At InsightSquared, we do everything we can to understand what sets top-performing staffing and recruiting firms apart from the rest of the field.

We read blogs. We look at industry research. We talk to customers. We talk to prospects. We listen to gurus and ninjas and mavens of every kind. But being a bunch of numbers geeks, that still isn’t enough. We wanted to see the cold, hard data that answered our question: how do some firms outgrow their competition?

So we rolled up our sleeves and conducted a study of our own.

And guess what? In spite of all that time spent reading and researching and listening, many of the results still came as a surprise. The characteristics of top-performing staffing and recruiting firms were, in some cases, the polar opposite of what we expected to see.

Here’s the story of how we uncovered the secrets to staffing success.


Since InsightSquared aggregates data from a number of ATS systems, we have reams of data from hundreds of different firms at our fingertips. With express permission from our clients, we set about answering our question by anonymizing that data and digging into it to search for the traits that set high-growth firms apart from the rest of the field.

To get the most actionable results possible, we divided our study into two broad recruitment types — permanent and contract placement. Most firms included in the study make a mix of contract and permanent placements, so they were placed into the permanent bucket if more than 50% of their placements were for permanent positions, and in the contract bucket if more than 50% were contract.

From there, we divided the two buckets into four quartiles based on Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) to estimate revenue growth. The first quartile encompassed the firms with the lowest CAGR, and the fourth quartile was the group with the highest CAGR.

Once all the setup work was complete, we could finally get down to the real business of finding out what firms in the fourth quartile were doing differently from the first quartile.

In spite of all the research we did prior to conducting the study, the results still surprised us.

What Sets High-Growth Firms Ahead

The usual assumption is high-growth in the contract space is driven by a high-volume of placements and quick turnaround time, while success on permanent placement openings depends more on quality and speed of service.

The reality is essentially the converse of that assumption. To cut to the chase, here’s a high-level breakdown of what we found for contract and permanent placement firms:

  • Contract Placement Firms – Revenue growth in the contract space is driven by efficiency above all else. Firms that achieved the highest rates of revenue growth actually processed fewer job orders than their competitors, but had a higher value job order pipeline.
  • Permanent Placement Firms – Contrary to the contract staffing market, revenue growth for permanent placement firms was driven by volume above all else. High-growth firms are the ones that are able to churn through the highest number of job orders without compromising the quality of their service (as reflected by win rates and time to fill).

The more we dug into the data, the more nuances we found between the firms that just get by and the firms that rake in revenue every year.

To learn what else we uncovered about best practices for staffing and recruiting management, take a minute to download our full 2015 Staffing Sales Benchmarking Report.