Agency Recruiters will always beat Internal Recruiters. Always.

Can Internal Recruiters assist candidates as much as Agency Recruiters can?

Agency Recruiters will always beat Internal Recruiters. Always.

Even great internal recruiters can never do as good a job for candidates as great agency recruiters do.

Never. Ever.

And that’s simply because internal recruiters are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to supporting candidates in their job search.

Let’s examine the ways;

  • Internal recruiters, by definition, cannot operate as a ‘third-party broker’. It’s their job to entice the best talent to their employer. How can they possibly provide a candidate with balanced and unbiased advice? They can’t. Anything they say about the role under consideration is driven by self-interest.
  • Internal recruiters have a one-dimensional, or at best, severely restricted view of the overall market. Sure, they know their company better than most, but what insight do they have of market trends, comparable opportunities, salaries and benefits, and other vital market intelligence, that only recruiters dealing with multiple employers will know?
  • Internal recruiters, quite rightly, act in the interest of their employer, while a great agency recruiter will act in the interest of the candidate.
  • Not only that, there is a role that agency recruiters play for candidates that seldom gets acknowledged. They act as an advocate for a great candidate who may never even get to interview stage, based solely on their resume. That’s right. A great agency recruiter will use the trust and credibility they have with clients to convince them to see a good candidate who does not shine on paper. That is a service and an advantage that internal recruiters can never offer.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the way most internal recruiters act. They are doing their job, and for the most part they do it well, and with extreme integrity. This is not about beating up on Internal Recruiters. I am stating the obvious really. Internal recruiters are hamstrung in terms of the role they can play in advising, coaching, and mentoring candidates in the job search.

Many agency recruiters do none of those things of course, we know that. There are hoards of agency people, driven totally by self-interest or without the skills to provide real value to the candidate. But the good ones, of which there are many more than the critics acknowledge, will bring their hard-earned market knowledge, and broad employer insights to bear, in order to assist a candidate make the right decision at a vulnerable time.

And that, as some advertising guy said elsewhere… is priceless!

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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as an undisputed global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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73 Responses to Can Internal Recruiters assist candidates as much as Agency Recruiters can?

  1. bob November 12, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I stopped reading at “honest broker” – an agency recruiter has more dishonest reasons than the internal rec – for a start they have comms to bargain for. At least the internal rec will have one eye on a guaranteed cultural fit within their organisation

    • Greg Savage November 12, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Pity you stopped reading Bob, because in the article I fully acknowledged that MANY agency recruiters do abuse their positions and many do not operate in an ideal way. But many DO act as an “honest broker”, and when they do they have an advantage over Internal who, while obviously honest, can’t act as a third party agent

    • Kerry November 12, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      Maybe you should have kept reading Bob. There was a lot more to the blog than the first line. And a whole lot more if you read between the lines.

    • Daniel X James November 12, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Bob,

      Not sure if you are aware, but many internal recruiters also work on commission/bonus basis.

      Also, as an agency recruiter who is in it for the long haul, I am more focused on doing what is best for my candidates regardless of them taking a job through me or someone else. I have found this gets me the most referrals, repeat business and occasionally new clients as they appreciate my honest approach.

    • George Smith November 12, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Internal Recruiter doesn’t recruit – just runs a process, and often blind to negatives they know exist within their company
      More HR that process applications

      • PK November 15, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        What a stupid comment, George. I’m sure internal recruiters do more strategic recruiting than the vast majority of mud slingers that make up agencies

      • Joe November 21, 2013 at 4:55 am #

        What a naive comment…

    • Andrew Ritchie November 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      I’d say that is a short term view Bob. In my view the best recruiters know that the best contract candidates are highly valuable and therefore worth retaining, it isn’t in the recruiters best interest to place them where they aren’t a fit. At the same time the ling term relationship with the client irm is also built on quality of talent supplied.

      The permanent candidates are the clients of the future and they will remember who placed them well.

    • Pallavi November 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      this is not always the case. Getting a commission is ofcourse the incentive to work towards, but this is not how the industry works. You cannot push the wrong candidate, neither can you push the right candidate to the wrong company or job. the GOOD recruiter would ALWAYS keep the channel of communication open and transparent.

    • Alan Allebone November 13, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      What made you stop Bob?

      You have not all the facts. have you now read the whole article?

      Are you an Internal recruiter or a Agency Recruiter?

    • Alex November 22, 2013 at 1:06 am #

      You do realise that internal recruiters get comms as well?

  2. Cindy November 12, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    The reatest compliment I’ve ever received from a high level placement – “I’m tempted to job search every three months, just so I get to work with you again”.

    I am so pleased Greg, that you believe we advocate for the candidate. I always felt it was a dirty secret I had to keep from other headhunters. I believe when Iadvocate on behalf of my candidate, I better suport my client’s needs/ends, and ultimately this results in the best outcome for all.

    We must never forget the power to change lives we have. When we ask someone to step out on a limb, we are obigated to be there as their second to support them in any inevitability.

    In addition, when I call a candidate, they know it’s a viable opportunity and they listen, trust and know I’ve got their back.

  3. Cindy November 12, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Oh yeah, agreed. Internal recruiters are hog tied by their company focused comittment. Also, they don’t get inside a candidate’s head/heart. The candidate views them often as adversarial as well as singular in purpose.

    I love my job
    I love my job
    I love my job!

    • Alan Allebone November 13, 2013 at 7:21 am #

      You say you love your job but what do you do Cindy? many of us do not know you.

  4. Georgia November 12, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I disagree that an internal recruiter cannot act as an honest broker for a candidate. A good internal recruiter recognises that if you don’t have the candidates best interests in mind, you will not secure a long term fit for your company. A good internal recruiter will consult with candidates about exactly what they want, other opportunities they have on the table, and will have an honest conversation with them which can result in advising them to take another opportunity that is better suited to them. I don’t disagree with the other points made; of course a good agency recruiter is better able to advocate for a candidate and has a wider network of opportunities.

    • Greg Savage November 12, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      Good points there Georgia..

    • George Smith November 12, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Internal Recruiter doesn’t recruit – just runs a process, and often blind to negatives they know exist within their company
      More HR that process applications. How can an internal recruiter consult if they are working for one company??

    • Lee Harvey November 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      I 100% agree with Georgia.

      Having worked for both agency world and the internal world I strongly believe that as an internal recruiter you can still add as much value to the candidate if not more than if you are in the external world.

      Just because you are internal DOES NOT mean that you are not aware of industry trends, other opportunites in the market etc

      It DOES not mean that you can not be an “Honest Broker”

      I have and will continue to consult with candidates, establish their goals and decisions to move foward with their career and then proceed to qualify if the role I have is a match for their requirements. If it is not then I will always advise that my role is not right for them and will be honest as to why.

      Whilst “qualifiying” a candidate I would expect any internal recruiter to be able to hold as good a conversation about the domain the candidate operates within and be able to speak confidently and accuractly about industry trends etc otherwise what are you doing recruiting in that field.

      The upside to internal is that you are not working for companies that have the eye on the invoice coming through the door and interested on the large markup fees. Instead you focus on true quality and investment to the business you work for.

      Sure there are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn however I for one shall never look back and disagree with the philosophy that Internal folks can not provide the same if not better service.

      • Kasia Borowicz November 28, 2013 at 6:40 am #

        I couldn’t agree with you more, Harvey!

        As an Internal Recruiter (what’s up with the tendency to only use capital R for Agency Recruiters??) you definitely can have an honest chat with the candidate and let them know why they should try elsewhere – if they should.

        And assuming only agency employees will know what’s going on in the industry is just absurd. As I’m in rec2rec myself, I have the chance to speak to both agency and internal recruiters on a daily basis and believe me, most of agency recruiters are either focused on their income or keen to move in-house. I’m not saying that means in-house is better, but that’s just what I’ve observed.

        And then, at least in Poland, if a candidate goes through an agency, that may also close some doors for them – just because some companies are not prepared to pay agency fees. Sure it doesn’t matter to some people, but if registering with an agency costs you your dream job, what then?

  5. Glenn November 12, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Another insightful article Greg.

    A good internal recruiter could be made great by truly partnering with one or more quality agency recruiters to leverage from their reach into the market. All of these points that internal recruiters a bound to be blinkered to can be supplemented and provided by the experience and expertise of their agency counterparts. An internal recruiter typically finds it harder to guage the true market perception of their company than an agency recruiter will. An agency recruiter knows exactly which companies their candidates are not interested in right from the first mention.

    The right partnership can help them understand the wider market better, gain insight into current attraction and retention strategies, and overall deliver a better outcome for their company and employees. Those internal recruiters that are forward thinking enough to recognise this and well supported by their executives and business leaders in achieving this can often bring great benefits to all parties.

    • Gordon November 13, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      Glenn this is how I see it too.

      Comparing Internal Recruiters to external Recruiters is like comparing trains to airplanes. They are just different.

      Most great in house talent managers fully understand the partnership between their recruiters and the agencies that they partner with.

      LinkedIn recently ran a panel in my town with such people from BP, Aurecon and Daniels Corporation talking to a room full of agency leaders. These corporate recruiters said exactly that. They don’t have the breadth, reach, time or resources to to everything.

  6. Simon Browne November 12, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Well said Greg, I understand clients reasoning to do recruitment internally for up front cost savings, but are they getting the best available talent? It would be difficult to mainitain a grasp on the whole market, let alone a strong passive candidate network if you only represented one company.

    Mind you, I try to think/act like an internal recruiter on each role to ensure I get skill and culture fit right, otherwise the placement wont be long term and repeat business wont come through.

    Hope you are well Greg, the Gough girls enjoyed your recent presentation over here in Perth.

  7. Leigh November 12, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Usually enjoy reading your blog despite not always agreeing with your comments.

    I think today’s has tipped the balance however.

    Fabulous that you are acting in the best interest of the candidate.

    What is conveniently glossed over is that it is the internal recruiter (read : EMPLOYER) that is paying both the agency recruiter’s fee AND the candidate’s wage. Pity more agency recruiters didn’t consider doing their job a little more thoroughly and in providing better value for their quite often exhorbitant fees – which at times have involved simply forwarding a resume they’ve been sent.

    I have a completely authentic discussion with every candidate that is put before me because if they aren’t a great fit for the right reasons at the right time, it won’t be a good outcome for anyone. Self interest above objectivity produces very short term results and ultimate buyer’s remorse. There are vested interests everywhere – but I stand by my decisions and don’t hide behind a ‘guarantee’ that provides anything but like the majority of agency recruiters.

    • Greg Savage November 12, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      “Tipped the balance” which way Leigh?

    • Nick November 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Well said Leigh.

      Having worked on both sides of the fence, I know that there are good and bad recruiters in each camp. My experience from an internal perspective shows that process drives the efficiency of the recruitment team, but I do not believe that agency recruiters are ‘better’.

      One thing you do not touch on Greg is that an internal recruiter HAS to fill every single job they get given. They do not have the luxury to pick and choose the jobs they work on like an agency recruiter can. I am sure many internal recruiters would love to spend hours doing a headhunt search for that senior manager role they have to fill, but in reality their time is too constrained in order to do so.

      The best internal recruitment functions should be building talent communities and employing sourcing professionals to engage with the best candidates well in advance of the company actually having a current vacancy.

    • Shireen DuPreez November 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      I agree with Leigh, this blog post has tipped the balance for me too.

      If your goal was to be controversial and drive traffic to your blog, then you have succeeded. You certainly haven’t succeeded in putting forward a valid argument or proposition because it is myopic and one sided to say unilaterally that agency recruiters beat internal recruiters. Disappointing that you would even make that statement.

      As neither an agency recruiter nor an in-house recruiter, in fact I am a hybrid of both, Greg your assertions that internal recruiters are “one dimensional” “have a restricted view of the market” and “aren’t advocates for the candidate” are all erroneous. The very fact that an internal recruiter isn’t reliant on a placement fee puts them in a much more impartial position than an agency recruiter.

      I doubt you are going approve my response to your blog, but if you are brave enough to, I implore you to not justify your existence by cutting down your competition. The issue of candidate advocacy cannot be improved by an us vs them view of who does a better job at recruiting.

      • Greg Savage November 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

        Hello Shireen, just as a matter of record, I have approved 2,721 comments on my blog, many, many of them arguing with my point of view, quite a few of them throwing in some meaty insults too. Your point of view is welcome, indeed hugely encouraged. I appreciate you taking the time. In fact I have NEVER withheld publishing a comment on my blog in its history (unless it was racist, vividly obscene or slandering a third party..maybe 6 comments in four years.) regards Greg

      • Greg Savage November 15, 2013 at 2:05 am #

        Shireen, I can’t unfortunately answer every comment, as I have to earn a living too, but may I just point out that at NO stage did I say any group did a better job of recruiting than any other group. I said third party recruiters are in a better position to advocate for candidates. That is only one component of “recruiting” and that is my opinion which I am entitled to. Right or wrong, it is based on a fair amount of experience. Your opinion my be different and good luck to you. As a point of fact, on the whole I think internal recruiters often make better (all round) recruiters, as they HAVE to fill every role, and they do that with laser like focus. They also often have better sourcing techniques than Agency recruiters. I was not “cutting anyone down”. In fact I said this in the blog which clearly you must have skimmed over

        There is nothing wrong with the way most internal recruiters act. They are doing their job, and for the most part they do it well, and with extreme integrity. This is not about beating up on Internal Recruiters”

        Nor am a I ‘justifying my existence’. I am not even a recruiter for goodness sake. Who do I have to justify what to? I was simply stating what I believe to be a self evident truth.. about who can serve the candidate in a fully rounded way.

  8. Chelsea November 12, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Tend to agree with Georgia. As an internal recruiter I am of course trying to do the best thing by my employer. Part of doing the best thing by my employer is ensuring that I protect our reputation and brand, and in my experience, candidates prefer to know if they aren’t going to be competitive for a role. I guess the key is in how this message is delivered, and in understanding your business so well that you can identify potential opportunities which may suit your candidate a little better (so no different to an agency recruiter in that respect).

    I also tend to disagree that all agency recruiters act in the best interest of the candidate. We have all heard the horror stories of candidates who are not listened to and who are simply bums on seats in the agency context. That isn’t to say that internal recruiters don’t also fit into that category – I think ultimately we are all human and we all have our weaknesses. We all need to focus on our candidate’s experience whether we are internal or agency.

  9. Ellen November 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    An internal recruiter overall will do a better job for candidates as they are their sole interest, the person, the role, the organisation, and making sure it’s the right fit for the candidate and the company.

    The external recruiter is thinking Commission x 1, candidate calls x 5 done, client visit x 2 done, now I can go put on the white board in the middle of the room (that EVERYONE in the office can see) that I have placed a candidate in a candidate plentiful market where there are no jobs.. P.s thanks Mr Candidate. Whatever your name is that matches the Boolean search in my cheap recruitment system.

  10. Benjamin Teh November 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I think that this whole debate is quite subjective. To say that agency recruiters are better then internal recruiters, or internal recruiters are better then agency recruiters is akin to saying that a doctor is better then a vet. They both serve their own space.

    Both play key roles in the chain. I’ve work both sides of the desk. I’ve worked with truly awesome agency recruiters as well as some of the worst in my time. Likewise for internal recruiters.

    That said, would an agency recruiter be a better advocate for a candidate? Possibly. But a good candidate as good as he/she is, relies less on an advocate in the first place.

  11. Wayne V. November 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    My personal story of internal vs. agency recruiting proves Greg’s point.

    A fast-growing dept. in Texas Instruments Corp. grew tired of a six+-month wait for the corporate recruiter to find a key talent. The manager, himself an external hire, reached back to his own recruiter and solicited help. That headhunter found me in another city, and did a perfect job of match-making, communicating exactly right to all concerned. I was thoroughly acclimated in advance of interviewing, and the hiring authorities knew all about me as well. The honeymoon was brief (four weeks) but fruitful (I was hired), and all concerned lived…heartbroken.

    Tragically, the hard-working and essential headhunter was denied his fee because the internal recruiter found a blind submission of mine from months before in the corporate files, and so I was considered to have been already registered with TI. I had honestly forgotten that I had submitted myself, as it was one of several blind submissions to generic HR addresses of large corporations. Ironically, that very submission was made just in the middle of TI’s pressured internal search, and I obviously turned out to be a match, but I was never contacted by the internal recruiter.

    Nothing to be done about it, except learn the lesson that the internal recruiter literally didn’t realize what he had, and what he should seek. (My manager and I reviewed my completed application, and verified that there was not a question asking about prior submission, just the standard one about prior employment.)

    Granted that a single anecdote does not prove a pattern, I wonder how many other stories like mine have never been told.

    If I find time, I’ll follow up with the story of how the HR department at the U.S. HQ of British Petroleum – BP – literally quit speaking to their cousins in BP’s recruiting department, because HR was forced to rely on external agencies for talent search.

    • Benjamin Teh November 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      Hi Wayne V. Probably not the first time it happened and unlikely the last time… We could change the story around and switch external recruiter with internal recruiter; and internal recruiter with external and the story will still fly…

      As I say… good and bad exists on both sides..

      • Wayne V. November 14, 2013 at 2:16 am #

        Hi Benjamin, granted the cliche that good and bad exists on both sides, and bear in mind my own caveat that one anecdote does not constitute a trend.

        Those said, No, the story will not fly if one switches the roles. It would not make sense. In this case, it was the internal recruiter who had the means and the long-standing need, but failed. It was the external recruiter who made his own means and applied his own talents for a win.

        Further, I submit to you that even the infuriating agency practitioners of shotgunning candidates blindly, without proper vetting on either side, are responding to the need caused by failures of internal recruiters.

  12. Nathan Reese November 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Wow I never thought I’d see the day where I’d disagree with one of Greg’s posts, other than the phrase “hoards of agency recruiters with self interest” :p

    1. They’re not suppose to operate as a broker as they aren’t a broker, they’re an internal recruiter paid to headhunt and attract candidates to the brand they are working for, similar to what marketing managers do but in a recruitment capacity.

    2. Great internal recruiters are well networked within their community also, they talk to candidates, competitors, and have the same access to online mediums as agency based recruiters do. You only have to take one look at the over inflated salaries agency based recruiters advertise on Seek to attract people to know this isn’t the case.

    3. No, agency based recruiters are taught act with the best interest of the company they’re working for, and what I mean by that is the following,

    Three Clients, Joe Blogs, Fred Jones, Mark Smith, all three are looking for the same candidate, Client 1, is paying 22% Client 2, 15% client 3 10% Who is going to get first pick at that great candidate first? Sad but true and this synopsis has enabled me to sell retained based recruitment drives 75% of new clients I speak with now.

    4. I tend to disagree why has an agency based recruiter got more pull in getting a hiring manager to meet someone over an internal recruiter whom doesn’t come across strong on paper? I would though the internal recruiter would have more potential here, as they are trusted more so then their agency counterparts.

    I hope I can be forgiven for disagreeing Greg :p

    • Greg Savage November 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Disagreeing is cool Nathan..very cool.. especially when done politely and with logical argument
      I have no franchise on “the truth”…just opinions like anyone else
      So thanks very much for reading the blog and contributing to the debate

      Best

      Greg

    • Richard November 13, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Hi Greg,

      An insightful read however I have to agree with Nathan above based on my experience of having worked both sides of the fence.

      1: Internally there are KPI’s based on candidate sourcing – direct or non direct. As an internal I was expected to hit 80% direct hire. We do this by using the same methods that external recruiters use. Networking, referrals, targeted search and selection etc. etc. The days of the recruitment function being tacked on to the HR advisors role are long gone it was in those days that you found the gate keepers, the brokers if you will but not anymore as companies can see the cost savings associated with having an internal recruitment team. This has the added benefit of allowing HR to do their job quite happily because lets be honest most HR professionals hate recruitment.

      2: Internal recruiters are well networked in the industry, we need to be to keep up with the what the market is doing if we are to be relevant to our candidate – if we are to offer a voice of reason and to be able to sell our company. Essentially we need to know what the competition is doing so we can say what we’re doing differently. We speak to our candidates, we attend industry events, we attend LinkedIn training sessions,we even attend functions that agencies have organised etc. etc. Essentially we use the same tools to glean information that external recruiters do. And remember that whilst most of your clients are your clients – a lot of your clients are our candidates.

      3: Unfortunately the bottom line for an external recruiter – no matter how you dress it up – is money? Whether your KPI’s are monthly or quarterly you are only as good as your last month/quarter and if you’re not billing then the pressure from above mounts. What happens when the pressure mounts – candidate care goes out of the window because your survival instinct kicks in. In this instance I believe that the external recruiter has their own interests at heart not the candidates and I don’t blame them for that – we all need to eat.

      4: On the final point I agree and disagree. If you have partnered with an external recruiter then there is hopefully a good reason why and hopefully that reason is because he/she knows the industry well and knows your business well. Chances are they have made placements before and you will have built up an element of trust. I agree that these recruiters (few and far between) whilst might not have more sway than an internal in the overall sense of the hire – they may be able to push for an interview – however they should only be presenting you with candidates you want to interview anyway, anything else is just wasting time so this really is a moot point.

      Liked the article though, love the comments, always enjoy how everyone no matter what side you sit on as an opinion and usually pretty feisty too.

  13. Andy Levis November 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Nice article, although I have to disagree,I have worked in your businesses’ core markets in London and have a case study that suggests internal recruiters have a distinct advantage after making the move from agency side. Recruitment agencies are a great learning ground for the above but in 90% of cases the agency recruiter will pick up bad habits .

    Whilst I worked at Jam, a part of agency my experience and knowledge allowed me to do all of the above, but despite 5 years rec agency experience my knowledge of my clients business was no where near the experience you gain from sitting the in business 5 days a week.

    A recruitment agent dreams of getting a person a role with no prior experience into a specialist market, whilst at Jam I made several hires with people with no ad agency experience , those hires are now senior people in that business or going strong elsewhere.

    I could list several points to further my point of view, but I’ll give you some facts instead ; when I joined there were 18 members of staff when I left we’d quadrupled in size on perm head count with purely direct hires. The business quadrupled their revenue and are now a famous award winning agency.

    • Navid November 13, 2013 at 9:26 am #

      Andy,

      As an internal recruiter you may have the best knowledge of your own business no doubt. Frankly it will be the perfect situation if you were the only business out there that was hiring top candidates.

      What counts when hiring top candidates, above everything else, is how much that candidate will trust you. This is where an agency recruiter will shine right above internal.

      If you are talking to Mr Top Candidate today, chances are a headhunter has been talking to him for the past 2, 5 ,6 years and is enticing him to join your competition. Who do you think will win that candidate?

  14. Ed Scrivener November 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I have to completely disagree with you Greg. What I feel you have written about is the competencies of a good recruiter, regardless of whether they are an agent or in-house, all of which I would agree with.

    One of the KPIs of an in-house recruiter is the quality of hire. There may be self-interest but ultimately the right hire has to be made not the quick win. An agent is not free from self-interest here either, as what ever way you spin it, it is the employer that pays the bill.

    An in-house recruiter absolutely should act as an advocate for a person. Selling in candidates is no different whether you are in-house or an agent, ultimately you have to persuade the hiring manager to interview. Putting your credibility on the line is probably even more important in-house; if you back the wrong candidate you have nowhere to hide.

    As above, these are all the traits of a good recruiter and there is no distinction of what side of the fence they sit.

    • Greg Savage November 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Ed a good recruiter is a good recruiter no doubt. But that is NOT what this blog is about. Can an Internal recruiter contrast, and evaluate the job with his/her company against other jobs from OTHER, competing companies and indeed recommend those other jobs? THAT is what this blog is about. cheers Greg

      • Ed Scrivener November 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

        You’ve misunderstood me Greg. I understand that is what you’ve written about and as I say, I disagree with that point. In-house are fully capable of behaving in the exact manner an agency recruiter does, hence why I feel you’ve written about the competencies of a good recruiter and not the difference between in-house and agency, as those differences shouldn’t and in many cases don’t exist.. There is no reason why in-house cannot compare to competitiors and even recommend them.

  15. Andy L November 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Greg, To flip your last point, can an agency recruiter truly claim to understand the competencies needed from any of their jobs? Do they understand the true details of their clients proposition? Do they know the company strategy? Do they know the structure and the chances for career progression of any of their clients ? Probably not compared to an Internal recruiter ! when you talk about an unbiased service most agency recruiters will prioritise salaries and fees ahead of their candidates true career goals and needs.

    • Greg Savage November 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      AndyL and Ed Scrivener, Richard, Navid, SquareJazz, Alan, Gordon..all good points…thanks for the input

  16. PS Hunter November 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    The title of this blog is “Agency Recruiters will always beat Internal Recruiters. Always.” Yet the content of your post focuses mainly on activities for candidates. Like others, I disagree with you completely. Unlike agency recruiters, internal recruiters have to live with their successes and failures right down the hall, within their organizations every day. Internal recruiters are capable of providing good counsel on competing offers, understanding their market better than anyone else, and “advocating” for candidates by representing them. As others have said, all good recruiters do this inside and out. For your point three, I wonder if your candidates pay your fees. My guess is no, and in that case recruiters should rightly be repel resenting the interests of their employers or clients.

    I’ve always liked your work, but this post is a feeble attempt at page views or you are really off base here.

  17. Matt W November 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Hi Greg – out of interest, have you ever worked in-house?

    Cheers

    Matt

    • Greg Savage November 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      No Matt…you feel that disqualifies me from an opinion?

      • Matt W November 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

        No not at all – I actually agree with most points in your artcle – the nature of each role means an agency recruiter will always be able to better support candidates in their search. Was just interested as I think our work experiences do influence our opinions.

      • Mitch Sullivan November 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

        Of course it doesn’t disqualify you from an opinion on the subject, Greg.

        All it does is make that opinion slightly less valid.

  18. SquareJazz November 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    As an ex agency sourcer and ex internal recruiter, I believe as an internal recruiter you buy into a brand or company but why would you over sell the role or the company to a potential candidate? This is just like over selling in an agency to make initial placement and then the candidate realises they don’t like the role and/or company. Can you convince them to stay for the probationary period?

    You will have to see the candidate you directly sourced in work everyday. Its best for your company that the expectation set with the candidate is realistic to ensure it is the best fit, otherwise you will be going round in circles filling the same jobs over and over again.
    I think people don’t want to say negative things about their company but who has ever worked somewhere perfect?? Not me!

  19. Alan Allebone November 13, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I think the way our industry is changing it is becoming more and more difficult at times to compete with Internal recruiters. For them to remain honest and true Agency recruiters puts a lot of pressure on them to succeed and survive!!

    Pressure from their managers does not help!

    it is always been known that our biggest competitor is our client and now many companies are rewarding their own internal recruiters with spotters fess, commission and other incentives!

    This can entice internal recruiters away from the professional and ethical path of recruiting and they will try and do anything to get that placement themselves. regardless the methodology used.

    I believe that we must stay focus and CONVINCE the client that Agency recruiters are still the best and that is the way to go.

    This is what we have studied, trained and strived for, for a very long time.

    Thanks for your input again Greg.

  20. Navid November 13, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    A really well-written piece Greg.

    I have nothing against internal recruiters, if anything some of them are very good friends who I help out where I can (at times without charging a fee).

    The problems start when both internal or agency recruiters get ahead of themselves and suddenly assume that they have magical powers beyond their current capability.

    I believe internal recruiters inherently are not a bad idea. A company cannot hire every john and joe by paying a fee. It will be a very expensive model!

    But on the same token internal recruiters must realize that at times they do not have the resources and knowledge that an agency recruiter can tap into.

    A specialist headhunter speaks to the candidates in their niche on a daily basis. They have formed a trusted relationship with the candidate and when you have a job, they know who is available, when they are available and for how much. They can also leverage from their trusted relationship to better represent the client’s company. Internals cannot.

    I think we could all operate as one happy family if we were realistic about our position and capabilities.

  21. RM November 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Yes agency recruiters should have more options for candidates. Not sure it makes us better. I think the best recruiter is the one with best talent pool that is interested in the employers role. I love providing a brilliant, honest service to my candidates but I never forget that my invoice is paid by the employer and I am their agent. Sorry to go off topic but that is how rate a recruiter – how effective they are at filling roles with the right candidate.

  22. Dave Nerz November 16, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    Bravo Greg, you took a point of view and stated why you believe what you do. Others seem offended or defensive and think you should not hold that point of view…hmmm, people are complex…I’m not sure why they think they can have an opinion if your are not entitled to one???

    At the end of the day, there are different tools available to employers and to candidates. Depending on your situation and your needs as an employer or a candidate, each tool will produce results differently.

    Coming from a sales background, I see a parallel in the sales profession. There are “company sales people” and there are “independent sales reps.” The reps carry multiple lines of related products and the company sales people sell only one brand. So if you are committed to a brand, the best sales person for you will be the “company sales person.” If you are exploring the options, it might be wise to consider the “independent rep.” One is not BAD and the other GOOD, they are different.

    If you are a candidate, investigating the employment market, it is obvious that an Agency Recruiter is a better option. If you want to work for a specific company, then the In-house Recruiter is your best choice. I would have to say most candidates I have met are investigating the market, not focused on one company. So your premise is spot on from a candidate point of view. If I’m an employer, I may value control of my recruiter, and for that reason, I will may choose to go with an in-house recruiter.

    Thanks for getting us thinking and talking!

    NEXT WEEK: Chocolate ice cream is better than Vanilla!!!

  23. Matt Beks November 18, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Finding an honest recruiter is like leaving the porch light on for Harold Holt!!

  24. Joe November 21, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    Greg, How many corporate recruiting positions have you had vs. agency positions?

  25. Dominic LaRocca November 21, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Greg, you opened up a can of worms…

    First, I do not even like the title Agency Recruiter. It’s too generic. The bad rap is associated with the fact that many external recruiters are drawn into the business thinking they are going to make huge fees, where in fact, many are clueless.

    I’m a realist, corporations should only use 3rd Party Recruiters under three scenarios:

    1) They are a leader in their industry and they require assistance in recruiting passive and super-passive talent from their competitors.

    2) They have too many positions to fill and do not have the internal staff to do it. Under this scenario, it probably makes more sense to bring in contract recruiters rather than pay fees.

    3) Stealth mode – highly visible position that Senior Management does not want others to know they are hiring for or replacing/terminating someone.

    Companies should be very selective in hiring an Agency. There is no substitute for Trust and Integrity as those qualities should lead the list. But let’s talk competence – would you go to your family doctor to do open heart surgery? Would you go to a bankruptcy lawyer to look over employment contracts? Would you go to a CPA that specializes in tax to do audits? Keep it simple – companies shouldn’t be any different. Companies should use an agency that specializes in the positions they want to fill. If I so happen to take on a client outside of my specialization, I find the necessary recruiter to assist me and split the fee while I manage the client relationship.

    As for Internal Recruiters, they absolutely should be looking out for the best interests of their employer. I deal with some great Internal Recruiters on a daily basis and also my fair share of not so great ones. My top tier clients are interested in hiring the best talent – period. It does not matter whether it’s internally or externally filled. On the other hand, I have recently terminated contingency agreements with companies whose Internal Recruiters like to push their less qualified candidates ahead of an agency’s. Possibly a job security angle. This is abuse of the contingency model.

    Back to the original topic – Will Agency Recruiters always beat Internal Recruiters? Short answer – “No”. Then again, I’m not out to beat the Internal Recruiter but to assist them. Clients are not paying a $25k to $50k fee to beat anyone. It’s a very time consuming process to find passive talent that the Internal Recruiter may not have among their other daily responsibilities.

  26. Chris Evans November 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Wow….Where do I start after reading such a biased & generalist article?!

    Agency Recruiters will always beat Internal Recruiters?!…This question doesn’t even really make sense to begin with. Beat them at what? If a candidate is looking for Sales role within a leading tech firm eg.Gartner (my org) then there chances of success working with myself as oppose to an agency recruiter are 100% as we don’t need to use agencies (Metaphorical “Victory” for the lowly Internal Recruiter).

    Now if we are talking about the candidates exposure to the maximum amount of different potential roles that could be suitable for them, then of course they should visit an agency. So in essence this sentence alone demonstrates why this question is Inert and pointless in the first place as it is like comparing Zinedine Zidane against Pele, they are two completely different players providing contrasting but equally beneficial influences.

    How can they (IR’s) possibly provide a candidate with balanced and unbiased advice?

    I’m quite surprised this has been used as leverage for your argument considering in my experience (working for both a top agency & in-house) that you are more inclined to push your candidate towards a specific vacancy for many reasons (lack of candidates, urgency against competition, month end etc…) whereas I in-house rely on quality and ensure the cultural/skill fit for the candidate. This meaning the right people move into the right roles.

    Internal recruiters, quite rightly, act in the interest of their employer, while a great agency recruiter will act in the interest of the candidate?

    Of course we do, but also we act in the interest of our candidate, showing great care throughout the process and iterating my previous point we ensure they only are successful in the role if it is right for them. Again in my experience this is not the case for agency recruiters (In my experience – generalising) who have commission/promotions/relationships to build with clients.

    In terms of our knowledge of the outside market, we are second to none. We constantly carry out thorough research of the market place (compensation/recruiting trends etc…) to ensure we can offer the most up to date and informative knowledge to our potential candidates.

    Internal Recruiters are just part of a process???!!!

    Whoever wrote this comment is clearly ignorant and has had no genuine in-house experience of the aforementioned. I work within a 25 strong internal recruit function here at Gartner (Not HR) Our sole purpose is to Headhunt, actively attractive passive candidates, increase brand awareness, create & take part in recruitment campaigns & optimally reduce our agency usage to which we currently sit at 2% across 1500 hires per year. Just a process? I’ll forgive this comment and put it down to ignorance.

    With all this being said, I feel there will always be a place for an Agency, within smaller Org’s, start ups and within Executive search. Also during my time at Michael Page (Agency) I worked with some excellent, honest, ethical & hard working recruiters so would never follow the trend of this article and most comments to say that they are all dishonest.

    Given the nature of your experience Greg & the companies you run it is clear to see why such an article of such bias has been written but it is important for us all to forgive so I’ll let you off on this occasion! :)

    • Neil December 2, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Thanks Chris – this is exactly what I was going to say.

      To add to this, comments like “Internal recruiters have a one-dimensional, or at best, severely restricted view of the overall market.” This is incredibly old fashioned, considering this person is blogging I’m surprised that he isn’t more aware of the amount of market information/trends that is at the tip of everyone’s finger tips – LinkedIn and Twitter to name but two.

      Maybe in the 90′s this may have been a little more accurate, but with modern day techniques and approaches this attitude is outdated.

      On the flip side it’s an obvious statement that as a candidate looking to explore opportunities in the market that agency recruiters will have a wider audience – it goes without saying, surely?

      The only conclusion I can draw from this article is that he’s had a bad day..

  27. Chrissy November 29, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    I had never contacted recruitment agency before. Thanks for the insightful comments here.

  28. Fergal Bell December 2, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    You raise some interesting points once I got past the division of the two sides into (mostly) agency/good internal recruiter/bad for candidates.

    I agree with your point that agencies can advocate for their candidates and promote them as better than they appear on paper. Good recruiters will listen to the views of agencies they value and this can really benefit both the candidate and the employer. The candidate gets a shot at a company they might never have gotten in the door to see and the company, hopefully gets a great candidate they would have passed on.

    Also, you’re right in saying that internal recruiters approach the candidate from their employer’s perspective, which means they aren’t necessarily going to present the merits of other companies. They are in a position to give the candidate a lot of information on the company, a fuller picture than the agent might have been able to provide (although good agents will certainly add something in this area).

    A key difference between the two however, is that the internal recruiter has to live with the hiring decision and if they get it wrong it can mean a big headache for both them and the employer in terms of poor performance, disciplinary issues etc. For a recruiter, once the candidate is hired any issues like these are simply not their problem and they don’t have to deal with the fall-out.

    The better recruiters will value the potential for a long term candidate relationship. The poorer ones however, tend to focus on the here and now and their goal is to get the candidate to take that offer, regardless of whether the right job is right for them. If a candidate has two offers through two agencies can you really say with confidence an agency is going to tell the candidate they should take the competing offer, even in situations where they know that is the better deal for the candidate? Worse still, I’ve seen situations where a candidate has two offers through the same agency and the agent has argued forcefully for the one with the higher fee purely because of the commission.

    Good recruiters definitely add a lot of value for candidates. Are they better? Hmmm…. not sure. I’ve worked on both sides and tend to think of it as a partnership rather than a situation of ‘Pick me, I’m the best!’

  29. Tony Wilson December 3, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    I believe the Agency versus Internal debate belongs in the stone age !!
    The reality is that Recruitment is forever evolving – The dynamics of the internal recruiter are changing, pressure to increase internally sourced candidates has seen many great ‘agency’ recruiters move into challenging / rewarding internal recruitment roles, adopting agency recruitment sourcing/relationship strategy to achieve results that have never before been witnessed with old school internal recruitment methods/mentality.
    Whereas, ironically, As more and more agencies focus on BPO/RPO, there are many ‘great’ internal recruiters going the other way, sourced for their expertise in large scale Account Management !!
    In summary – Internal or Agency is irrelevant, a great recruiter deserves respect, regardless.

  30. Christine December 3, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    I know a ton of agency recruiters who have switched to working in internal recruitment jobs. Why? Because there are more of these jobs around now than before, they offer security and a steady income instead of a hopeful commission structure. Plus, agency fees are dropping. It doesn’t mean they forget how to be commercial, nor does it mean that they should. What’s wrong with working on a commission in an internal recruitment role? Targets are targets. Agencies wouldn’t exist without them and internal recruiters need focus. Greg, you’ve done well stirring up a hornets nest because people are protective of their turf and I can understand that.

    But coming from a agency recruitment / sales background, I always imagined the balance of the scales would tip in favour of the In-House teams as times are changing and there are more technology based services that employers can tap into to, to improve their service, build their brand, source great candidates and build pipelines for the future – and most importantly – save money. Internal recruiters have to be specialist in their own sector let’s face it.

    All this said, why would they be any better or worse than their agency compardres?

    Candidates will go where they want to at the end of the day and I’ve had enough successful and unsuccessful placements to know how it works. You can’t control the candidate and there is no point in trying. If you give bad service, you will get a bad result regardless of which side of the fence you sit. My best placements were always by doing best by the candidate and not thinking about the money. And I didn’t do too badly!

  31. Mark December 3, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    As an internal recruiter I used to work with a lot of recruitment agencies. Luckily, not anymore. Really, show me the first (dutch) agency recruiter who acts in the interest of the candidate, because I have not met him/her yet. But I think that is not important. We all have other agenda’s helping candidates in their career changes. You make a difference when you are open and transparent about your motives. And then, there is no difference between an internal and an agency recruiter.

  32. Andrew Thoseby December 8, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Greg, my only issue with this piece is that “recruiters act in the best interests of the candidate.” They have to act in the interests of both. The employer pays the bill and we are charged with the privilege of building their team, the candidates interests are served by being placed in an environment in which they will flourish, which is a win win. There are, too, clients who we should walk away from: the abusive, the unethical, the sexually or racially inappropriate and I’m proud of the fact that, while it hasn’t happened often, over the years at 1st Executive, we have been quite prepared to do that

  33. Jim Johnstone December 9, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    No one has asked the question, HOW DO YOU KNOW. I am an agency recruiter of some 40 years experience, have run a very succesfull business for over 35 of those years and now am a senior in recruitment at one of the largest companies in the world. I deal with 26 in house companies employing 85,000 people of all sorts all over the world. You think I dont have variety in who I recruit, perhaps with that much choice a candidate would be better going to the recruiter with two years experience working in the high street shop – do you think that recruiter would look after the candidate better than I would or my people would? I have several agents a week come in to see me, the balatent unprofessionalism of some of them is scary. You want to be professsional stop bleating about the fact that “no way, absolutely no way” can an in house recruiter be better than an agency one – of course they can – and many are.

  34. Pratima Chandiramani January 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    I totally agree with you Agency Recruiters will always beat Internal Recruiters.

  35. Craig February 5, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    As a former agency recruiter who went internal a year ago, I’m afraid I disagree that we can’t offer candidates the same level of market intel.

    I’ve been sadly disappointed at the lack of market insight recruiters have been able to give me in our particular sector (which is well-represented with trade publications, and 5 minutes research can suffice to get some basics). By maintaining my network of contacts with my fellow internal recruiters in other companies in our industry, I’ve often been able to suggest to a candidate I’m working with that while we don’t have anything suitable that matches with their aspirations, timing, salary or whatever, if they call John Smith at XYZ Corporation and mention we’ve talked, I hear there is something going which could be a good fit.

    Put simply, the best recruiters are the best recruiters. Some are agency, some are internal, but the best recruiters – wherever they sit – will always provide a much more candidate-centric service than the bad ones.

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