It is uncommon to come across a successful recruitment agency who don’t use some kind of recruitment software or CRM to manage their workflow and processes. They can benefit any business massively by saving time and money, increasing productivity, improving communication and streamlining processes.

However, not everyone goes down the same route in choosing their recruitment system. Some agencies prefer to go for an off-the-shelf system which is ready made, and others opt for a bespoke/custom system which can be created to meet your specific requirements.


As previously mentioned, an off-the-shelf recruitment CRM is already developed and available so it can be easy to set up and get going. They can often be much cheaper than a bespoke model as the development costs aren’t as expensive in the long run as they are spread over more licences.

Another attraction of going down the off-the-shelf route is that the system is already available to you and there is no need to wait for it to be developed. For agencies who urgently need a system, this is a huge benefit as once installed, you can get going straightaway!

There tends to be a larger range of functionality available in off-the-shelf systems as the supplier needs to be able to provide for a variety of agencies. Not everyone will need all of this and in some systems you will have the ability to switch features off but it’s a huge benefit that there is extra functionality there should you need it. However, some agencies still need more and some suppliers, like itris, can offer this with their bespoke development. This is an additional cost but for agencies who aren’t looking to spend masses on a bespoke system but still want unique functionality, this is the best route to go down.

There will be people outside of your company using the same system as you which means it is likely that most suppliers will offer training. This may cost extra but it will still be considerably cheaper than getting trained on a bespoke system and you will also have the opportunity to continually ask questions directly to the training team rather than not having anyone to ask questions to!

Even though there are so many advantages to taking an off-the-shelf recruitment CRM, there are a few things which you should consider. As we touched on earlier, the system will have to cater for a wide range of agencies which means there may be functionality included which you don’t need as well as vital functionality missing which you do need. This may result in you paying extra for bespoke development or having to compromise on your requirements and desired features.

You should also remember that you are just one company out of potentially thousands, so if you request specific functionality to be added to the system or need to urgently speak to your account manager, it isn’t always possible.

Finally, even though off-the-shelf recruitment software can advance your business processes and benefit your company in many other ways, ultimately, anyone can buy it! This means you don’t necessarily have a competitive advantage when it comes to your recruitment technology.


If you are a larger agency, you may be looking into more bespoke systems for your business which can be built based on your requirements. These can often be more flexible as they are designed specifically for you and can be changed and kept up to date depending on your workflow. If your business has very specific and unique processes which you believe off-the-shelf systems absolutely cannot provide for, then a custom-built recruitment CRM is the way forward if you’re happy to spend the money as it will be tailored to fit in effortlessly with how the business already runs.

Of course, bespoke systems are not all plain sailing. They can be extremely expensive and take months to develop so not all companies are able to afford them. You also need to bear in mind that you are entirely dependent on the developer who has built your system and the source code. You will also need to trust that the system is reliable and built to the best it can be otherwise you will shortly start to see bugs and other problems which could be costly to fix.

Despite being more in control when having a bespoke system, things like training your staff on how to use it and fixing any issues could prove more difficult as there isn’t a ready made manual as it’s been created from scratch.

Which one should I go for?

The type of system you go for really depends on your business requirements. What works for one type of agency might not work for another so when doing your research, it’s worth finding out more about existing clients of both suppliers (Are they perm/contract/temp? What industry do they recruit?), their processes (Are they the same as yours?) and why they think they made the right decision.

One of the most important things to remember and to ask prospective suppliers is ‘do you offer bespoke development?’. If they don’t and you know there will be aspects of the system which you’d like to tweak then it’s likely that you’ll cross them off your list. However, don’t overlook the off-the-shelf systems which allow you to develop your own tools as that seems to be the most cost-effective way of implementing new recruitment software with your own twist.