Staffing vs. Recruiting: What’s The Difference?

staffing vs. recruiting agency meeting

Last Updated November 29, 2023

“Staffing” and “recruiting” are two terms often used interchangeably, but they actually don’t mean the same thing. Knowing the difference between staffing and recruiting is important for many, considering about 40% of companies have outsourced most—if not all—of their hiring processes.

Even staffing agency owners might not be aware that staffing and recruiting have separate meanings.

This article will review what a staffing agency does vs. what a recruitment firm does, providing helpful resources along the way to learn more about how staffing agencies work in particular.

What Is Staffing?

Staffing is the process of supplying a company with temporary or contract employees to meet short-term needs or fluctuations in workforce demand. This includes seasonal work, covering employee absences, and fulfilling specific project requirements.

Staffing emphasizes speed and flexibility and often involves managing administrative aspects of employment, such as payroll and benefits.

What Does a Staffing Agency Do?

Staffing agencies specialize in recruiting employees for temporary, contract, or short-term positions. They provide a range of services, from helping employers fill immediate staffing needs to assisting individuals seeking quick work.

Staffing agencies work with clients to understand their specific temporary staffing requirements, including the necessary skills and qualifications required for the positions. The agency then actively searches for suitable candidates through various channels, such as databases, job boards, and social networks. Candidates are pre-screened through resume evaluations, interviews, and sometimes skill assessments.

For temporary or contract staff, the staffing agency often handles administrative tasks like payroll, taxes, benefits, and compliance with labor laws, which alleviates this burden on the client. Some staffing agencies also offer the option for temporary positions to transition to permanent roles, giving both the employer and the employee a chance to assess the fit before making a long-term commitment.

Related: How Do Staffing Agencies Find Clients?

What Is Recruiting?

Recruiting is where companies attract and hire workers for permanent or long-term positions within an organization. Therefore, it sometimes requires a more strategic approach, including understanding organizational goals, culture, and specific job requirements. Recruiting is commonly seen as a more extensive process and requires a more thorough candidate evaluation, including multiple interviews, background checks, and assessments, to ensure candidates qualify and align with the company’s values and vision.

Since staffing agencies are often filling contract positions and short-term positions, doing a deep dive on their clients’ organizational goals and workplace culture isn’t always as a high priority as it is for recruitment firms.

What Does a Recruitment Firm Do?

Like staffing agencies, recruitment firms specialize in identifying, attracting, and hiring individuals for their clients’ open positions. However, their approach is typically more strategic and tailored than that of staffing agencies, which focus primarily on temporary or short-term needs.

Recruitment firms work closely with client companies to understand their long-term goals, organizational culture, and specific hiring requirements for various positions. They create customized recruitment strategies tailored to the client’s industry and the level of the position being recruited for. This might include targeted advertising, networking, or headhunting.

A recruitment firm actively seeks out candidates through multiple channels, including online job portals, social networks, professional contracts, and their own databases of potential candidates. The firms also conduct rigorous screening processes, which entail reviewing resumes, conducting initial interviews, performing background checks, and assessing skills and cultural fit through various evaluations. They also facilitate the entire interview process between the candidates and the client company.

In Summary: Staffing vs. Recruiting

While there is significant overlap between staffing vs. recruiting, staffing agencies more often focus on quick, flexible solutions, whereas recruitment firms leverage a longer and more comprehensive process to fill specialized and long-term roles. Here are some of the key differences between the two:

Staffing Agencies Recruitment Firms
Temporary, contract, or short-term positions Permanent or long-term positions
Quick turnaround, often with a pool of pre-screened candidates Slower turnaround, more thorough process
Generally less rigorous candidate assessment In-depth assessment, including interview and background checks
Broad industry range, or specific to an industry Often specialized in specific roles or industries
Manages payroll, benefits, etc. Generally limited to the recruitment process
Short-term client relationships for immediate needs Long-term, strategic client partnership
Perfect for seasonal work, project-based, temp-to-hire Perfect for specialized, senior-level, niche roles

Staffing agencies make money by providing temporary, contract, or short-term employees to meet immediate or fluctuating workforce demands. They also maintain a pool of pre-screened candidates, offering a quick and flexible solution for businesses, and often manage administrative aspects like payroll and benefits. They are typically engaged to fill positions quickly and handle various roles across various industries.

On the other hand, recruiting is a more strategic and comprehensive process to fill permanent or long-term positions within an organization. Recruiting firms work closely with clients to understand their long-term goals and organizational culture. They utilize a rigorous screening process to ensure candidates are qualified and aligned with the company’s vision. They may specialize in specific industries or roles, offering in-depth expertise, and their approach often involves building long-term relationships with clients.

More Staffing and Recruiting-Related Resources

altLINE has a wealth of information geared toward helping staffing agency and recruitment firm owners grow their business. Whether you’re just starting out, trying to grow your company, looking to sell your company, or you just want to learn more about the industry, one of our articles below is guaranteed to provide you with what you’re looking for.


Is staffing the same as recruiting?

No, staffing and recruiting are not the same, although they are related to the hiring process. Staffing focuses on filling temporary, contract, or short-term positions, often with a quicker turnaround time, and handling administrative aspects of employment. Recruiting involves identifying and hiring individuals for permanent or long-term roles, requiring a more strategic and comprehensive approach to match candidates with the company’s long-term goals and culture. While some overlap may exist, they serve distinct functions and cater to different employment needs.

Can I utilize both staffing and recruiting services for my business?

Yes! Staffing agencies and recruitment firms can be equally helpful, and since there is significant overlap in terms of the services they provide, there may be instances where you can benefit from utilizing both. If your organization is growing quickly and you need to hire permanent employees along with contractors or short-term workers, recruiting firms and staffing services can both assist. Just make sure you have sufficient cash flow to finance multiple vendors.

What is the difference between hiring vs. recruiting?

Hiring is selecting and bringing a candidate on board for a specific position, marking the final step in filling a vacancy. Recruiting is a broader and more comprehensive process involving sourcing, attracting, interviewing, and evaluating candidates to identify the right fit for a role, leading to the hiring decision.

Is staffing considered HR?

Staffing is a function within human resources (HR). As a part of the broader HR landscape, staffing works in conjunction with other HR functions such as training and development, compensation and benefits, and employee relations to align with the overall goals and organizational needs. In many companies, staffing might be handled by specific HR professionals who specialize in recruitment and hiring.