Specialized IT Recruitment: The Complete Guide (Process, Costs...)

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Written by

Marina Pinho

Communication Manager
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It’s no secret that attracting and retaining IT professionals is no easy task. Between financial constraints that prevent managers from offering competitive salaries and the job market's unresponsiveness to increasingly specialized roles, it's becoming harder for companies to allocate the time to search for, attract, and hire qualified professionals, while continually striving to meet project deadlines.

This is precisely where specialized recruitment plays a critical role in identifying and attracting IT professionals. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the process, costs, frequently asked questions, and what you should consider when contemplating partnering with a company that offers this service in Portugal.

What is specialized IT recruitment?

Specialized recruitment is a service available to companies needing to fill highly qualified and specialized technical positions. With this service, the client company receives candidates identified and pre-validated by the recruitment specialists.

Since the primary focus of these IT-specialized companies is to attract, recruit, and select candidates in the IT sector, they possess more resources, time, and knowledge to dedicate to finding increasingly specialized profiles, freeing their clients from these tasks. Moreover, they can quickly find these professionals as they are in constant contact with them.

What are the process steps?

If you're considering working with a company that offers these services, it's crucial to understand the process and know what to expect. Generally, specialized recruitment follows these steps (or variants of them):

Needs Analysis

In the first place, the company must understand your specific requirements. An initial meeting is held to grasp your business area, company culture, technologies used, and the necessary profiles. 

This meeting is vital for a successful partnership because it's where the recruitment company gains an understanding of the types of professionals that will best fit into your team and project. Typically, a professional (e.g., a Business Manager) represents the recruitment company and serves as your point of contact throughout the process.

One of today's biggest challenges for leaders is integrating and retaining their employees. Therefore, it's essential that the recruitment process is increasingly fine-tuned to result in attracting candidates who are the best possible match, both technically and in terms of soft skills. So, this is an important aspect the recruitment company should strive to clarify from the beginning, so that there are no mismatches in the profiles you receive from them.

Strategy Development

After collecting all the needs and expectations, the recruitment company designs a customized action plan. The chosen strategy impacts the channels used to advertise job vacancies, how they are advertised, the team assigned to respond to your request, the candidate outreach approach, the types of professionals they'll seek, and more.

At this stage, it's important to evaluate the employer branding practices adopted by the recruitment company and see if they align with your values because they will, in a way, represent your company to potential candidates. If you disagree with any of the practices you observe in the recruitment company, it might not be the best fit for you.

For this assessment, you can start by analyzing social media and reviews on websites such as Glassdoor and Google. However, be aware that, as you know, these reviews are not always the fairest or most representative of reality.

Typically the company should provide you with a formal presentation that includes information about the clients they work with. This way, you can gain a better understanding of their reputation. Additionally, you can also review testimonials from their own employees if they offer other services such as Outsourcing.

Screening and Interviews 

After putting efforts into attracting the best candidates for the advertised positions, the recruitment company conducts a detailed analysis of the received resumes through job postings and proactive headhunting. 

It's important that they adopt the best practices regarding communication with the candidates, as one of the main complaints professionals have about companies is a lack of response, which conveys disorganization and disregard. Therefore, it's essential that the chosen partner has implemented measures to overcome this problem, such as personalized feedback processes and tools to allow candidates to easily obtain this information.

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After this phase, the supplier is ready to interview candidates who best fit the positions. In these interviews, recruiters evaluate the candidates' technical profiles, i.e., if they have the experience and knowledge required regarding the necessary technologies, tools, and software. 

Depending on the technology stack involved, they may conduct a more detailed technical assessment, using exercises or a recruiter with technical background (e.g., a former programmer or a consultant). Furthermore, they evaluate soft skills to understand if the candidate's personality is a fit for the project he'll be working on, as well as his motivations, to ensure alignment of expectations. To do this, they may use behavioral and situational questions during interviews or even personality tests such as the "Big Five Personality Test."

Candidate Selection

The role of specialized recruitment companies primarily focuses on attracting and recruiting the best candidates for the proposed positions. However, the candidate selection is always the client's responsibility. 

Typically, the company sends you a shortlist of pre-validated, interviewed, and interested candidates for your project. This list includes their resumes and detailed information collected about them. Based on your feedback, they adjust the strategy until they find the ideal candidate for the vacancy.

What are the costs of specialized recruitment?

If your company already has an internal Human Resources (HR) department, is it worth hiring an external specialized recruitment service? Well, the answer to this question depends on various factors, such as the size of your internal HR team, the resources available to attract candidates, the expertise of your team to evaluate and find highly specialized profiles in the IT field, and how urgently you need to hire.

In reality, most suppliers only charge based on a "success fee". In other words, you only pay if the company successfully finds someone you end up hiring. This is a significant advantage because you can test the service before making a commitment. If the company does find a suitable candidate, that's great, but if they don't, you won't lose anything because you had access to the supplier's resources and expertise without having to make any upfront investment.

However, not all recruitment partners offer this option. In some cases, you might be charged a fee for the headhunting service the company will perform, which is then "deducted" from the total amount due in the event of success. This cost can be referred to as a "Recruitment and Selection Process Opening Fee," which is applicable after the confirmation of the contract and non-refundable if the process closes without any hires. So, if you end up not hiring any of the candidates they've selected, you won't recover your investment.

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The "success fee" can be charged in various ways, with one of the most common methods being a percentage of the gross annual total compensation of each hired candidate. The market values for this percentage can vary from 12% to 20%, and it can either remain the same or change based on defined total compensation thresholds.

Another method is the "flat rate" where the specialized recruitment provider has fixed values for each type of profile. In this case, the cost to you remains the same regardless of what the candidate's remuneration is.

Lastly, the partner company may charge a percentage or a fixed amount based on the profile type and seniority level of the candidates sought. For more senior and specific roles, the cost might be higher than for less experienced profiles.

For methods based on percentages, there might also be a minimum commission requirement. In other words, a minimum amount that the provider will charge for this service, which applies when the total compensation of the selected candidate doesn't reach the minimum set for the service.

In cases where the partnership involves hiring candidates for several vacancies or assembling an entire team, there are adapted models that offer cost advantages. These models usually offer "rappel discounts", meaning that the more profiles you hire, the lower the cost of the service will be.

Now, what happens if you decide to hire a professional, but he doesn't meet your expectations or decides to leave the project shortly after starting?

To safeguard against these scenarios, there's often a guarantee period. During this period (which varies depending on the agreement between the companies), the supplier commits to replacing the professional and refunding the fee.

Also, consider the timing of payment, which can occur at two points. Some companies accept payment only when the selected professional actually starts working. This is advantageous for your company because you only need to invest when the candidate accepts the offer and joins the project.

On the other hand, some specialized recruitment companies may require payment immediately after the candidate signs the contract. In this case, if the candidate abandons the project before the start date, it might involve a partial or full refund of the fees.

All of these values and timelines are negotiated between the company and its client and adjusted according to each business's needs.

What are the advantages of specialized IT recruitment?

Throughout this article, we've touched on some of the advantages, which we'll explore in more detail now:

Market Knowledge and Faster Recruitment

Whenever a team member leaves, the entire team suffers, especially until someone else assumes the role of this professional. When this happens, hiring a new person as quickly as possible is a top priority. But it can't be just anyone; there must be a certain technical and behavioral alignment.

In these situations, a specialized recruitment company can make all the difference because they already possess the knowledge and the means needed to easily assess the market and find a professional tailored to their client's needs. Precisely because of their proximity to the market, they know exactly where the best professionals are and can reach out to them more quickly, as this is the core focus of their activity.

Furthermore, these types of companies can also provide market consultancy in terms of average salaries for specific areas, benefits valued by candidates, the availability of particular profiles, among many other relevant topics. Moreover, they often maintain extensive databases of candidates seeking new opportunities, making it natural for them to send the first candidates within a short timeframe.

A company that relies on its in-house HR department, depending on its size and available resources, may need to wait longer than desired to find the ideal candidate.

More Efficient Use of Internal Resources

What is the greatest advantage a company gains by using an external service, no matter what it may be? The ability to more effectively use its internal resources, focusing on what will truly drive the company's growth.

In the case of a company that already has an HR department, when they hire a specialized recruitment service, it gives their internal team more time to concentrate on initiatives aimed at enhancing the well-being of their own employees, thereby boosting their integration, motivation, and long-term retention.

Additionally, recruitment processes in the IT field tend to be time-consuming and labor-intensive, which can be quite demanding for a department that already has other responsibilities and priorities to manage, such as payroll processing, onboarding, offboarding, and so on.

However, it's not just the HR department that benefits from these types of solutions. Managers themselves find their hiring needs addressed more swiftly, enabling them to continue with their ongoing tasks and direct their full attention to what genuinely matters: their projects and the company's growth.

Access to Highly Qualified Candidates and to International Labor Markets

Lastly, given that this is the primary focus of recruitment companies, it's quite common for them to foster relationships with universities and technology hubs, enabling them to maintain closer ties with the most highly qualified professionals in the market.

Considering that their recruiters possess a deeper understanding of the IT market and the responsibilities associated with various roles, they can also adapt faster to industry changes and pinpoint the most specialized professionals.

Here, we are discussing relatively new roles in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Privacy, Cybersecurity, Data Analysis, Cloud, Software Development, among others.

And since the job market tends to be quite small, especially when we talk about highly specialized roles, recruitment partners also play a key role in broadening their clients’ reach, since they make it possible for them to tap into a much larger and more international labor market.

Are there disadvantages?

Of course, every service has its disadvantages and downsides to consider:

Cultural Misalignment

The culture of a company isn't always easy to explain, but it's something that is felt and experienced by those who actually work within that company. For this reason, it's not always possible for recruitment companies to fully comprehend their client's way of working, which can occasionally result in the sharing of candidates who may not perfectly align with the company's culture.

In these situations, it's important for there to be open communication between both companies so that the recruiters can improve their searches and find candidates with the best alignment possible at all levels.

Additional Costs

Unless your company lacks an HR department entirely or the capacity to conduct recruitment processes, hiring an external service always represents an additional cost. Now, the important factor is to understand whether this cost will bring a competitive advantage or not.

If the cost results in a more agile and swift recruitment process, where you can find professionals who meet your needs, it might be worth the investment. However, if your budget is tight, working with firms that solely rely on a success fee might be the best option. In this case, you only need to make the payment if you genuinely find the ideal professional for your team.

Reputation and Value Incompatibility

This type of service involves individuals who often find themselves in delicate stages of their lives, leading them to seek new professional opportunities. For this reason, it's even more important that companies providing specialized recruitment services possess a robust set of values that align with those of their clients. These companies end up representing their clients, so if they convey a negative image to the candidates they contact, their client's reputation will also be harmed.

Therefore, it's essential that whenever you're using these services, you seek to learn about the opinions of candidates who have been through processes with that company. This helps you understand whether the practices they employ are the best or not.

Many of these supplies end up working with KPIs that encourage their recruiters to contact a certain number of candidates, leading them to speak with the same individuals repeatedly. Such situations cause professionals in the market to develop a negative impression of some of these service-providing companies.

Surely, you wouldn't want your company's reputation to be affected by how the suppliers representing you operate. That's why it's crucial to choose carefully the right one to work with.

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Data Leakage

This is somewhat uncommon, but it can still happen. If your company deals with highly confidential projects, it's ideal to implement mechanisms to protect against such situations.

If there is data you'd prefer not to be disclosed by partner companies, make sure to clearly communicate this information to them. You should also consider having a written agreement, the well-known Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), to ensure that the other party takes responsibility for any leaks.

On the other hand, don't forget that candidates, in order to be interested in a particular project, need to know some details about it. It's challenging for a professional to blindly commit to progressing in a recruitment process for a position or a company they know very little about, especially in the IT field where, fortunately, they have no shortage of opportunities.


Some specialized recruitment companies may also require their clients to enter into an exclusivity agreement. This aims to make the partnership stronger and prevent candidates from being approached for the same projects by multiple different suppliers, which could lead to reputational damage and negatively affect the client (depending on the practices more or less aggressive, employed by each supplier).

While this type of agreement is based on a rationale that warrants attention, it limits options and increases the client's dependence on the chosen supplier. However, not all recruitment companies have this requirement, so it's up to you as the client to assess whether the benefits of this practice outweigh its disadvantages.


We hope this guide has helped you understand how specialized recruitment services operate in Portugal. As we saw, success in these partnerships primarily depends on alignment of expectations and values, open communication, transparency, and thorough market research.

If this service seems like the ideal solution for your company, learn more about how we can help grow your team and projects here.