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Why Recruitment Agencies Aren’t Good for the Creative Industry

4 min read
Product Marketer at Hike

Filling highly specialised roles requires more than the typical HR strategy

As more and more employers face an uncertain job market, recruitment agencies have become a lifeline. Even before the pandemic, they were in high demand – the recruitment industry’s valuation grew 11% to £35.7 billion in 2018. From July – September 2019, the UK had 813,000 job vacancies, a massive number that companies couldn’t fill on their own. And now, as businesses navigate a vastly changed employment landscape, business leaders need recruiters to take the wheel so they can focus on other mission-critical tasks.

There are several benefits of working with a recruitment agency. Among them, your chosen agency helps you identify top talent, cuts down the time you spend reading resumes and interviewing candidates, and gets your open positions in front of the right audience. Additionally, recruiters provide their staffing expertise and they can even aid in some of the finer points of hiring, like negotiating salary, picking start dates, and checking references. In short, they make the process easier. But for creative industries, that’s not always the case.

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Quality, not quantity

Typically, recruiters are paid a commission for each successful placement. If they don’t fill an open role, they don’t make any money. Thus, they’re focused on filling positions as fast as possible to score a lucrative payday. This isn’t to say that every recruitment agency cares more about lining their pockets than helping you get staffed. But this does mean that they’re more focused on getting someone in the role versus getting the right person in the role.

They’re playing a numbers game. Let’s say you have 5 interview slots open each day. Your recruiter will book out all 5, in the hopes that the more people you meet, the faster you’ll find someone you like.

This might work in a more straightforward industry like finance or healthcare, where the job qualifications are cut and dry. But in creative fields, this approach doesn’t yield results. A studio will have a wide range of talent, from copywriters to designers to web developers. Each skill is highly specialised, and a recruiter must do more than listen for buzzwords or spot a well-written resumé to find the best candidates.

Creative companies require a full skills assessment of every applicant. This includes viewing portfolios and samples to judge if they produce work at the desired level. This will likely require closer collaboration between the recruitment agency and the studio, meaning the agency won’t be able to work as quickly as they’d like.

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Cultural fit

Most recruitment agencies won’t conduct a viable cultural fit assessment. They’re hunting for a candidate that can do the job, but they’re not necessarily paying attention to whether that person will feel comfortable in their new workplace.

Company culture can’t be ignored, however. Creative agencies have unique cultures that differ from traditional fields. Even if a candidate does great work and seems like the right person for the position, it remains unseen if they’ll adjust to the new environment. Whether it’s working longer hours, attending fewer meetings, or dealing with a different management style, it’s important to determine if the job applicant will be able to adapt.

To fix this during the recruitment process, creative companies need to be clear about what their culture is like, including length of workdays, performance expectations, and perks. This might require a more customised questionnaire for candidates or a longer interview process in which the candidate spends some time with their prospective employer.


It’s highly likely that your recruitment agency is using AI-powered software to scan applications. This approach can save the agency the headache of reading through dozens of CVs from unqualified applicants, but it doesn’t necessarily identify the most talented individuals. The software is trained to look for certain keywords or levels of experience. So, the results will turn up a list of CVs that have been tailored to the algorithm. This means you could end up interviewing candidates who are great at writing keyword-optimised resumés but can’t write ad copy or design a webpage.

This might require adding some other element to the screening process. For example, at Virgin Hotels, the online application was updated to include a compatibility test, which had playful and fun questions designed to identify traits that wouldn’t turn up on a standard application form. Creative studios may need to personalise their processes to ensure they’re getting more than great resumé writers. If you’re hunting for a talented copywriter, maybe the application asks for a sample ad campaign or includes a grammar test. Whatever you decide, the process can’t be cookie-cutter.

If you’re part of a creative company that wants to use a recruitment agency to fill open roles, think twice. You need a more modern, effective alternative that meets your needs and expectations, keeps you actively involved at every step, and ensures a customised process that identifies the best of the best.

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