Based on your answers, your team should consider the following:
Lean towards scaling with full-time talent, but leverage project-based talent for certain situations
There seems to be relatively modest volatility (20% or less) between your upside and downside growth scenarios.
Given that you are relatively confident in growth plans, the risk of layoffs due to changing business conditions appears lower. This should provide you with more confidence when growing your full-time team.
While swings in growth may not be as prevalent, project-based consultants can still be important resources to bring in the expertise you may not have in-house or to fill in skillset gaps that can arise from situations such as extended leave.
Although the hourly costs associated with project-based hires can be higher than those associated with full-time hires, benefits can include:
no severance/unemployment expense should you need to right-size your team.
faster time to hire, given many independent consultants/contractors can support the team at a moment’s notice.
optionality to “try before you buy.” Some independent consultants are open to full-time roles, and projects can be a good way to mutually test fit before making a commitment to a full-time hire.
Regarding your organization's top hiring challenge
We are short on recruiting bandwidth, but recruiting agencies are just too expensive
Recruiting agency costs reflect the time and effort needed to identify and engage the right candidates with your brand. Recruiting partners with a more efficient process for candidate identification and engagement can pass on those cost savings to clients.
You should look for the following in a talent partner:
Do they automate sourcing?
There is no reason a human should click through profile-by-profile on LinkedIn Recruiter to assess a resume fit. Technology can augment human evaluation to reduce the time required to identify the universe of qualified candidates by as much as 90%.
Do they apply marketing principles to talent acquisition?
Masked outreach on behalf of an anonymous client results in lower engagement rates. Forward-looking agencies market your brand, not just roles, to resume-qualified candidates. If done effectively, this approach increases engagement rates and expands your pool of qualified, interested candidates.