Why Are Recruitment Agencies So Expensive?

Dear reader,

I am not going to lecture you on the difference between value and cost.

Instead, I am going to simply launch into explaining what agencies do for the fee. Because I think that's why you're here.

On the occasions I have been afforded time to sit down in front of a potential new client to explain my process, I see wide eyes.

No negotiations on the fee, just new respect for our industry, the skill required, the enormous investment of time and the removal of a number of headaches.

There will be some differences between agencies but, in the main, we work in the same way.

Just before I start, you might like to know that before I was 'let loose' on working jobs I had extensive training, on-the-job and formal training including an intensive residential course followed by an exam. If I failed, I was kicked out.

A quarter of a century later and I am STILL learning.

Taking a full brief

No decent recruiter works off an email with a job spec and I've turned work away where businesses have done this and then ignored my request for an exploratory call/Zoom/visit.

We are not playing 'snap'. We are delving deep into the business, the department, the role, the purpose, the why, the prospects etc.

Because without full comprehension, we cannot do any of the next steps.

Being consultative

OK, based on the information we've collected it's time to consult.

Are your expectations realistic? If not, what can we do with you to make sure they are?

Should we be reviewing and improving the processes you have in place?

Are your people involved in the process fully onboard with hiring?

Do they have the skills required? Can we help/guide/advise on this?

Agreeing on the next stage

We'll explain what we're going to do and why we're going to do it.

This will help each of us to understand each other's expectations and a good way to check back on our understanding of your needs and how we're going to proceed to get the results you want.

We'll discuss fees and terms. Yes, upfront.

At this point, you can walk away and there's nothing to pay.

We can also walk away and invest our time elsewhere.

Search & attraction

This is where we will:

Write a decent advert to attract incoming applications

This is a skill and time-consuming, deciphering the key information we've gleaned from the brief and writing engaging copy whilst making sure we're including keywords and everything we've learnt about attracting the widest selection of candidates imaginable, whilst abiding by the law.

Place that advert in places we pay huge sums of money to be

Thousands every year, to be able to service the needs of our clients. Places we constantly monitor to make sure they're working whilst being open to new mediums which might work better.

Hence why it's a good idea to use a specialist recruiter - they know where to hang out to get the people you want.

Calling upon our vast network, built over our lifetime, across our database, our socials, people we know, and other recruiters

Anyone who might be suitable or know someone who might be appropriate.

Now's a good time to mention that if we 'find' the perfect person on our database, it doesn't make the value of our work any less.

Brilliant people do not magically appear on our CRMs. They are accumulated over many, many years, frequently from places that cost lots of money and then have to be managed so they'll continue to engage with us.

They'll have been interviewed, processed and be receiving regular communications from us.

Reviewing applications and enquiries from interested parties

This might mean reviewing hundreds of enquiries. We politely reject anyone who is not suitable and not able to help right now.

Those that are worth further attention will receive a communication accordingly and we'll book a chunk of time to speak at length with them to establish if they are a good fit.

That means checking if they have the skills, qualifications and attributes you need and that their short, medium and long-term aspirations match what you'll be able to offer.

If they do, that conversation will go way deeper and we'll sell your company and the opportunity to the applicant.

This will be a lengthy exchange as we glean more information

"This business is looking for someone who'll come in, review process and streamline them"

"Oh, I did that when I worked at XYZ Ltd."

"Great, tell me more about that".

We'll identify the good and bad, where there are highlights and where there are training needs.

We'll establish whether this person is a good match and then provide everything they need to make a fully informed decision about going forward.

We'll question their notice period, salary expectations and reason for leaving their current role.

The latter will be questioned early on and challenged through the call.

If we get a whiff of someone simply looking for a counter offer we advise them to ask for a pay rise and wave goodbye. Come back if you've been unsuccessful and are committed to your search. We are not here to manipulate pay rises by wasting your time or ours.

Essential Admin

Completing Right to Work checks, registration documentation to comply with UK legislation and checking any essential qualifications.

Agency Shortlist

Too slow and you'll lose great people so we will not be sitting on CVs to send over to you.

You'll receive applicants with a CV and a full profile outlining the key information we've discovered for you to make a decision on whether to interview.

We'll look outwards in places like LinkedIn and job boards


Sometimes a few times a day.

And repeat

If the advert isn't working, we'll review, refresh. We'll be working through applications all day every day. Some of us in the evening and at weekends (even on holiday, I confess).

Managing the process with you

Expect to be chased if you're not responding to CVs sent in a timely manner.

Imagine doing all this work so far and then the person that asked for your help ignoring you?

It happens.

Maybe because we're well into a VERY time-consuming and costly business and you have still not parted with any money. Not a penny.

Rejecting the people you don't want to take into process

Individuals who have also invested a lot of time and emotion, done their research and asked to be considered have not made your short list.

We'll call them and explain why.

They're on a database now so maybe they'll be perfect for someone else.

Arranging interviews for your shortlist

How, when, with whom etc. All are collated and shared with the candidates.

They'll be fully briefed verbally, not just an email.

Reschedules, emergency calls with people unable to login online or navigate bad traffic ... We're still the go-to person.

Debrief with the candidates

We'll follow up to find out how it went, what you discussed, any concerns, were they given an opportunity to sell themselves, how do they feel about the opportunity, are they interested in moving forward in the process if offered.

Debrief with you

What did you think, any concerns, are they someone you want to take to next steps?


Arrange next steps


Provide feedback to the unsuccessful people with specific feedback so they can understand why.

Further selection processes

Another interview, a meet-the-team, testing?

We'll be there to confirm/advise/arrange.


Handholding through what can be the most complex stage of a process.

Just when you think you've found 'the one' you go and blow it by taking too long, offering too little, realising you quoted the wrong benefits at the outset and I've got to be the one to tell someone they'll have to take a cut in expectations around holiday entitlement, that they won't be able to work from home three days a week, only two, that only the managers get health insurance. etc.

Making sure you've sent the paperwork. The paperwork has been received. The paperwork has been read and signed. The paperwork has been returned.

The resignation


If we didn't do a great job (despite the massive investment in time and money) your newcomer isn't going to start.

When are they handing in their notice? Why are they waiting until next week? Who are they heading their notice in to? What do they expect that person's reaction to be?

How will they manage that?

A reminder to them of why they're leaving. And what the new job is offering (hopefully everything they wanted).

Can they give me a call once the deed is done?

Waits by the phone. Chases if not heard.

Manages any issues/concerns/delays, keeping everyone informed.

And if something goes wrong here, if we don't have a good second choice, we go back to the very beginning of the process.

Polite reminder: You've still not paid a penny.

After a successful resignation

Agree a start date, discuss anything that needs to be provided in advance, like delivery of a laptop.

Keep everyone communicating, ensuring no hiccups right up to ...

First day

Call you to make sure your new person has started.



At long last. Thank God.

But wait ... it's not over. What???

First 2-3 weeks of employment

Is your new person settling in well? Are things going as expected?


Great. We'll keep communication channels open, just in case.

And make sure we're paid else you'll forfeit any rebate period.


Talk to us about it. What can we do to help?

And make sure we're paid else you'll forfeit any rebate period.

Up to 8 weeks (maybe 12) dependent on agency terms

Is your new person settling in well? Are things still going as expected/improvements/concerns alleviated?


Job done.


There's a rebate period in our terms. So, provided you paid on time and you haven't broken any of the terms, we'll provide a free replacement.

And we go back to the beginning and start all over again. Until you're happy.

If you still remain dissatisfied, you'll get a portion of your money back.

Why Are Recruitment Agencies So Expensive?

Really? Are you kidding me???

Coming next .... How to negotiate a discount with a recruitment agency.

Yes. I know. Counterintuitive.

In addition - would you like to learn more about opening up your talent pool?

How to Attract More Over 50 Job Applicants

How to Attract More Female Job Applicants

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.