MSP Recruitment Agency vs. Traditional Hiring – Which Is Better?

By |Published On: January 17th, 2024|

Building a robust IT workforce for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) demands many critical decisions – and one of them is how the company decides to handle their recruitment. Of course, they can adhere to traditional hiring, using internal HR specialists and recruiters, but over the past decade a worthy alternative has emerged – MSP recruiting agencies.

But which one is better? As an MSP recruitment agency ourselves, we at Scaled have decided to delve into the topic as unbiased as we can – we will delve into the workings of MSP recruitment agencies, dissect the nuances of traditional hiring practices for MSPs, and conduct a side-by-side comparison to decipher which approach holds the upper hand.

Through a side-by-side comparison, we will analyze factors such as access to specialized knowledge, talent networks, time-to-hire, and costs, providing a comprehensive guide for MSPs to make informed decisions. And concluding our journey, we will unravel strategies for employee retention applicable to both scenarios.

How Does an MSP Recruitment Agency Work?

Managed Service Providers operate within a unique framework, delivering IT services to clients through a proactive and outsourced approach – and the job of an MSP recruitment agency like Scaled is to ensure that the service delivery is done by the best professionals.

Agencies understand that MSP onboarding differs significantly from traditional hiring due to its focus on aligning candidates with the specific needs of clients, often spanning various industries and sectors. That’s why professionals brought in through an MSP recruitment agency are not merely adept at technical tasks; they are equipped to comprehend and fulfill the distinct demands of clients served by MSPs.

Beyond standard technical assessments, an MSP recruitment company also delves into the nuanced requirements of the MSP environment. This involves evaluating a candidate’s proficiency in handling a diverse range of technologies and adapting swiftly to the evolving needs of different clients. On top of that, a robust onboarding process provided by the agency includes evaluating a candidate’s ability to understand client expectations, communicate technical solutions clearly, and build strong client relationships.

Breakdown of Traditional Hiring Practices for MSPs

Conventional Methods Used by MSPs for Hiring

  • Job Postings and Recruitment Platforms: Traditionally, MSPs have relied on job postings and recruitment platforms to attract potential candidates. While these methods cast a wide net, they may not necessarily attract individuals with the specialized skills required for the diverse array of client environments MSPs serve.
  • Internal HR Processes: Many MSPs employ in-house Human Resources (HR) teams to handle the hiring process. However, the intricacies of the MSP landscape often demand a more specialized approach, with a focus not just on technical skills but also on the ability to navigate the unique challenges posed by various client setups.
  • Networking and Referrals: Personal and professional networks have been a staple in traditional hiring. MSPs often rely on employee referrals and industry connections to identify potential candidates. While networking is valuable, it may not always yield professionals with the specific skill sets demanded by the dynamic nature of MSP services.

Limitations of Traditional Hiring Approaches

  • Limited Specialization: Traditional hiring methods may not cater to the specialized needs of MSPs. Unlike MSP recruiting, conventional processes might struggle to identify candidates who possess the diverse skill set required to excel in different client environments.
  • Time-Consuming Process: MSPs engaged in traditional hiring often face a prolonged recruitment cycle. The time spent sifting through numerous applications and conducting extensive interviews can hinder the swift deployment of professionals to meet client demands, a critical factor in the fast-paced world of MSPs.
  • Risk of Mismatch: The traditional hiring approach may increase the risk of mismatch between the skills of the hired professional and the specific needs of clients. This mismatch can result in delayed project timelines, decreased client satisfaction, and potentially tarnish the reputation of the MSP.
  • Resource Intensity: Managing the entire hiring process internally can be resource-intensive for MSPs. From screening resumes to conducting interviews and negotiating contracts, the demands on internal HR teams may detract from their ability to focus on strategic initiatives and core MSP operations.

Pros and Cons of MSP Recruitment Agencies

Pros of MSP Recruitment Agencies

  • Specialized Industry Knowledge: MSP recruitment agencies like Scaled possess specialized knowledge of the IT and managed services industry. This expertise allows agencies to understand the unique skill sets required for MSP roles, ensuring a more targeted and efficient recruitment process. They are familiar with the evolving landscape of IT services and can identify candidates with specific technical proficiencies.
  • Cost-Saving: MSP agencies often excel in faster time-to-hire due to pre-existing candidate networks – this swift placement of candidates helps mitigate costs associated with prolonged recruitment cycles. Additionally, outsourcing the recruitment process to an agency can be more resource-efficient. Internal HR teams can then focus on strategic initiatives and core operations, potentially saving on long-term resource costs.
  • Extensive Talent Networks: Recruitment agencies have established networks of potential candidates. These networks extend beyond what an individual MSP might have access to, enabling agencies to tap into a diverse pool when hiring technical talent. This broad reach is especially beneficial when seeking candidates with niche or specialized skills.
  • Faster Time-to-Hire: An MSP recruitment agency can expedite the hiring process. Their pre-existing candidate networks and streamlined processes enable quicker identification and placement of suitable candidates. This acceleration is crucial for MSPs looking to promptly address project requirements and client needs.
  • Mitigation of Recruitment Risks: Recruitment agencies assume certain risks associated with candidate selection. Agencies conduct thorough vetting processes, minimizing the risk of hiring unqualified or unsuitable candidates. This risk mitigation is particularly valuable for MSPs engaging in time-sensitive projects where the expertise of the hired professionals is critical.

Cons of MSP Recruitment Agencies

  • Limited Understanding of Company Culture: Recruitment agencies may have limited insight into the unique culture and values of an MSP. While agencies focus on technical qualifications, cultural fit is essential for team cohesion and long-term employee satisfaction. A lack of understanding in this area might result in candidates who, while technically qualified, may not align with the MSP’s working environment.
  • Dependency on External Processes: MSPs relying on agencies relinquish some control over the recruitment process. Dependency on external agencies may lead to less direct control over the selection criteria, interview processes, and onboarding procedures. This can impact the depth of alignment between the hired candidates and the MSP’s specific needs.
  • Potential for Misalignment: Recruitment agencies may not fully comprehend the nuanced requirements of certain MSP roles. This lack of industry-specific understanding can result in mismatches between the skills and experience sought by the MSP and the candidates presented by the agency. Misalignment may lead to increased turnover or difficulties in integrating hired professionals into the MSP’s operations.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Hiring

Pros of Traditional Hiring for MSPs:

  • In-House Control: The in-house control inherent in traditional hiring enables MSPs to tailor recruitment processes to their specific needs. MSPs can design interviews, assessments, and onboarding programs that align with their unique business model, ensuring that candidates not only possess the technical skills required but also embody the values and ethos of the organization.
  • Deep Company Integration: Internally managed hiring processes contribute to a more thorough integration of new hires into the company culture. MSPs can provide comprehensive orientation programs, fostering a sense of connection and shared purpose. This integration enhances employee engagement and retention, contributing to a cohesive and collaborative team environment.
  • Focused Cultural Fit: Traditional hiring allows MSPs to place a strong emphasis on cultural fit during the selection process. Prioritizing cultural alignment fosters a positive work environment where employees share common values and work towards shared objectives. This alignment not only enhances teamwork but also contributes to employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Cons of Traditional Hiring for MSPs:

  • Extended Recruitment Cycles: Traditional hiring processes often involve multiple stages, leading to extended recruitment cycles. Delays in securing suitable candidates can result in missed business opportunities, particularly in the fast-paced and competitive landscape of MSPs. Long recruitment cycles can also lead to increased workloads for existing team members.
  • Limited Network: Trying to find tech talent with traditional methods may limit the MSP’s access to a diverse and extensive pool. Limited networks may hinder the ability to quickly identify and engage with candidates possessing specific expertise, potentially impacting project timelines and service delivery.
  • Skill Shortages and Specializations: Traditional hiring may face challenges in sourcing candidates with highly specialized or niche skills. MSPs dealing with emerging technologies or unique client demands may find it challenging to secure professionals with specific skill sets. This limitation can hinder the MSP’s ability to respond swiftly to evolving market demands.
  • Potential for Bias: Traditional hiring processes may inadvertently introduce biases in candidate selection. Unconscious biases can lead to homogeneous teams, limiting diversity and perspectives within the workforce. Diverse teams are often associated with increased innovation and creativity, making it essential for MSPs to actively address biases in their hiring processes.

MSP Recruitment Agency vs. Traditional Hiring – Side-by-Side Comparison

MSP Recruitment Agency Traditional Hiring
Deep Access to Special Knowledge Average Access to Special Knowledge
Extensive Talent Networks Average/Below Average Talent Networks
Fast Time-To-Hire Average/Slow Time-To-Hire
Risks Assumed By Agency Risks Assumed By Company
Average/Low Costs Average/High Costs
Average Understanding of Company Culture Deep Understanding of Company Culture
Control is in Agency’s Hands Control is in Business’ Hands

Evaluating Long-Term Success and Retention

Impact of MSP Recruitment Agency Hires

  • Adaptability and Scalability: Employees sourced through an MSP recruitment agency often demonstrate a high degree of adaptability, crucial for navigating diverse client environments. Their scalability ensures they can seamlessly integrate into new projects and evolve with the changing demands of the MSP landscape.
  • Client Satisfaction: Successful MSP recruitment company hires contribute significantly to client satisfaction. Their ability to understand and meet client expectations enhances the overall performance of MSPs, fostering long-term client relationships and paving the way for repeat business opportunities.
  • Continual Skill Development: MSP recruitment agencies prioritize candidates with a commitment to continuous learning and skill development. This focus on staying abreast of emerging technologies and industry trends ensures that employees remain valuable assets to the MSP over the long term.

Impact of Traditionally Hired Employees

  • Cultural Alignment: Traditionally hired employees often demonstrate a strong alignment with the company culture, as they are integrated into the organization through internal hiring processes. This cultural fit can contribute to long-term employee satisfaction and a sense of belonging within the MSP.
  • Deep Organizational Knowledge: Internally hired employees tend to accumulate deep organizational knowledge over time. This accumulated insight is invaluable for tackling complex challenges and contributing to the strategic growth of the MSP over the long term.
  • Loyalty and Commitment: Employees hired through traditional methods may exhibit higher levels of loyalty and commitment to the MSP, having undergone the internal hiring process. This loyalty can translate into sustained dedication, reducing turnover and contributing to a stable workforce.

Strategies for Employee Retention in Both Scenarios

  • Professional Development Opportunities: Regardless of the hiring method, providing ongoing professional development opportunities is crucial. MSPs can facilitate certifications, training programs, and workshops to ensure employees stay abreast of industry advancements and maintain a competitive skill set.
  • Transparent Communication: Open and transparent communication is key to employee retention. MSPs should foster an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns, discussing career aspirations, and receiving constructive feedback.
  • Competitive Compensation and Benefits: In both scenarios, competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits packages play a pivotal role in retaining top talent. Regularly reviewing and adjusting salary structures and benefits ensures that employees feel valued and motivated to stay with the MSP.
  • Recognition and Rewards: Acknowledging and rewarding employees for their contributions fosters a positive work environment. Whether through formal recognition programs or informal gestures, MSPs can enhance employee morale and strengthen their commitment to the organization.


Examining the pros and cons of both methodologies, we’ve highlighted the strengths of MSP recruitment agencies in specialized industry knowledge, extensive talent networks, lower costs and faster time-to-hire, juxtaposed with considerations like potential misalignment.

And although these considerations are valid, our verdict is that an MSP recruitment agency like Scaled edges traditional hiring, which is not without its challenges – extended recruitment cycles and limited access to diverse talent, just to name a few.

About the Author: Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson
Michael started his MSP, TLC Tech, in 2004 and has steadily grown and developed the company in the near two decades since. Currently employing 31 employees (including seven from South Africa), he understands the unique challenges faced by MSPs. As a founder of Scaled Inc., Michael works to assist his peers in the MSP world by streamlining the process of adding talent technicians to their teams. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn to discover how Scaled can place technical talent at your MSP.

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