Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Difference Between In-House Recruiters And External Recruiters, Like Me

Most candidates have never been placed by a recruiter.  Most companies network before hiring a headhunter, which makes perfect sense.  I read years ago that recruiters only accounted for about 20% of all placements.  Most of the other jobs were through networking.  I am sure that given the fact that many companies have now hired their own in-house recruiters, that number is now considerably lower.  But in-house recruiters are not the same as outside recruiters like us.

Outside recruiters who have really good relationships with companies can perform an invaluable service to both their clients – the companies that pay them – and their candidates. Over time, I have worked consistently with many ad agencies and corporations.  I have a very good understanding of their culture and know who succeeds well and who does not. And because I am a single industry recruiter, I often know many of the hiring managers and their preferences  That is invaluable information and enables us to make placements with relative ease because we know who works and who doesn’t at every level from juniors up to the executive suite.

In-house recruiters, on the other hand, rarely get to know the culture of their agencies well.  That is not to say that there aren’t excellent in-house people, but most are generally hired as a Band-Aid when there is a hiring crunch. When the crunch is over, so is their stint.  They are hired guns, brought in to bring in people quickly and without real knowledge of the companies they are working for.  Some actually last a couple of years but only a few are full-time.  Those that are full time work on the current assignments for the agency but only have a limited view of the company, its culture and its business.  They are almost always considered hired guns.

I know and like many of these recruiters.  Some come with a Rolodex of candidates they have met or placed and tend to recycle them from company to company.  Some are just networking demons.  I know one such person who prided herself on hiring twenty-six people in six weeks. Many boast of even greater records.

My observation about internal recruiters is that most rarely meet or interview candidates.  Mostly, they collect résumés (from whatever source), pass them on to the hiring manager and if the manager wishes to meet the person behind the résumé, they then coordinate the interview process. They are paid to get job applicants in and through the system. That isn't really recruiting.  It is merely processing.  Most internal recruiters (not all) neither meet their candidates nor do extensive phone/Skype interviewing.  The issue is that I wonder about the longevity of the hires made by internal recruiters.  I would love someone to do a regression analysis of how candidates from a trusted outside recruiter compare in terms of cultural fit and longevity to the in-house people who, mostly, come and go.

As an aside, I am not sure that most companies actually really care.  If someone is hired, even by the wrong person, the job is filled and off their plate. Then it is on to the next assignment. This is particularly true of juniors – defined here as people with under ten or twelve years’ experience.  In advertising, at least, these executives have become fungible; they mostly satisfy a staffing plan, particularly at the larger network agencies.  The internal recruiters are constantly filling that well and that is what they are paid to do.

I like it when my candidates stay and thrive.  I have long-term relations with many of them.  Just today, I was working with a candidate who I met over twenty years ago.  I wonder how many in-house recruiters establish those kinds of relationships?


  1. I'd love to know how many of those twenty-six people lasted more than one year.

    It's astounding to me how few service companies -- ad agencies included -- utilize their own employees for recruitment purposes. In my entire agency career, I can only recall receiving a single memo/e-mail to the effect of "Do you know someone who might be a good fit for Account Supervisor on our Acme Industries account?" I don't recall if there was a financial incentive attached. You'd think that a smart HR person would consider exhausting all internal networking opportunities before going outside, but IMHO, it rarely happens that way.

    1. Actually, Anon, most of the agencies offer a financial incentive for their employees to recommend someone. Unfortunately, to your point, they almost never tell anyone at the agency of the openings, which, to me, is counter-productive.

      But you got my point. I, too, wonder how many of those twenty-six people lasted.


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