Recruitment agency vs. temp agency: what's the difference?

Oct 24, 2022

4 mins

Recruitment agency vs. temp agency: what's the difference?
Christine Wilson

Christine is a writer based in Toronto, Canada.

Looking for work requires time and effort. Researching companies, finding available roles that match your skills, tailoring your resume and application—it’s a lot of effort, so much so that it almost becomes a job itself.

What if there were a “one-stop-shop” that could simplify things? Or at least keep a paycheck coming in while you work towards landing your dream job. You’ve probably heard of employment-focused agencies that can help, such as recruiting agencies or temp agencies. But what exactly do they do for you, which one should you work with, and what would the benefit be? Let’s review the differences between a recruiting agency and a temp agency and how both can help you land a job, depending on your long- or short-term goals.

What is a recruitment agency?

A recruitment agency (sometimes referred to as a staffing agency or an employment agency) is a firm that works with companies to help them find candidates and works with candidates to help them find jobs. Their access to a diverse talent pool and a variety of job opportunities makes them a win-win option for businesses and job-seekers.

Companies will work with a recruitment agency to focus on their long-term hiring and employment needs and save them time and money. Having a team dedicated solely to prospecting, screening, interviewing, and sometimes even background checks, results in a shorter hiring process and decreased turnover in the long run.

Recruitment agencies can be comprised of a team of recruiters with a wide range of interests and expertise, or they can focus on a specific niche. Hiring a specialized recruiting agency allows companies to access the top recruiters for specific roles and ensure they find the best person.

One example of this type of firm is Clutch Talent, a technical recruiting agency based in New York City that hires software engineering and engineering leadership and supports software engineers in the United States by advocating for their success. “We match software engineers with engaging opportunities that advance their professional growth, and we’re with them throughout their careers. Our clients pay us to find qualified engineers, so there is no charge to our candidates for the work we do for them,” says Jovena Natal, Founder/Tech Recruiter of Clutch Talent.

She explains that when it comes to working with recruitment agencies, “[they] are only helpful to people who fit the criteria of the agency’s clients. For executives and highly specialized job seekers, including software engineers, a good recruitment agency can save a candidate a lot of time. And, we can highlight top opportunities that might have otherwise been missed.”

Natal says the process her team sees fit as a priority: “We vet our clients carefully and then can talk to a candidate about multiple employers, only matching with the few that truly are a good fit. We coach you through the whole process and step in to make sure the compensation in the offer is competitive.”

What is a temp agency?

A temp agency (short for “temporary employment agency” and sometimes called a placement agency) works similarly to a recruitment agency in that it serves as a bridge between companies and candidates. Temp agencies are ideal for candidates looking for temporary, seasonal, or part-time work. In some cases, the employee will be contracted in a “temp-to-hire” role, which lasts 3-6 months. By the end of it, the employee is entitled to be hired full-time.

Temp agencies offer solutions to immediate and short-term needs, and a company might opt to work with one when they have ad-hoc projects or fluctuating workloads that require a few extra hands. For example, if their workload is seasonal, production increases during a specific time of year, or an increase in product or service demand temporarily requires more staff than usual. Another instance could be the need to fill contract positions when an employee goes on maternity or sick leave.

When should candidates use a recruitment agency versus a temp agency?

If you’ve been on the job market for a while, you might want to turn to a recruitment agency if you need support in your search and are committed to finding your ideal role. A 2021 Jobvite report found that only 30% of applicants that start a recruitment process via in-house recruiters actually complete it. The same report showed that staffing agencies are seeing an increase in applications, from candidates looking for the aforementioned support.

Recruitment agencies specialize in human resources, meaning they often have their finger on the pulse of which sectors are booming and the labor market overall. It’s like having a job-hunting insider who can give you a look at what’s going on behind the curtain and be your advocate. Not to mention, their network and connections with a range of clients offer access to role openings that might not even be posted publically for other job seekers to find.

Because they often get paid per hire (by your future company), recruiters are just as eager for you to land a role as you are. Their commission is usually a percentage of your salary, meaning they’ll be on your side for the pay you’re worth. However, this is also something to be cautious of; you don’t want to feel pressured into the wrong role just so a recruiter can make their commission.

A temp agency is a good option if you don’t want commitment. Maybe you’re in-between jobs, in the middle of a job search, and need something to tide you over, or not sure what you want to do and want to try a few different jobs. Pivotal, a Canadian HR services provider, markets temp work as a “try before you buy” model for employers, but as a candidate, why not adopt the same mentality? Working with a temp agency gives you the flexibility to test out new industries and see what you like. From there, you can focus your job search on what feels like the best fit.

Key takeaways: the difference between a recruitment agency and a temp agency?

To wrap up, the essentials you should know as a job seeker about the difference between a recruitment agency and a temp agency are:

  • A recruitment agency can help with your long-term needs, providing access to a vast network of contacts and roles. Companies hire recruiting agencies to save time and money and access top talent.
  • They get a commission for each hire, meaning they’ll be motivated to find you a job. However, be cautious of undue pressure to take an offer and ensure you’re on board fully.
  • A temp agency is ideal for short-term job needs. Companies hire temp agencies to fill in contract positions, seasonal work, or ad-hoc projects.
  • A temp agency can help expose you to a variety of industries and land you a role in a pinch; however, you likely miss out on the benefits you get with a full-time gig, so take this as the name suggests, as a temporary option.

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