How To Select The Best IT Staffing Agency For Your Business

Map of the world and professionals in circles, showing connections in businesses across the world

Not all IT staffing agencies are created alike. 

And in other news, the world is round. 

IT Headhunters. IT Recruiters. IT Staffing Agencies. They (well, we) seem to be everywhere.  

According to the American Staffing Association, there are approximately 20,000 staffing and recruiting companies currently operating in the United States.  Information Technology employees account for 13% of the overall staffing market, so we can estimate the number of IT staffing companies to be in the 2,600 range.  Almost as many as the number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates (sorry – couldn’t resist).

Thousands of IT staffing companies.  Each with their own sales reps, recruiting team, and of course the all-important differentiating statement: “I swear we’re nothing like the other 2,599 staffing firms out there!”

If that number seems surprisingly large, consider this:  There are also more than thirty million independent businesses in the United States.  That’s not a typo. 30,000,000+ businesses of every conceivable size, industry, vertical, and culture – all with their own unique way of doing things. 

And then there’s you: The HR Director or IT Hiring Manager, who simply wants to recruit and hire the best available talent in an efficient and economical manner. 

Considering the limitless hiring scenarios that exist when combining millions of companies with thousands of IT staffing agencies to support them, it’s impossible to cover all the variables that go into selecting the best match. But what if we could somehow narrow the decision-making criteria to the areas that matter most?  I think we can, and it’s not as daunting as you might think.

First, Do You Actually Need an IT Staffing Agency?

Before figuring out how to separate one IT Staffing Agency from another (thousands of others), the first thing to figure out is IF you need one in the first place.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the necessary time to spend sourcing and screening candidates to meet my staffing objectives?
  • Do I have the tools and resources that will allow me to locate prospective candidates in a timely manner?
  • Do I possess the knowledge to assess the technical skills required for the role?
  • Do I have the headcount and budget in place to support this position indefinitely in the form of a direct employee on my payroll?
  • Can I do all of the above for every position, every time?

If you are able to answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions you likely don’t need an IT staffing company, and can stop reading here and get back to recruiting on your own.

If, however, you answer ‘no’ to any of the above, you need the help that a staffing agency can provide, so keep scrolling!

Next, Are You Prepared to Work with an IT Staffing Agency?

Now that you’ve determined you need an IT staffing agency, the next step is preparing to work with one.  It’s important to acknowledge that when you engage an IT staffing agency to fill your open position(s), they will hit the ground running. Not only will you need to clearly articulate the purpose behind your need(s) along with all of the associated pertinent details, but you should also be ready to facilitate interviews, decision-making, and onboarding in a smooth and efficient manner. 

Before calling out an opening to a staffing agency, make sure you have appropriately addressed these internal questions:  

  • Do I have the budget to use an IT staffing agency?
  • Do I have the required approval/ authorization to use an IT staffing agency?
  • Are all relevant internal stakeholders in agreement that we need an IT staffing agency?
  • Are our needs clearly defined?
    • What is the purpose behind the opening(s)
    • What skills & experience are needed?
    • Do we have a well written job description?
  • Duration of need (i.e. contract-based or direct / permanent)
  • Do we have a defined hiring process?
    • Who will participate in interviews?
    • What is our hiring criteria?
    • Who will make the hiring decision?
  • What is our timeline for interview completion/ start date for new hire(s)?

If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this advice:

You should not engage an IT staffing agency until you’re prepared to do your part. If you aren’t, the good ones won’t continue to support you. 

Considerations When Choosing The Best IT Staffing Agency For Your Business

While I fully believe that 4 Corner Resources is the best at what we do, I’m also quick to let prospective clients know that we aren’t right for everyone. With limitless variables, there can’t be a single, best IT staffing agency, for the same reason that there isn’t a best automobile.  While you may think that the upcoming four-seat 2020 Tesla Roadster will be the greatest car on the market, it simply isn’t capable of transporting a family of six and certainly wouldn’t be a good fit for anyone who needs to regularly haul large items. So while it may very well be the best for a lot of people, that doesn’t mean it’s the best for everyone. Remember – the goal is to figure out which IT staffing agency is best for you and your particular environment.

#1: Do you want a partner or a vendor?

We’re all aware that the word “partner” is often used loosely these days when it comes to describing business relationships, but consider the more traditional usage which denotes familiarity, trust, and commitment.  While having a true partnership isn’t required criteria for a successful staffing agency relationship, it’s important to know what you want from the company responsible for supporting your hiring needs.

There’s been an impossible-to-ignore evolution in the staffing industry over the past decade with the rise of third-party organizations who exist to manage the hiring process for end-user companies. They call themselves, among other things, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Recruitment Process Outsourcers (RPOs), and they facilitate the staffing and hiring process through recruitment marketplace websites and software applications known as vendor management systems. They sell on the promise of driving down costs while increasing efficiency, and they claim to do so by operating in between the staffing agencies and the end-user company who is hiring. In these scenarios, the staffing agencies contract with the MSP/RPO; existing as a vendor in a commoditized process.  

The truth is, developing and maintaining partnerships requires significant time and effort. Are you willing to spend that time, and do you see value in doing so, or does it make more sense to let a third-party handle it for you?  Consider the following:

  • Do you want or need to communicate your hiring needs via a live exchange with a recruiter (versus job descriptions being communicated via software)?
  • Do you want or need to have a personal relationship with the staffing agencies and recruiters who represent you in the marketplace?
  • Do the staffing agencies who recruit for your openings need to be intimately aware of your culture?
  • Are your hiring needs unpredictable and/or inconsistent?
  • Would you benefit from a staffing agency who can be flexible, agile, and creative when supporting your evolving needs?

Affirmative answers to the questions above are a strong indication that you would be best served by having a direct relationship with one or more IT staffing agencies. With time and the development of mutual trust, partnerships will follow. If you found yourself answering “no”, an outsourced option may very well be right for you. 

#2: Do you want quality or quantity?

No organization wants to admit that they value quantity over quality when it comes to IT staffing. Nor should they, as this approach is far from ideal when it comes to interviewing and hiring the very employees who will make the difference in the organization’s success, yet many companies have chosen to do exactly that. IT staffing agencies are aware of this, and more than a few have developed business models to support the increasing commoditization of the staffing process when resume volume is rewarded more than accuracy and diligence.   

So, how can you determine where you fall on the quality vs quantity scale?  While it’s impossible to universally define, HR recruiters and hiring managers need to be aware that it comes down to simple math for the IT staffing agencies. Here are two examples:

Example 1:  Acme Corporation has an opening which they send to 20 IT staffing agencies. They receive 40 resumes before scheduling a single interview. 

Example 2: Acme Corporation has an opening which they send to 2 IT staffing agencies. They receive 4 resumes in total, and schedule interviews as the resumes come in.

In example 1, the odds of success are very low for even the best IT staffing companies out there, while example 2 allows for a high chance of success. In both cases, the IT staffing companies are well aware of the odds and will act accordingly. The opportunity in example 1 simply doesn’t justify the time, resources, effort, and expense that example 2 warrants. In other words, something needs to give, and it will. While attractive on paper to some (40 resumes versus 4!), staffing companies will calculate the odds and act accordingly. 

If you operate in a similar fashion to example 1, you’re placing more value on quantity than you are on quality  – consciously or not. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for an IT staffing agency to be proficient at both quality-based and quantity-based recruiting. As such, you don’t want to choose one when you really need the other.  

How can you tell the difference?  If quality is your priority, the best IT staffing agency for your business will have traits that include:

  • A high resume submission-to-interview ratio
  • A high interview-to-hire ratio
  • An onshore, in-house team of professional recruiters
  • A thorough and documented candidate screening process (that they are willing to show you)
  • A consistent end-to-end recruiting process (that they are willing to show you)

#3: Do they have the experience and resources you require?

When comparing the types of positions and roles in the workplace, technology jobs are among the most complex. Making staffing these positions even more difficult, is the extremely low (if not nonexistent) unemployment rate in the IT space. Considering this, you need an IT staffing agency with the experience, knowledge, and resources that a generalist recruiting firm won’t be able to match. To help you narrow the field, here are some high-level qualifying questions that any IT staffing agency should be able to answer without hesitation:

  • Number of years in business?
  • Number of years IT staffing (specifically)?
  • Types of positions placed?
    • How many of each (annually)?
  • Number of IT recruiters on staff available to support your openings?
  • Number of IT candidate resumes in their ATS/ database?

#4: Do they have a good reputation?

When it comes to sourcing, screening, and recruiting your company’s next software developer, project manager, or IT Director, you should be very selective about who represents you in the market. Not surprisingly, a staffing agency’s reputation in terms of honesty, reliability, and accessibility matters greatly difference to candidates who must consider who they trust with their resume and professional future. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to work hard to quickly assess an IT staffing agency’s reputation. In short, just Google it! If you’re looking for a little more depth, here are some additional sites to use:

Are You Ready To Partner With an IT Staffing Agency?

As you can see, there are many questions to ask and answer when determining the best IT staffing agency for your business.  While this article will hopefully provide valuable guidance, it is in no way a comprehensive list of all the potential variables and factors that go into determining the best fit. 

Here at 4 Corner Resources, IT recruiting has been the heart of our business. We are equipped with many years of insight and expertise that will allow our headhunters to surpass your hiring needs and expectations. Our employer solutions range from direct hire placement, headhunting, contract staffing, contract to hire recruiting, and payrolling services.

If you still have questions, contact the professional headhunters at 4 Corner Resources would be happy to help find the answers you need.  

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn