Staffing?

Staffing is generally known as an outsourced recruiting firm. These companies will provide candidates and employees to your company either on a direct-hire (the employee is your employee from day one), a contract-to-hire (the employee belongs to the staffing firm for a set period of time then converts to your employee), or a temporary (the employee always belongs to the staffing firm) basis.

Staffing Versus Recruiting: What Are The Differences?

There are some stark differences in staffing and recruiting. It’s important to remember that there are great things and also negative things when you use staffing firms to fill your needs. You will need to look at your business goals to determine what is the best approach for your individual situation.

When To Use Staffing

Deciding to move forward with a staffing firm can be a tremendous help to smaller HR teams. There are multiple factors that can go into deciding to use a staffing firm. We’ve detailed three of these factors below.

  • High volume. If you have a role that needs a high number of candidates, staffing firms can help you attract and hire vast numbers of candidates in a timely manner.
  • Time. If you are a smaller HR department, chances are you don’t have a full-time recruiter and recruitment is just one of the many hats that you wear. Staffing firms can fill that need for you.
  • Highly specialized fields. If you have a role that requires a very specific skillset, it may fit your need to use a staffing firm. They often have lists of resumes of some of the top people in an industry and can be a great resource to use when targeting a specific skillset.

When To Use Recruiting

Staffing isn’t right for everybody. An in-house recruiter or team can ensure that you retain control over your hiring process, but it can also be time consuming.

  • Personal touch. When you want to offer your candidates a true personal touch to your recruiting practice, nothing beats an in-house recruiter.
  • Control. When you have a need to retain the majority of control over your hiring process and candidates, recruiting is much easier to use due to keeping everything in house.
  • Highly specialized fields. Yes, this criteria is in both staffing and recruiting because of the exact same reason. Your team knows the position and role best. Whether to go with a staffing company or in-house recruiting really just depends on how much time you want to have your team dedicate to filling the particular role.

How To Select and Start Working With a Staffing Agency

Finding a staffing firm to work with doesn’t have to be a complicated or painstaking decision. But it is an important one.

Step 1: Define Your Position

When you first contact a staffing firm that you want to work with, the first question they are going to ask you will be something along the lines of, “Tell me about the position.” You will need to know details such as the rate of pay, type of position (direct-hire, contract-to-hire, or temporary), how quickly you are looking to fill the role and a general idea of job duties.

Step 2: Get Quotes From Different Staffing Firms

Staffing firms will generally charge a percentage of the base salary of the candidate for their services. You should have multiple conversations with different firms and know what they will guarantee and what their commission percentage is.

Step 3: Refine Your Approach

If you are working with a good staffing firm, they will ask for your feedback on the candidates that they have been sending over. Be prepared to offer candid and honest feedback to ensure that your business needs are being met so that you can hire the correct person for the role.

The Disadvantages of Using Staffing to Fill a Role

While staffing is a convenient approach to fill roles, there are some major drawbacks that you need to be aware of.

  • Cost. Staffing firms generally charge a percentage of the employee’s base salary to cover their costs in attracting talent on behalf of your organization. Be prepared to pay when using a staffing firm.
  • Loss of control. Essentially, you lose your ability to control the types of candidates that you are interviewing when you use a staffing firm to find these candidates for you.
  • Lack of transparency. Staffing firms will often withhold information, such as the company name, the actual position or other important details from candidates when first speaking with them. This can create confusion with the candidates. There are also times where they will withhold information from you as the HR team. There will be times that you don’t know anything about a candidate until they walk in the door for an interview.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Staffing

What is an example of staffing?
Staffing is more widely known as temporary employment based on the normal type of hiring that staffing firms do. If you have ever applied for or seen a temp-to-hire job posting, this is an example of staffing.
How expensive is it to fill a role with a staffing agency?
It can get fairly expensive to fill a role with a staffing agency. Most staffing firms will charge anywhere from 15 to 30% of the employee’s base salary for their services.
Nick Staley

Nick Staley

Nick is a certified HR professional holding an SPHR from HRCI. He is passionate about the employee experience and creating some of the top workplaces in Utah. He has built HR departments from the ground up as well as working for large companies. When not working, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids and flying airplanes.

Want to contribute to our HR Encyclopedia?

Posts You Might Like

5 Recruitment Tips for Attracting Top Candidates​

5 Recruitment Tips for Attracting Top Candidates​

You want to attract the right people for the right job at your company—before the competition hires the best talent in the field. The hiring process, often involving recruiting, multiple screenings, assessments, and interviews, can take weeks or longer. An inefficient process may cause your company to lose out simply because candidates got another offer sooner. On the other hand, a poor hiring process can result in employees who are a poor fit for the culture or job requirements, causing expensive turnovers.

Read More »
5 HR and Hiring Practices You Need to Fire

5 HR and Hiring Practices You Need to Fire

Companies don’t usually have a problem letting people go who are stealing or consistently underperforming and showing no signs of improvement. Why are we so much more lenient with HR practices that cost a ton and don’t do what we need them to?

Read More »

Want to join our network of contributing HR professionals?

Scroll to Top

Submit a Question