Handling Overflow Work: Freelance Recruiter, Agency or New Hire?

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recruiter tipsWe all want to be in a position where we have so many job openings to fill that we have to turn away work. But when you do reach the point of having overflow work, you will quickly realize you don’t want to just walk away from potential opportunities for profit.

If your recruiting firm is lucky enough to be in this position, you may be scratching your head and wondering how to take on the additional work without sacrificing the quality of service to your existing clients. So what is the best way to handle overflow work: a freelance recruiter, agency or new hire? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

Freelance Recruiters

Freelance recruiters are becoming a popular choice as more and more people choose to work from home. The big benefit to partnering with a freelance recruiter is that the work is typically done on a contract basis, meaning you have no obligation to keep the freelance recruiter busy after the job is filled.

The downside is that most freelance recruiters accept work from multiple firms, meaning your freelancer is likely working for your competition as well. While a non-compete may seem like the easy answer, it’s not fool proof. Once your contract position is filled, there is little way to know if the freelance recruiter is using your “left over” candidates for other positions, or contacting your clients for work. The best way to avoid problems with freelance recruiters is to only offer assignments for positions you encounter outside of your niche in the early stages of the relationship. This will allow you time to test the waters and build trust before allowing the freelance recruiter to work on your bread and butter accounts.

If you do have a non-compete agreement, be sure that it is highly specific, down to naming particular companies. The specificity of non-compete agreements is what makes them enforceable.


Working with other agencies on a split fee basis is the norm for handling overflow work. If you do not have an established relationship with another firm, consider utilizing your local chapter of NAPS for a referral. Often, finding a fledgling firm is a great option, as the less established agencies are eager for work and even more eager to build a solid reputation in the local market.  Building a solid reputation requires a fledgling firm to be trustworthy, thus lowering the risk of problems after the assignment requirements are fulfilled.

The key to working with other recruitment agencies is to approach the relationship as a real partnership. Meet personally with agencies that you work with, and make sure your contracts ensure both parties interests are upheld.

New Hire

The option for handling overflow work with the least risk to your firm is to directly hire a new recruiter for your team. While safe, this option should not be a viable one if your sudden increase in workload is due to a temporary change with your client’s needs. If the need for help it is due to multiple contracts being signed with new clients, then growing your team internally may be the natural choice, but if you have any concerns that things could slow down again, proceed with caution. It is not worth damaging your reputation by hiring and laying off new employees just to get you through a busy month.

Look for longer term patterns of job requirements – if you are “too busy” for three months at a stretch, it’s time to hire up.

When the economy went south, a lot of large recruiting and staffing firms scaled back their operations and cut their recruiting teams to the bone. With minimal staff levels, these recruiting firms may not be able to accommodate even a slight upward trend in hiring with their major clients.

We can only hope that having too many job requirements will become a problem for many recruiting companies this year. But when you do have a heavy workload, intelligent scaling of your operations is what will propel your business growth and allow you to pull away from your competitors.

Read more in Split Placements

Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.