Flat-Fee Recruitment Agencies: An Overview, Pros & Cons, and Selection Guide

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You'll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>How flat-fee recruiters can help you significantly reduce your recruitment costs.</li><li>How to choose a good flat-fee recruiter.</li><li>How to avoid some common pitfalls.</li></ul></p></div>

For a single fixed charge, flat-fee recruiters advertise your role on multiple job sites at the same time and send CVs to you through an online dashboard. Harnessing the buyer power of many employers, flat-fee recruiters get your ad onto job sites more cheaply than you could on your own. They can be a great way of reducing the amount of time and money you need to spend finding new staff.

How to Choose a Flat-Fee Recruitment Agency

Here are my recommendations for choosing a flat-fee recruiter – along with a few warnings:

Search for simple, transparent pricing

  • I recommend recruiters who charge the same fee whatever the job’s salary. (Like traditional recruitment agencies who charge a percentage, some flat-fee recruiters charge more for jobs with higher salaries even though these jobs aren’t necessarily more costly for them to recruit for.)
  • It’s better to have a pricing structure in which you pay a fee for your advert regardless of how many people you hire. (Again, even though it doesn’t increase their costs, some recruiters charge a fee for each hire when you recruit more than one person from a single advert.)
  • Go for a supplier with clear, simple pricing. Some try to pull you in with a low headline fee, then charge for extras that you might not need such as writing ads or arranging interviews. Some offer to include your logo on your advert for an extra charge. Don’t bother with this – this tends to attract more candidates only for very well-known brands (for more on the benefits of anonymous ads see guide: How to Write Your Job Advert).
  • Be careful of arrangements of “no fee until the job is filled”. These often involve much higher charges down the line – and sometimes exclusivity.

Make sure of good advert coverage

  • There are so many job sites that it would be impossible for any flat-fee recruiter to advertise on them all. But do make sure that the recruiter is going to place your advert on enough sites for it to have good coverage. And check that they’re advertising where they say they do!
  • If you have a preferred site, ask if they can include it – they’re likely to be able to negotiate a better deal than you could on your own.

Ensure sufficient advert duration

  • A campaign with a good flat-fee recruiter should have your advert listed on all of the job sites they’re offering for a minimum of 28 days. Some recruiters offer “28-day” campaigns that involve placing your advert on different sites for seven days each over that time, rather than on all of them at once.

Avoid dummy applicants

  • Recruiters sometimes send applicants to multiple employers, which means that some of your CVs may be from people who never applied for your job, while some of those who applied to you are also being funnelled to competitors. Check that the recruiter doesn’t engage in this practice.

Ensure that managing applicants is straightforward

  • The flat-fee recruiter may have an online tool known an Applicant Tracking System for you to manage your applicants and this should come as part of your package with the recruiter.
  • You want a tracking system that’s easy to use – some are really complicated and hard to master or just badly designed – so ask to see how it works before committing.

Make sure that application filtering is included

  • This service saves you time by removing obviously unsuitable applicants, and should be included as part of the deal.
  • Although you should be able to see every CV, there are four main types of filtering, each with pros and cons: automated/algorithm (make sure you can still look at every CV as algorithms make errors); hand filtering (remember that those carrying this out won’t have expertise in your industry and might lack the knowledge needed to do it well); yes/no screening questions that filter out those giving a certain answer (though some applicants can figure out which answer you want); and automated telephone screening which records applicants’ answers to questions over the phone (this can be very powerful, though few recruiters currently offer it).

Do your due diligence

  • There are many flat-free recruiters and unfortunately there are a few sharks out there, so make sure to check testimonials and reviews, and see if you can talk directly to other employers who have used their service.
  • Don’t be fooled by recruiters displaying logos of big brands on their websites. They might only have worked for a brand once and this shouldn’t be taken as evidence of a great service.

Full disclaimer: I founded the first flat-fee recruiter, RecruitmentGenius.com, so I’m not exactly impartial on this subject! But many operators now offer this service, and a good flat-fee recruiter can definitely make your recruitment process more fruitful and much less painful.

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>Flat-fee recruiters are a good way of reducing your recruitment costs.</li><li>There are good and bad flat-fee recruiters, so you need to choose wisely.</li><li>Look for a recruiter with clear, simple pricing and with fees that aren’t related to job salaries or the number of hires per advert.</li><li>Make sure that the recruiter offers good advert coverage and that the duration stated applies to all job sites simultaneously.</li><li>Ensure that the recruiter doesn’t send out dummy CVs, that they offer an easy-to-use online tool for tracking applicants and that application filtering is included.</li><li>Check out potential recruiters by looking at testimonials and speaking to their current clients.</li></ul></p></div>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment