February 11, 2021
November 13, 2020

Best Way To Hire Remote Tech Talent in 2021: Freelance Recruiters vs Recruitment Agencies vs DIY Hiring

Hiring tech talent is notoriously challenging (especially in 2021). Hiring remote tech talent adds a whole other layer of complexity. From trying to find the right cultural fit to make sure your candidate will be contributing at the same level as the existing team, it's a time-consuming, laborious process. There are several ways you can go about it, ranging from inexpensive. DIY hiring is the cheapest way to hire but is often unfruitful because competition for the best remote tech talent is insane. 

Working with an agency is faster and comes with lower risks thanks to placement guarantees but is pricier than working with a freelance recruiter. This article will cover the four ways you can go about hiring remote tech talent and help you decide which approach is best for your team at this time. Let's dive in.    

Ways of Recruiting Remote Tech Talent

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) recruiting.

This is you, or someone else on your team who is not a recruiter (most often the team lead, or senior developer) is responsible for hiring development talent without the support of a recruiter or HR manager. 

When team leaders or managers are tasked with hiring for their teams, we call them Hiring Managers. DIY hiring is realistic if you need to hire for just a couple of roles and have a lot of development talent in your network. The other instances for DIY hiring come from small companies whose budget would be stretched too thin if they hired external help, they are left with no choice but to hire on their own. 

In-house technical recruiting team

These are recruiters who are employed full time by your company. 

The leanest in house recruiting team can consist of one recruiter or HR manager who makes time specifically for recruitment efforts, outside of their main activities. In house recruiters are responsible for the whole recruiting process; they are "full-stack recruiters". They tend to get in earlier in the hiring process and work with stakeholders to create role requirements and KPIs, job description, interview questions, allocate salary budget and more. In house recruiters will work closely with team leads/hiring managers to facilitate the whole recruitment process.

Although some times you can fill a position by posting on job boards or running Linkedin campaigns, the best talents are not active job seekers - meaning your in house recruiters must have ways of finding and reach out to them and persuading them to go in for an interview - this requires having great outreach/sourcing skills. Some in-house recruiters might lack in sourcing skills and this is where external recruitment help may be necessary.

Keeping recruiters on your payroll doesn't make sense for a small company or young startups. Outsourcing them when needed is more cost-efficient.

Note: In-house tech recruiters, although specialised, may still lack the technical understanding that a specific role will require, especially for rare technologies or senior roles. However, they will understand better than anyone, what your company values across the board.

IT Recruitment Agencies

External recruitment resources that procure qualified technical candidates for your team. 

Recruitment agencies or firms will find and shortlist top candidates for you. Agencies are more specialized for specific industries or roles. The two commonly used recruitment services are Full-cycle recruiting per position – providing a shortlist of vetted qualified candidates to fill a specific vacancy and Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) – what it sounds like, the recruitment agency fulfils all the hiring on behalf of your company, generally for a fixed monthly or yearly fee commitment. 

There are huge firms like Adecco and Randstad, mid-sized local agencies and small niche agencies. The smaller agencies tend to offer clients the best of both worlds, in the sense that they infuse agility and swiftness into your hiring process while being able to maintain a highly personalized approach. What this means, is that a niche or boutique recruitment agency will provide more dedicated attention to your account and thus have a higher likelihood of "getting" your company culture and finding top candidates that are also great fits culturally.

Agency recruiters are experts at sourcing; they will know which talent pools to tap to find and approach the right candidates and use the right approach to persuade them to join your company. Agency recruiters always work on stringent deadlines and are motivated to move fast without compromising on quality. Because agencies have established talent pools and candidates in their pipelines they can skip the time-consuming sourcing and work on getting you a shortlist of candidates to interview right away. Agency recruiters are very competitive and experts at thinking outside of the traditional sourcing networks like Linkedin or StackOverFlow to find hidden gems. 

Working With A Recruitment Agency


✅ A recruitment agency will help you find top candidates and fill your open positions faster.

✅ A small boutique IT recruitment agency balances the merits of both a freelance recruiter and in-house recruiter – they offer flexibility and niche expertise, but also more personal collaboration and a better understanding of your culture than with a mid or large-sized recruiting firm.

✅ Provide expert knowledge of the IT sector 

✅ Hiring an agency is completely on a per need basis. You only pay for candidates you actually hire. 


❌ You can't really know how an agency recruiter will represent your employer brand; however, because your incentives are aligned, you can be sure they will do their best to present your company in optimal light. 

❌ Working with an agency can be more expensive than hiring a freelance recruiter. 

❌ A mid or large recruitment company many not involve themselves in understanding your company culture the way a small, niche recruitment agency can. This means a boutique agency can help you find the best people for the job whilst ensuring that the selected candidates are a truly great fit for your company culture and your team.

Cost of Working With A IT Recruitment Agency 

At Make it in Ukraine our fee averages 12-15% from the candidates' annual salary. On average, recruitment agency fees amount to 15 to 25% of the annual salary of the placed candidate. For executive search or senior engineering roles, this number can be even higher. 

Overall hiring an agency can be more expensive, but this expense is offset by the fact that you have placement guarantees for up to 3 months and you can work with the agency only on a per need basis.

Freelance IT Recruiters

Also known as a contract or independent recruiters, they may also work for your company temporarily. 

Freelance recruiters operate as contractors or solopreneurs (businesses of one). You can consider freelance recruiters something in between an external and internal recruiter. The industry term is "Embedded Recruiters".

Freelance technical recruiters enjoy the freedom of getting to pick and choose their clients. But working as an independent recruiter is difficult, so those who are successful often have a lot of experience and some sort of candidate talent pool to pull from.  

Ideally, a freelance recruiter will familiarize themselves with your company's mission, vision, goals, and values. These individuals will work hard to establish a tight-knit relationship with their clients, embedding themselves into the team and processes to identify the qualities they'll need to seek out when sourcing candidates. Their mission should be to match the right candidate with the right company to provide long term mutual benefit.  

Working With A Freelance Recruiter Pros and Cons 


✅Freelance and agency technical recruiters are highly specialized. They understand the roles and needed skills stack more deeply than an in-house recruiter. 

✅ Many recruiters will work on a contingency basis, meaning they charge you only if you hire their candidate.

✅They move swiftly with no time wasted on learning the role specifics. And are also more likely to provide accurate salary insights from the IT talent market.


❌it's almost impossible to find a freelance recruiter that can be be "embedded" in your team like an in-house recruiter but offers flexibility and specialized skills and matches your values and working culture + is available to focus just on your vacancy to ensure they find candidates within your given timeline. 

❌ freelance recruiters can often disappear or just ghost clients because they got another more urgent/more lucrative/easier to fill a request from another client. (unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the tech industry) 

❌ will take longer to fill your vacancy than an agency because you are a team of one.

❌ may tap into the same talent pools you have access to, or only use Linkedin because they don't have the network to access harder to find talent pools.

❌ cannot offer a free replacement guarantee*

Side not here about agency replacement guarantees.

No recruiter (internal or external) is safe from the fact that a successfully hired employee doesn’t show up their first day or accepts a better offer promptly after starting.

In such cases, the client will have to hire a freelance recruiter and pay them again, freelance recruiters have slim margins and cannot afford to replace candidates for free. It will fall on you to compensate them for a new hire or have to find a new candidate by yourself. 

Agencies on the other hand provide a prompt and free replacement for another candidate within the monthly trial period. At Make it in Ukraine we believe that 2-3 months of a guarantee is the minimum that must be given to the client. And, in the highly unusual circumstance that more than one replacement is necessary, we will provide it within the time period. This provides assurance to our clients and helps us keep trust embedded in the client-agency relationship.

Answering The Following Questions Will Help Identify Which Recruitment Model Works Best For You. 

Does anyone on your team have the technical skillset to assess a candidate's proficiency? 

If you don't have someone on your team capable of evaluating candidates' technical expertise hiring without external help gets trickier. You will need to use a service to set up a coding challenge test, but even that will not be telling for how well your candidate will handle his day to day responsibilities.

In this scenario, you need to hire very experienced talent, that can jump into the project and work with maximum autonomy. This type of individual is much harder to find on your own, so it's best to work with a recruitment agency that offers outstaffing services. Beyond screening their development talent for general technical prowess, they will be able to design a test to vet the candidate's ability to handle your project specifically. 

Do you have the time/resources to manage the recruitment process yourself?

Be honest with yourself here. Hiring is very time-consuming; it’s not a task you can easily pin on the side of your regular responsibilities. If you want to go the DIY route, you will need to prioritise hiring and delegate your regular responsibilities to someone else for a certain period of time. If you can't do that, the DIY hiring might not be worth it, as your work will suffer and torn between the demand of your job and your hiring pipeline, likely, you won't be able to find the best candidates anyways. It will be worth it work with an external recruiting resource such as a freelancer recruiter or agency in this case. 

How difficult is this role to fill? Is it for a rare technology skill for example, Solidity? 

If you have a challenging candidacy, it is best to work with an agency because they will have access to talent pools and a deep talent network that a freelance recruiter will not. In addition, an agency can replace your hire if something goes south within the first few months, a freelance recruiter can make no such guarantee. 

When to do-it-yourself (DIY)?

  • You are an early-stage startup. A good rule of thumb is hiring the first 2-15 employees by yourself or using job boards, social media ads or developer platforms. 
  • You have a solid personal network you can tap to find quality dev talent. 
  • You don't have the resources to hire any recruitment help. 

When to hire a tech recruiter in-house?

  • When you're constantly hiring, and you have a consistent recruitment needs for more than 6+ months. 
  • When your company has a unique culture, and you want to make sure new employees fit in the team synergy and can afford to keep an in house recruiter on the payroll. 
  • In-house recruiters earn less in the short-term but keeping a recruiting team on your payroll will end up costing more than hiring an agency to fill one or several developer roles. 

When to hire an agency? 

  • Freelance recruiters can be cheaper or more flexible regarding pricing and work scope than hiring an agency, but the tradeoff is the speed at which they can close your vacancy. 
  • When you've tried the DIY (do-it-yourself) hiring for the role unsuccessfully. An agency with access to an established talent pipeline to fill your difficult role. 
  • No one on your team has experience recruiting sought after, hard to win, technical talent.  
  • You have an urgent need and no one to whom to delegate the recruitment process. 
  • When your company is hiring rare tech experts or senior level engineers for difficult-to-fill positions 
  • You need a specialized recruiter with years of experience and understanding of development talent and where to find the best candidates. 
  • You need to fill a vacancy quickly and don't have time to source, n and interview multiple candidates.
  • When you don't have the resources or don't require a full-time in-house technical recruiter.  
  • When you can't afford to hire the wrong candidate and front the cost of replacing them yourself.

When to hire a freelance recruiter?

  • You need an expert recruiter to help you fill your vacancies. Still, your hiring needs are not urgent, (a single freelance recruiter most times cannot physically fill a role as quickly as an agency that has a team of recruiters that work together to close the vacancy.)
  • You know a reputable freelance recruiter that you trust not to abandon the search for your vacancy because they got another more urgent/more lucrative/easier to fill a request from another client. (unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the tech industry) 
  • It is worth it to you to save money on not hiring an agency even if it takes much longer to find and start interviewing the right candidates for your role. 
  • You're sending out your vacancy to multiple freelance recruiters and only paying if you hire the candidate they brought you. 
  • You're not worried about controlling your employer brand experience for candidates or having the recruiter interpreting and representing your company and the role to candidates "in their own words".

The hiring process to find top remote developers is time-consuming and ends up  being a full-time commitment, you can’t just add it on top of your regular responsibilities and expect to attract the best candidates. Hiring a qualified remote developer with the help of a freelance recruiter or taking the DIY route takes about 58-62 days to place a candidate. While it will take less time than looking for candidates on job boards, through your network or on Linkedin it can difficult to find qualified talent from the general freelancer talent pool. You'll still need to work through the hiring pipeline to find a good match, which involves interviews and evaluating a candidate with a short task or coding test. 

At Make it in Ukraine we're able to cut down the time to hire to under 14 days for permanent full-time roles. This is because our remote software engineers have already gone through a significant portion of the hiring process, including screening and vetting. We a boutique IT agency, which means recruiters in our matching process are able to give clients the kind of undivided attention it takes to match candidates not only for technical competency but also for cultural fit. To make sure we understand the role inside and out and retain the personal relationship, each of our clients has a designated recruiter and matchmaker working exclusively on filling their vacancies. 

Book your free remote hiring consultation with our client success manager where we can discuss your specific goals and challenges and help you identify the best option going forward. 

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