Toptal vs ZipRecruiter: Which Is Better for Hiring Freelancers?

August 4, 2020

We recommend you hire freelancers on Toptal over ZipRecruiter because Toptal vets their talent for you. However, ZipRecruiter has more job candidates in more categories than Toptal. Furthermore, ZipRecruiter doesn’t have any added hiring fee if you want to hire someone full-time.

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 freelancers on Toptal and ZipRecruiter.

Toptal vs ZipRecruiter: Which freelance platform is best to hire freelancers?

ZipRecruiter praise and pros

ZipRecruiter is convenient for job-seekers

Don’t underestimate the value of convenience on job boards. Job seekers naturally gravitate towards job boards that fit their needs. ZipRecruiter is particularly popular because it makes it easy for job seekers to find relevant applications through relevant sorting systems. For example, job seekers can look for jobs by location or by specific titles.

This means that you can get more and better applications for each job you post.

ZipRecruiter also offers several uncommon ways to interact with job seekers, including sending personal messages that you can write beforehand and deliver with one click. This can help you come across as more interested in each applicant.

It supports businesses of all sizes

This is a rarer quality than many people realize. Most freelancing and hiring sites cater exclusively to small and mid-sized businesses, which are those with less than 250 employees. In contrast, ZipRecruiter offers additional options and support for large companies.

By dividing labor and support between enterprise and non-enterprise companies, ZipRecruiter is more effective at helping employers of all sizes.

ZipRecruiter has outstanding reach

One of ZipRecruiter’s most notable qualities is how it can reach other job boards and post relevant applications on them. Rather than merely posting them, ZipRecruiter’s algorithm focuses on the most suitable jobs for each partner site.

This gives it one of the broadest reaches of any job board. This matters for employers because you can’t attract a candidate unless they see your job posting. In other words, it doesn’t matter how good your offer is if nobody hears about it. ZipRecruiter is better at this than many other sites and continuously adds new partners to help ensure the best possible reach.

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.

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 can you hire on ZipRecruiter and Toptal?

Type of Freelancers on Toptal

Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to ZipRecruiter. 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 on ZipRecruiter

ZipRecruiter has a database of 25 million resumes to fill just about any position you have. You can hone your search results by location, job title, previous companies, and resume freshness.

Furthermore, ZipRecruiter has a smart search function that allows you to easily modify your search results.

Type of Freelancers on ZipRecruiter

Finally, you can rate ZipRecruiter resumes with a thumbs up or down. As you rate more candidates, ZipRecruiter’s AI will match you with more relevant candidates.

Type of Freelancers on ZipRecruiter

Winner: Toptal for Quality, ZipRecruiter for Quantity

What is the screening process on Toptal and ZipRecruiter?

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 ZipRecruiter.

ZipRecruiter’s screening process

ZipRecruiter gives you the opportunity to add your own screening questions to any job listing.

ZipRecruiter’s screening process

ZipRecruiter provides six different formats for your screening questions too:

ZipRecruiter’s screening process

You can also browse their database of common questions that other users ask:

ZipRecruiter’s screening process

When creating screening questions, you have the option to turn the question into a “Deal-Breaker Question.” This hides all candidates who do not meet your basic qualifications. You will still be able to view these candidates in the “Hidden” section of your “Candidates” tab if you desire.

That said, you still need to do the screening yourself, which can be quite a time consuming task.

Since Toptal screens candidates for you, we recommend that you use Toptal over ZipRecruiter.

Winner: Toptal

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

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.

ZipRecruiter’s hiring process

With ZipRecruiter, you set the pace of the hiring process. That said, finding the right candidate involves:

  1. Write out a detailed job description (0-2 hours).
  2. Wait for candidates to apply (1-3 days).
  3. Schedule a phone call (1-5 days).
  4. Wait for the freelancer to scope out the project and send a proposal (1-3 days).
  5. Choose from the proposals (1-3 days).
  6. Negotiate the proposal (1-3 days).
  7. Sign the proposal (1-3 days).

Again, there’s a degree where you set the speed in which you hire. But hiring too fast will cause more damage to your business and brand in the long run.

Given the turnaround time, Toptal is significantly faster than ZipRecruiter when hiring.

Winner: Toptal

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

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.

ZipRecruiter’s pricing

ZipRecruiter does not have transparent pricing information before you sign up and start using their service.

While they don’t post information on the main site, ZipRecruiter’s support page notes their pricing starts at $249/month for the Simple plan.

The main difference between ZipRecruiter’s hiring plans is the number of active job postings you can have at any given time. Simple plans are limited to one active job slot, the team's plan can have up to four slots, and enterprise customers can pay for as many as they need.‍

ZipRecruiter Pricing - What’s ZipRecruiter’s Fee Structure?

According to ZipRecruiter, job slots are the maximum number of job ads you can have posted simultaneously. There is no limit on job postings per month and no limit on the number of candidates you get.

The other major difference between the pricing plans is how easily you can attract potential recruits. The enterprise plan allows you to use their TrafficBoost. With each Boost, ZipRecuiter states you’ll get up to 100 visitors to your job posting.

They also say that they will customize the price you pay based on various factors, such as how many other slots you need, how many resumes you want to download, and even where you are. This means that you cannot determine the pricing up-front, and that’s a significant negative.

Because Toptal does not charge any added fees, we recommend that you use Toptal over ZipRecruiter.

Winner: Toptal

Does Toptal or ZipRecruiter 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.

ZipRecruiter’s 4-Day Free Trial

ZipRecruiter offers a four-day free trial. 

The four-day free trial is designed to give you enough time to evaluate the service and get a general idea of how ZipRecruiter works. Since your free trial acts like the subscription plan you selected, there’s nothing you’re missing out on by participating in the trial. 

The longer your job ad is posted, the more candidates you can receive. The activity you see in the first four days is a great indicator and should be enough for you to decide about your subscription before moving forward.

Because Toptal gives you a better feel working with your job candidate, Toptal is the clear winner over ZipRecruiter.

Winner: Toptal

Is ZipRecruiter or Toptal better for hiring freelancers?

ZipRecruiter 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 larger project with a budget of $2,000 USD or more, go with Toptal.

When should you consider hiring on ZipRecruiter?

ZipRecruiter is a good choice when hiring full-time or part-time team members for talent that Toptal doesn’t have.

Toptal does allow you to hire full-time employees from Toptal into your company. They do not mention if there are any associated costs in doing so. But given what other freelance platforms are doing, it’s likely that they will ask for a premium to do so.

On the whole, we recommend that you choose Toptal over ZipRecruiter when it comes to hiring developers, designers, or finance experts.

Overall Winner: Toptal