There are over 100 recruitment agencies in Northern Ireland, so for a company looking to pick an agency to help them with their staffing needs, it can be difficult to choose between the many options available. Is it better to go with a large-scale company or a boutique agency? Having worked in large and small companies, Bluestones Staffing Directors, Debbie McDermott and Kieran Allmark know that both small and large agencies have their advantages. “In our experience, clients often seek a mixture of smaller and larger agency suppliers for their business.” Debbie says, “This means that they can benefit from the strengths of both models, and ultimately it is up to the agency supplier to source the best candidates for them.” Just like David v Goliath though, sometimes small triumphs and comes out on top for clients.

Small agencies are agile

If we were to compare staffing agencies to the animal world, the large ones would be the powerful, yet slow to react Elephant and the small would be the agile dragonfly, able to fly in any direction, including backwards, at the drop of the hat and using incredible vision to elude danger. And that is exactly what a smaller agency can do – Kieran says, “Smaller agencies have the agility to adapt quicker than larger agencies as there are generally fewer complex structures underpinning them. This means that sign off on new processes/rate structures etc can often be implemented more efficiently which ultimately saves clients’ time.”

Small agencies have more knowledge

There’s no denying that large agencies have a brilliant knowledge of recruitment, but we think small agencies just have that edge when it comes to having in-depth knowledge across the board. “Whilst larger agencies generally operate in divisions with specialised consultants for each market, smaller agencies require their consultants to be multi-skilled within a number of sectors.” Kieran adds, “The benefit to clients is that one consultant can often supply their needs across the entire business whether this is temp/perm positions, as well as fully understanding the legislation in all key areas.”

Small agencies can tailor their offering

Not content with offering solutions that come off the shelf, small agencies work hard to provide their clients with a service that is like a made to measure suit – perfectly tailored! Using our dragonfly like agility and knowledge, we are able to turn around tailor-made solutions in lightning speed – filling the gaps which larger agencies often fail to do. Debbie says, “Smaller agencies value each client, no matter how large or small. It is often more beneficial for a smaller agency to have a wide variety of smaller clients in addition to their larger ones, as this de-risks the business significantly. For this reason, smaller agencies are happy to tailor services and solutions for individual client’s needs no matter what size they are. Smaller agencies also offer a more personal approach to clients with regular site visits to understand both their cultural and operational requirements.”

Small agencies identify talent quicker

“The main difference between smaller and larger agencies talent identification process is that smaller agencies are more personal in their approach to candidates as well as clients. We meet all of our candidates applying for the role face to face prior to placing or putting forward for an interview.” Debbie adds, “This enables us to identify candidate’s key skills which may not be immediately obvious from their CV/application form and ensure that we find the best fit for them and the client.” It isn’t only there that smaller agencies offer the personal touch to identify talent quicker and place candidates in roles quicker. As the friendly, open-armed people that we are, we have an open-door policy. “We have and always will accept walk-ins, which means that we have the opportunity to attract candidates quicker than larger agencies.”

Small agencies become partners, not just suppliers

Working with a small agency isn’t like having a supplier, it’s like having an extension of your team. Companies can call on the small agency as their partners, as and when they need them. And that’s exactly the type of relationship we have with our partners (they’re not clients to us!), on hand when they need it most. Kieran says, “Whilst smaller and larger agencies both offer key services such as out of hours on call and industry specialised consultants, smaller agencies’ senior management, Directors and owners will often be actively involved in servicing clients daily. This means that the level of service is ultimately driven by the people at the heart of the agency, not just employees, allowing them to build a strong working relationship with their clients. As the owners will also often manage consultants directly, this service culture passes through the entire company and ultimately benefits the client.”

As a small agency, we’re obviously biased, Debbie says, “The positives of using a smaller agency are more personal service for both candidates and clients, greater adaptability to individual clients, niche market sector expertise and generally a higher retention of consultants and candidates.” However, as biased as we are, we want to remind all companies out there searching for an agency to partner with that it’s important to flirt with a few different staffing providers before committing to one. If you’d like to have a little flirt with us, get in touch and we’d be more than happy to introduce you to our team, tailor you a solution and show you what being partners with us is like.

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