Staffing and executive recruiting firms vary in their approach, but both serve needed functions.

The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a big difference. How do you know whether to use a staffing agency or an executive recruiting firm? Throughout my recruiting career, I’ve had experience in various types of recruiting. While there are benefits to each search option, they differ widely in their approach and the type of service that they each provide. So what is the difference between staffing and executive recruiting?

What is a Staffing Firm?

Staffing firms typically hire for temporary, contract-to-hire and short-term employment opportunities. Though there are direct hire-focused staffing firms, there is normally a short turnaround time on finding the professionals needed to fill positions which leads to a “plug and play” approach. These firms are working to fill jobs quickly and efficiently and then move on to the next assignment. Staffing firms provide a valuable service to contractors and temporary workers as well as employers who need seasonal or contract-based employees.

What is Executive Recruiting?

Executive recruiting firms are more consultative in their approach, providing business development and career growth advice to clients and candidates. More niche and specialized, executive recruiting firms perform higher level searches for long-term positions and are almost always direct hire roles. Seen as more of a partnership than a transaction, executive recruiting is built on long-term relationships with retainer or contingent-based client agreements, leading to strategic, mutually-beneficial placements. It is not uncommon for an executive search to take more than a month to complete, and sometimes up to a year for C-suite roles.

Staffing and Executive Recruiting: Which One to Choose?

I like to use the analogy of a peg in a hole. Staffing firms are working to see if the peg will fit in the hole, plain and simple. For short-term, contract positions that need to be filled quickly, staffing firms are a great way to get the professionals you need fast and efficiently. Meanwhile, executive recruiters work to find the ideal peg for each hole based on size, shape and material type. For leadership roles and permanent positions, executive recruiting firms are often able to source the perfect match who can be a long-term solution to your hiring needs.

Have you worked with a staffing firm or executive recruiting firm before? We want to hear your stories in the comments below.


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