How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Recruiter vs. Hiring Yourself

Say it isn’t so: your company just closed its doors after 10 years, and you find yourself out of a job.

Now what?

Well, there are some options, including scouring the want ads, the online jobs sites, hiring yourself to find a new position, or hiring a recruiter to help you, since you’re an active job seeker and want to get back into the job groove.

So, what’s the best option? It depends on you of course, but if you’re a dedicated job seeker and wondering how much it costs to hire a recruiter vs. hiring yourself, do keep on reading.

What is a Recruiter?

A professional recruiter, niche recruiter, independent recruiter, or even a freelance recruiter, or a contingency recruiting service, can help fill open positions for companies. Additionally, some recruiters come from recruiting agencies as well as external recruiting agencies.

In general, recruiters help keep an eye out for open job positions, have a pipeline of candidates, and are always performing job searches that may help you build your career and keep the hiring process moving.

When companies are looking to take on a new staffer, they must decide whether to use a recruiter of some sort or use their internal recruiter, hiring manager, or a house recruiter during the hiring process.

All are effective ways of attracting various types of people to ultimately fill any and/or all open positions. However, recruiters do differ in their roles and abilities in finding qualified candidates.

Also, a hiring company can opt to advertise the position in various media spaces and ask people to send in their resumes and applications to their hiring managers. They can also choose to use a recruiter to take over the process from interviewing, discussing the salary range, and up to the salary negotiations and actual hiring.

The first way can be more effective and often guarantees a company’s involvement in hiring its employees, while the other option can be more straightforward and surely faster.

Hiring a Professional Recruiter

When the need to hire new staff comes up, many businesses and companies decide to hunt for the candidate in-house.

This is usually because many companies want to be fully involved in choosing those people to fill the available position. They also may not want to hire and pay for a recruiting firm or a professional recruiter because of the fee.

However, companies and businesses should consider using professional recruiters for several reasons when they need full-time positions or just temporary positions.

Saving Time, Faster Hiring

Using a recruiter or search consultant during the recruiting process means companies and businesses that decide to use recruiters don’t have to deal with the hassle of advertising a vacancy, attracting applicants, and reworking the different profiles and applications in search of the best-qualified individual.

When companies opt for a recruiter, it’s the recruiter’s responsibility to do all these things above and deliver the top candidates to the hiring company.

Recruiters are also more likely to find more qualified candidates faster than a company’s hiring manager because recruiters, especially those working full time, have a large skills network. They also usually maintain a large pool of talent they have already vetted and are ready to be interviewed.

High-quality Candidates

A professional recruiter can access these talent and skill pools mentioned above fast as these lists are usually updated constantly with skilled and top-quality candidates that are prescreened. 

This means that those companies hiring will only deal with thoroughly vetted and assessed job seekers and won’t have to worry about getting unqualified candidates for the role, thus wasting time in the hiring process.

Recruiters are also experts in selecting candidates since this is their business and what they have been trained to do.

Top Knowledge

A recruiter also has more knowledge than an in-house hiring manager during the recruiting process because this is what they do day in and day out.

In addition, they specialize in recruiting for a certain level, industry, or position thus, they have a strong insight into the targeted job market sections.

Because of this, a recruiter can offer valuable advice to find and hire better candidates for the company/business hiring.

Paying a Recruiter 

How recruiters get paid varies depending on the situation and if they are internal vs. external recruiters.

External recruiters, independent recruiters, or agency recruiters work for themselves; they don’t work for one company. They work for several different organizations, helping to fill open positions, that’s their job.

Internal recruiters are internal and are an employee of a company; they recruit exclusively for that business.

Usually, internal recruiters make less money than external recruiters since internal recruiters have a set salary. Their compensation is capped, but external recruiters don’t as they’re more like commissioned salespeople; there is no limit to the amount of money they can earn.

In most placement situations, the company pays the recruiter, not the candidate. The only difference is that the internal recruiter is paid a yearly salary by a single organization.

External recruiters usually get a placement fee, and the company always pays the fee, not the candidate.

 Also, these types of recruiters receive fees from multiple organizations and are referred to as clients or client companies.

The amount of each placement fee is different and is calculated on the candidate’s first-year annual salary. That does not mean the company takes money from the candidate and gives it to the recruiter.

Contingency Recruiters

This term means that the recruiter is not paid until the candidate is placed and the recruiter is competing against the client’s internal HR department.

They might also be competing against other external recruiting agencies that are trying to fill the same position. If the organization does not choose one of the recruiter’s candidates, then the recruiter does not get paid, plain, and simple.

That’s what it means to work on contingency; the contingency recruiter is working hoping to place a candidate and then get paid.


A retainer means the recruiter is paid upfront, not after a candidate is hired,  or placed but before the new hire starts working. In this case, the recruiter is not competing against anyone and is giving the search their full attention.


This is a mix of contingency and retainer: the recruiter receives half of the fee upfront before they’ve begun the search. Then they receive the remainder after they place the candidate. The first half of the money is often referred to as an engagement fee. These types of searches are usually at a higher level and fees can be more expensive.

Overall, the way a recruiter gets paid depends on an array of things:

One of those factors is the recruiter’s preference and another is how the company likes to operate when dealing with recruiters. Yet another is the type of search being conducted during the hiring process.

As you can see, there are countless types of searches and ways recruiters earn their living; it comes down to a diverse payment system for those in the recruiting industry.

Hiring Yourself

If you feel you don’t want to go the recruiter route you can always hire yourself and start the job hunt on your own.

While you might be saving money by not hiring a professional recruiter, you will have to be dedicated in your search as an active job seeker if you want to land a job.

Keep in mind you also will not be privy to a recruiter’s vast network, insider tips, and other ins and outs that a recruiter has built up over the years.

In the end, it is up to you, but if you want the job of your dreams and have strong career goals, or hope to land a lucrative career, but have no clue or experience as to where to look for such a job other than the job boards, want ads, and the like, it might be best to hire a recruiter to do the work for you.

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