Agency Recruiters Can Learn a Thing or Two From Corporate Recruiters

teacherIt’s round two in the battle of who can learn what from whom.  The battle continues between corporate talent acquisition and agency and executive recruiters.  It’s easy to sit back and say that corporate recruiters have it easy and that agency and executive recruiters have the only legitimate experience when it comes to “hard-core recruiting”.  Well, there is another point of view.  If you manage an agency you may want to take note and use some of this information in your next staff training.

It is true that agency recruiters and executive headhunters are hungry and thus motivated to be better sales people when it comes to finding new clients and sourcing candidates.  Their paycheck depends on their ability to sell to both candidate and employer.  If they aren’t excellent at their job they just simply won’t make enough money to continue working as an agency recruiter or headhunter.  Natural selection weeds out the weak, so the only ones left are necessarily pretty good at sales and negotiation. So, from the sales aspect agency recruiters will “win” for having generally higher motivation, sales techniques, and negotiation tactics.

However, there are many business skills that excellent corporate recruiters have that a lot of agency recruiters don’t.

“Easy recruiting”- Agency recruiters are often called in to fill highly complex and difficult roles, whether specialized software engineering roles or sophisticated executive positions. Corporations will rarely pay 20% of salary to find an account executive, customer service agent, administrative assistant, or accounting clerk. Agency recruiters can easily dismiss this type of recruiting as easy. However, far from being easy, hiring these types of roles (especially in volume) requires finesse, careful planning, and thoughtful technical execution.

Do agency recruiters know how to handle 50 job applicants when most of the 50 are actually qualified? Do they know how to hire 100 positions or fill 10 different jobs in 4 different locations? How about hiring jobs with zero job qualifications except for having a good work ethic? These types of jobs without a significant level of talent scarcity pose their own unique challenges. Corporate recruiters must develop workflows and hiring techniques to deal with these issues. It’s a world that most agency recruiters don’t have to worry about.

Creating Brand Identity- Corporate talent acquisition must work to create a world class recruiting brand that will ensure they receive a steady flow of candidates.  They put to use their brand and marketing skills by having presence on college campuses and other outlets, succinctly creating messaging around their “employer of choice” brand, and they have to fight any sort of negative publicity that may impact a candidate wanting to accept a job with them.

Think about how difficult a recruiter’s job is if the CEO was just fired for embezzling millions of dollars?  What could a recruiter say to “save” a candidate if a major lay-off had just occurred, or earnings were missed by a substantial amount, or an IP lawsuit had just been filed?  Perhaps most challenging: what if the company is just kind of boring or is in a lackluster industry? A recruiter must block and tackle any negative publicity while building upon a positive brand identity and make sometimes boring positions sound exciting. They have to create sizzle, whereas agency recruiters are often recruiting on hard-to-fill and often already “sexy” positions – and corporate recruiters have to do this day-in, day-out for the same company.

Jack of All Trades- A Corporate recruiter has to learn a little about everything in their company.  They must be flexible and quick to learn to a degree in order to be able to source the right candidates for those niche positions.  They also need to sell positions in departments they may know nothing about and have little to no interest in.  It’s only at the largest company’s where recruiters get the “luxury” of specializing in a specific type of recruiting.   Any company with less than 1,000 employees a recruiter is almost certainly recruiting for anything from an hourly admin, to a software developer to another HR person.  That’s not easy! It’s involves expertise in the actual process of hiring and selection and not just specific trade or industry experience.

Mavens of Cost Containment- Let’s face facts. The corporate recruiting department isn’t generating any revenue.  If a company has to look to cut costs and potentially outsource, the HR staff have targets on their backs larger than most other departments.  They need to prove their worth and continuously improve their processes in order to justify their costs.  This may mean putting up with an archaic recruiting database, being understaffed, and not having access to today’s best recruiting tools.  If a company can’t justify additional costs to assist the recruiting team, they have to overcome those challenges and make do with what they do have.   In parallel, the corporate recruiter has to constantly justify their existence and fight off hiring managers whims to hire outside consultants or agencies which could drive up the costs the recruiting department is try to curtail.

Operational Expertise- Corporate recruiters need to understand not only what positions and departments do, but how this fits into budgets and overall company operations. Agency recruiters will often master what particular professions do during the day and what makes a great candidate for that position, but they won’t develop knowledge of talent mapping and forecasting, budgeting, and turnover challenges. Knowledge of these internal processes by which hiring happens is an incredible asset – it is often what distinguishes senior professionals. Corporate recruiters know everything that has to happen in order for a job to open and what happens after it is filled; agency recruiters are often knowledgeable only about what happens in between. In this way, corporate recruiters can often be said to have a better understanding of business, unless agency recruiters are involved with their own internal operations.

Compliance- Lastly, corporate recruiters are HR professionals. They must have a detailed understanding of employment law, and are furthermore often involved in employee issues outside of recruitment. In theory, agency recruiters should be experts at all things recruiting (which includes legal and compliance matters.) However, in practice, the focus on sales often takes precedence over HR issues, and many times, over ongoing education in general. If agency recruiters develop expertise in this area, they can not only impress corporate recruiters, but get more involved with positions “higher up the food chain” that involve a sophisticated level of legal and compensation understanding.

The bottom line is that both corporate and agency recruiting jobs have their challenges and nuances which others can learn from.  Agency recruiters can look at some of these areas and incorporate them into their ongoing education.  When agency recruiters develop some of this knowledge and competence while keeping their “killer edge,” they can go really far in the recruiting industry and experience a lasting high level of success and career progression.

in Corporate]
Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.