Staffing Agency vs. Executive Search Firm

Two Executive Search Consultants Talking Near A Computer

In both staffing agencies and executive search firms, increased workloads, unrealistic position requirements, and slow recruiting processes can greatly hinder success. Millions of people apply for different career opportunities online every day. However, only a few people get a response, let alone a call from the employer they applied to. Companies who have HR teams are stretched thin and companies who do not have HR teams load it on managers who are spread thin already with their primary work.

It has become challenging for companies to hire quality leaders and managers who will fit the company’s long-term objectives and who can make a high impact on their teams. To fill this gap, many companies are looking to external staffing and recruiting agencies for support. If your company is not used to working with external recruiters, we at AKA Search Group wanted to fill you in on what you can expect and the differences between the organizational structure of many firms.

Staffing Agency vs. Executive Search

Staffing agency

There are typically two separate divisions in a staffing agency.

The first is a contract staffing division. This division is usually working on a high-volume of lower-level positions to fill temporary work arrangements for their clients. Contract staffing is a numbers game. There are fantastic contract staffing firms with elite clients, but in many cases it is throwing a candidate’s resume against a wall (to their clients) and hoping it sticks (get hired).

The second division commonly found within a staffing agency is a permanent placement division. In this division, mid-level recruiters are looking for candidates to recruit for staff to management level open positions with their clients. There are many great recruiters out there, however there are also many where you will receive 12 resumes a week with only one somewhat matching what you are looking for.

Staffing agencies are usually not exclusive to any one company and are always actively looking for new job openings to work on. They do so scrubbing job boards and sending emails or cold calls to the companies who have posted them. Most recruiters in a staffing agency will be working on 7 to 10 different positions across 6 to 7 clients.

Executive search

There is typically only one division in an executive search firm.

Here at AKA Search Group, we focus on one thing exclusively, executive search. Executive Search Consultants are typically the most experienced and networked recruiters in their industry of focus. Executive search firms will typically not recruit for positions where the candidate compensation is less than $100,000 and they work on Director, VP, and C-Suite level searches. Any search lower than this, would be sent to a staffing agency recruiter. Executive search firms also typically operate in one primary industry and sometimes two to three sub-industries of that industry.

Executive search firms are often exclusive to a limited number of clients per executive search consultant. In a staffing agency, low to mid-level searches can take 4-6 weeks to fill. With executive searches, the typical time for completion is 8 to 10 weeks. These searches are typically exclusive searches, which means the company is not using other recruiters or their internal team to find candidates for the position. On average, executive search consultants are working on 4 to 5 high level positions across 2 to 3 clients. This gives them absolute focus on finding the best of the best leaders for their clients.


If you are looking to fill lower-to-mid level positions and have the time to focus on sifting through and interviewing a higher volume of candidates sent to you, then a staffing agency might be your best fit. If you are looking to make a high-impact hire and allow an executive search consultant to do most of the heavy lifting for you, then an executive search firm will be your best bet.

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