Toptal vs Robert Half: Which Is Better for Hiring?

August 4, 2020

We recommend you hire on Toptal over Robert Half because Toptal vets their talent and does not charge as high of fees. However Robert Half has access to more types of talent than Toptal.

You can read our individual reviews to help you make an informed decision:

Or if you continue reading, you will learn the pros and cons of hiring on Toptal and Robert Half.

Toptal vs Robert Half: Which Freelance Platform is Best to Hire?

Robert Half praise and pros

With over 70 years of experience in the staffing space, Robert Half has amassed quite a following with top companies. In addition to being voted Forbes’ top staffing agency in 2019, they were also voted one of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies for 2020

Working With a Staffing Agency

One of the major pros of working with a staffing agency is the flexibility it provides. While plenty of massive companies rely on Robert Half to fill positions, it’s the small and mid-sized businesses that can best leverage the additional flexibility Robert Half can offer.

On an interim basis, a staffing agency allows you to provide reinforcements during your busy season, or to cover for a full-time employee that’s currently on medical or family leave. 

Robert Half can also enable you to fill permanent positions without having to commit to the hiring process. With a temp-to-full-time arrangement, your business can garner meaningful insight about a person’s skills and personality before you commit to bringing them onto the team permanently. If it isn’t a good fit, you can move on and find a more suitable candidate. 

Scaling Recruitment

Another benefit of working with Robert Half is that they can quickly scale with your business. Staffing an entirely new team from Robert Half is just as easy as staffing a single employee. 

With Robert Half, all employees are put through a rigorous screening process and technical proficiency exam. These standards ensure that your recruiter is only pulling from top-quality talent that can jump right into a productive role for your business. 

A Sustainable and Responsible Company

It’s worth mentioning that Robert Half is also an industry leader in terms of corporate responsibility. The company engages in global philanthropic, sustainability, and diversity efforts. In 2020, Robert Half was named to Baron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies list for a third time, along with being honored by Forbes as one of the Best Employers for Diversity.

Positive Reviews

As the most popular staffing agency in the world, Robert Half has its fair share of glowing reviews from actual clients. Here’s a sample of what some hiring managers have to say about their experience dealing with Robert Half. 

Positive Reviews

Others recommend Robert Half specifically for hard to fill IT roles, and for providing flexibility and well-vetted candidates that were perfect for the task at hand. 

Positive Reviews

Toptal praise and pros

Toptal’s claim to screen 3% of the talent may or may not be entirely accurate (I’ll discuss Toptal’s vetting process in a moment).

What matters is Toptal saves you time spending hours filtering through freelancers for their performance. After all, if Toptal didn’t have hoops for freelancers to jump through, then their available talent would dilute. As a result, their market differentiation would be… the same as almost any other freelance marketplace.

Many entrepreneurs hiring on Toptal note their support staff is very hands-on. Toptal also has a fantastic UI and billing process. 

Toptal has a fast placement process

According to Toptal, “In a typical engagement, we’ll introduce you to candidates within 24 hours. And 90% of our clients hire the first candidate we introduce.”

Toptal sets high standards for freelancers

Freelancers must maintain high customer satisfaction ratings. Otherwise, Toptal will remove them from the platform.

Toptal offers a no-risk test project

The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).

Toptal’s screening process 3% will weed out some quality workers. But it’s better to miss out on a potential A player than to waste precious time on a borderline freelancer who turns out to be a B or C player.

Winner: Toptal

What type of freelancers and employees can you hire on Robert Half and Toptal?

Type of Freelancers and Employees on Toptal

Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to Robert Half. But do you really need 12 million freelancers, or just a handful of freelancers to consider to get the job done? More than 100,000 people apply to join Toptal every year, but they accept only 3%. In simple numbers, that means they add roughly 3,000 freelancers every year. 

That means rather than spending your time and energy vetting freelancers, Toptal does the heavy lifting for you.

Toptal is a good place to start if you’re serious about growing your business and are ready to invest in top talent at a reasonable rate. 

As of this writing, Toptal has vetted developers, designers, and finance experts. If you want to hire a freelancer with a different skill set, you may want to consider a different freelance platform.

The difficulty of using Toptal to source freelancers is if you are looking for someone to help with a small, one-off project. Toptal asks for a $500 commitment for the first project, which is fully refundable if you’re freelancer is not a fit.

Type of Freelancers and Employees on Robert Half

Robert Half doesn’t specialize in placing select freelancers. They do state they have millions of candidates and that a job is filled every two minutes. Which, for the record, is about 262,800 jobs filled every year!

Winner: Toptal for Quality, Robert Half for Quantity with Quality

What is the screening process on Toptal and Robert Half?

Toptal’s screening process

What’s Toptal’s vetting process to make sure you work with world-class talent?

Toptal uses a 5-step screening process to source the top 3% of freelancers:

  1. Language & Personality - In this phase, Toptal is looking for candidates who read, write, and speak English fluently. They also look for personality traits, drive, and passion to see the work through to completion. According to Toptal, an estimated 26.4% of applicants pass this test.
  2. In-depth Skill Review -  Here, Toptal screens freelancers for technical knowledge. According to Toptal, only 7.4% of total applicants make it through this round.
  3. Live Screening - After testing the freelancer’s skills, Toptal does a live screening test. Toptal supplies an expert in each domain to do a video chat with the applicant. During the screening, the candidate receives a test while an expert watches how and what they do. If they fail, they may be asked to re-apply in a month. According to Toptal, only 3.6% of applicants pass this round.
  4. Test Projects - Over 1-3 weeks, a freelancer must complete a test project related to a real-world scenario. Here, the candidate puts everything into action, testing everything from competence to their professional style. According to Toptal, only 3.2% of applicants pass this round.
  5. Continued Excellence - Once the test is complete, Toptal freelancers are expected to maintain high-quality work. If work quality slips or there’s poor communication, the freelancer is let go. According to Toptal, only 3% of applicants continue to their high standards.

Even with this level of screening, Toptal has a wide pool filled with a specific talent set. Instead of hiring any DevOps engineer, Toptal can help you find an “AWS DevOps engineer who understands Docker, Jenkins, RDS...” and any other needs you may have. 

The dollar per hour will often increase when you need a specific skill set. But you’ll also know the freelancer better fits your needs than finding a freelancer for yourself on Robert Half.

Robert Half’s screening process

Robert Half does not disclose their screening process. This the information we received when messaging a customer support staff member:

“Candidates are typically screened, interviewed, provided assessments based on need, references are required and background check if direct hire or once a temp candidate is converted. We have a solid in depth process.”

After this chat, the customer support rep refused to disclose any information unless we scheduled a sales call with a sales rep.

Winner: Toptal

How long is the hiring process before you work with a freelancer on Toptal and Robert Half?

Toptal’s hiring process

Hiring normally takes a long time, as anything worth doing should take time. But because Toptal screens their candidates, they can place you with a candidate in 48 hours:

Toptal’s hiring process

If there are no candidates available in Toptal’s network, it typically takes 1-3 weeks for Toptal to locate, screen, and work with every expert.

Robert Half’s hiring process

As with Robert Half’s screening process, they do not disclose any information about their hiring process. We specified we may want to hire a ruby on rails developer to get more specific information. However, the support rep failed to provide anything about the process.

Winner: Toptal

Pricing and fees: How much does it cost to hire freelancers on Toptal and Robert Half?

Toptal’s pricing

Toptal does not charge a fee above their regular pricing. Instead, they add a profit margin above the freelancer’s rates. 

Most rates you’ll pay are what you’d expect to pay outside their platform. 

Toptal offers this pricing chart:

Toptal pricing - What’s Toptal’s fee structure?

What you pay your freelancer depends on:

  • The tech stack needed for your project.
  • The necessary skill(s) to complete the task.
  • The project size.
  • What market you are in.
  • General market demand for the type of freelancer needed.

Robert Half’s pricing

It’s difficult to pin down Robert Half’s pricing because the fees they charge depend on position you’re filling.

For temporary hires, you can expect to pay an extra 75% of what you would pay the employee if you hired them on your own and put them on your payroll. So a temporary developer at $50 an hour would then be billed at $87.50 per hour.

If you want to hire a temporary employee full-time, you’ll pay a recruiting fee. Generally, these fees work out to around 33% of the employee’s first-year salary. So a $50/hour developer would have a salary around $100,000. At a 33% recruitment rate, you’d pay roughly $33,333.

Winner: Toptal

Does Toptal or Robert Half offer any kind of risk-free trial or guarantee?

Toptal’s Policy

Toptal requires a $500 deposit which applies to your first bill. If you get a freelancer you are not satisfied with, you are not required to make any payment. You can choose to either part ways with Toptal or restart the hiring process.

The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).

Toptal does not mention any information on their website how they handle disputes. However, every Toptal client receives an account manager who can help resolve your issues.

Robert Half’s service guarantee Policy

Robert Half offers a service guarantee, but they do not provide any specific details about the guarantee. 

Winner: Toptal

Is Robert Half or Toptal better for hiring freelancers?

Robert Half and Toptal are both beneficial for different hiring needs.

When should you consider hiring on Toptal?

Toptal is an excellent freelance platform for hiring quality talent. Because of the time they invest in curating the best talent, you’ll spend less time to find the right freelancer.

If you’re looking to hire vetted developers, designers, or finance experts for a project with a budget of $2,000 USD or more, go with Toptal.

When should you consider hiring on Robert Half?

With an abundance of freelance talent online, it’s hard to imagine the need for paying an extra 75% for a temp hire when you get those benefits on Toptal at relatively no extra cost. That said, Robert Half can help you hire employees that Toptal doesn’t have access to at the moment. 

Overall Winner: Toptal