Corporate to agency recruiting“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra

So, you want to leave your comfortable corporate recruiting job for the bright lights of agency recruiting? Many recruiting professionals have experience working both sides of the recruiting fence, but navigating away from an in-house role to a position with an agency as a freewheeling headhunter takes careful planning and a thorough self-evaluation. The fact that you are considering such a leap suggests you’re either bored with the corporate recruiting culture, tired of corporate politics or itching for a new challenge. Whatever the case, before making the change, do your homework and enter the fast-paced field of agency recruiting with your eyes wide open.

HR Generalist Blues

One of the most frequent gripes of corporate recruiters; is having to take on the mundane administrative duties of an HR generalist. Having to pivot away from recruiting the perfect candidate for your company to focus on HR duties can be a source of frustration to many highly competitive and motivated corporate recruiters. According to, successful agency recruiters “…must be driven by success, the next deal, the next placement.” Does this describe you? As an agency recruiter, you would be free to hunt, gather and source candidates to your heart’s content, without being held back by pesky HR issues. Agency recruiters enjoy an exhilarating “Born to be Wild,” freedom in the hunt to locate and place the right candidate, and cash-in. Cha-ching! But with freedom comes risk.

Overcoming Misconceptions About Corporate Recruiters

A constant tension exists between in-house recruiters and agency merchants. Agency recruiting is a sales job. Hungry, street-smart agency recruiters live or die on closing the deal. If they can’t successfully place a number of qualified candidates, then they don’t get paid. Place candidates or starve. Eat or be eaten. It’s that simple. The professional life of an agency recruiter is focused on metrics and commissions. They are highly motivated to get the job done and place candidates. Conversely, corporate recruiters need to take a more long-term view of their placements. Corporate recruiters must live with their new hires, unlike agency recruiters. Corporate recruiters not only have to recruit, source and place, they also must shepherd new hires through the onboarding process, which can last months, if not years.

And corporate recruiters need to evaluate each candidate with respect to an organization’s culture and the interests of the stakeholders. As a result, agency recruiters view their corporate counterparts as less driven and lacking the cutthroat mindset of a true hunter. And corporate recruiters may view agency recruiters as akin to used car salesmen. Corporate recruiters can be just as driven as agency recruiters, but their responsibilities are broader.

Are You Ready for a Wild Ride?

You are in control of your own destiny as an agency recruiter. The sky is the limit when it comes to compensation, as long as you are willing to work hard and relentlessly pursue candidates. On the downside, if you experience a dry spell, you will starve. The risks are great but so are the rewards. The life of an agency recruiter is one of perpetual motion. Recruit, source, place. Lather, rinse, repeat. If not recruiting and making placements, then you spend your time prospecting and pipelining. It’s a dynamic, thrill-of-the chase- existence. And you either love it or hate it. Agency recruiter Howard Adamsky, author of  “Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals. The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike,” believes corporate recruiters can make the transition if they make a concerted effort to change their mindset. Adamsky cautions “…you have to think differently if you want to be different, and most corporate recruiters will have to be very different to make this transition.”

Both corporate recruiters and agency recruiters are tasked with challenging, rewarding roles and responsibilities. In the final analysis, your personality will dictate the right path. Navigating a successful transition from corporate recruiting to agency recruiting is predicated on the old maxim, “Know Thyself.” After conducting a 360-degree evaluation of your strengths and weakness, you conclude the dynamic world of agency recruiting is the right fit, then go for it!


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