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Fallen Out of Love with Agency Recruitment? 6 Things to Consider - Agency vs. Internal Recruitment

Article Background

Over the last few years, the number of businesses who are hiring or setting up internal talent functions also means that more and more agency recruiters are moving into in-house roles. As an agency recruiter who moved internal myself, I understand the appeal and there are pros and cons to both roles.

I currently recruit internally for Pro-Recruitment Group, so the majority of my hires are experienced agency recruiters. Day after day, I hear recruiters tell me they want to go internal and get out of agency. When I ask why there are a myriad of reasons - some based on misconceptions, some the right reasons to make the move, and everything in between.
For anyone thinking of making the move here are 6 things to consider:

1. ‘I don’t want to do business development/sales’

This is probably the most common reason give by recruiters who want to move into internal recruitment. They are fed up of generating new clients and selling to existing ones in saturated markets.
As an internal recruiter there is just as much selling, but rather than to clients and candidates, you need to be able to sell to stakeholders and candidates.
Unless you are working for a huge well known brand, most people will not have heard of the business and you won’t have a queue of people outside waiting to be hired. You will be having to go out and generate your own candidates and sell sell sell! They are probably in high demand and you are working in a candidate short market, which is why you were hired as an internal recruiter! If the candidate isn’t interested in your business or role, then you are not going to place them! Working agency recruitment, you are likely to have at least have a couple of clients that may suit their requirements, increasing the likelihood of them working with you and you placing them.
Once you have sourced the candidates who are right for the role and have shown interest in your brand and business, you then need to sell each and every candidate to your internal colleagues and stakeholders. As well as this, if your candidate is not successful in the end then you don't have the option of suggesting another business or role to them - something that is always an option working in agency.
If you feel your strength is on the delivery side, there are a number of agencies that already have a wide and varied portfolio of clients and accounts. In which case, you could be better off moving into a role like this where you are still focused on candidate delivery while working with a specific portfolio of clients who you get to know and work with much more closely. This way, you have the benefits of working in agency recruitment, whilst moving away from bringing on and developing new clients.

2. Salary

One of the initial attractions of moving into an internal recruitment role is the higher base salary than you typically get in agencies. One of the things that some people forget to do is look at the entire package. Some companies do offer commission for their internal talent acquisition teams, which could rely on targets around number of hires, reducing the cost per hire, or even new hires passing probation - all to ensure the candidates you find are ‘good hires’. The additional bonus or commission you get is not likely to be as lucrative as what you could receive working for an agency, or even as clear as your agency commission structrure, as working in an agency is all about your billings and the profit you are making for the business.
If you are looking to make the move internally, make sure to compare the overall package for earning potential and make sure the job, salary and career progression are in line with your current needs as well as your future career plans.

3. Progression

A lot of us ‘fell into’ recruitment, but the initial draw and what keeps a lot of people in the industry is the fact it’s a meritocracy based business. Your progression is in your hands - the better you perform, the quicker you can progress.
This may not always be the case in an internal talent acquisition role. Even if you are in a very large company, the internal recruitment team will only make up a small number of the total employees - probably with one Manager/Director above you, making the scope for your progression harder to map. If you are in a smaller business you may be in a stand-alone role newly created to save the company money on bad hires, agency spend and to increase headcount rapidly. If this is the case, your employer may not even have thought about what your progression could look like beyond you achieving this.
One of the things that is a big change from agency recruitment and will challenge you and be a big part of your personal growth and development is the scope of your role. An internal talent acquisition role can encompass more than just recruitment, with aspects of your role inclusing HR, L&D, and even setting up initial recruitment processes. Your progression may not be as fast as in agency, but your progression could see you expanding your skillset and take you down a wildly different path to that of agency recruiting.
When you are interviewing, have these conversations early on about what success looks like at that business, how it’s measured and what your long term career can look like and progress to. It may include further professional qualifications like CIPD, or new and various ways you can add value to the business that could also be outside the remit of recruitment.

4. Day to day

Recruitment agencies do all they can to invest in you generating candidates and new business, and making it as easy and hassle-free as possible for you to do both and make money. Everyone will have a database/recruitment software for daily use, you probably have a LinkedIn recruiter license to head-hunt and advertise jobs, a number of job boards to advertise on, job board CV databases and even a marketing team to promote you, your personal brand and your jobs. Most agency recruiters work in a vertical market so use the same pool of candidates meaning you can get referrals and build a reputation by becoming a specialist in your market. If you move into an internal role, you may not have access to all the same tools to source candidates, as they can be a high cost to a business that is looking to reduce or streamline its spend on internal hiring.
Working in talent acquisition, your daily tasks and processes will probably have a wider remit as you are involved not just in sourcing candidate, but their entire lifecycle with the business. So, day-to-day is managing stakeholders expectations (rather than clients), meaning you may have a more strategic impact on the business' recruitment processes as a whole. At times it may be more admin heavy as you will most likely have control of all of the processes once an offer has been made, including paperwork and on boarding.

5. No KPIs or targets

This is probably the biggest frustration I hear when speaking to agency recruiters. I recently spoke to a candidate who, if they didn’t hit their weekly (which were ridiculously high and irrelevant) KPIs they had to stay late the following week! Unfortunately it’s something I hear all too often in recruitment, and when people of working in a business with super crazy KPIs for the sake of having something to measure, of course it’s not going to be a rewarding and motivating environment!
If you are frustrated by this and the environment you are working in then maybe it’s not agency recruitment, but the specific agency you are working in. There are a number of different working styles and cultures in other businesses that may be better suited to you. Recruitment is a sales and target driven business so of course business' will have KPIs in place, but it’s about establishing the right goals and using them in the best way to measure success or identify developments areas.
In an internal role there will still be KPIs and objectives to hit, albeit different to agency ones. Generally they will be around reducing agency spend, reducing cost per hire, reducing time to hire, increasing headcount, and reducing attrition rates.

6. Culture

Culture is a huge driver in recruitment - the amazing incentives taking you on trips around the world, top hotspots and luxury restaurants and bars. Being around like-minded sales people who are doing the same job as you, the camaraderie of celebrating when you finally close that tricky deal you have been working in for months, cheering you up when there has been a counter-offer or the candidate has pulled out at the last minute. It’s your team who you share those highs and lows with in the rollercoaster that is recruitment. This is the most common thing I hear that people miss when they either move internal or even set up on their own - they miss the buzz of having others doing the same job around them and understanding their challenges as well as their successes.
When I moved back to London after a number of years in agency recruitment, I was open to both internal and agency roles. I went to three different businesses for internal roles in sectors I was interested and excited about, but they were stand alone roles - either sitting in the HR team or setting up the business' internal function. None of the people around me seemed to really understand recruitment or headhunting, the salaries were less overall when I took my commission into account, and I couldn’t see myself working for any of the businesses or Managers/Directors I met. Moving into an internal rec2rec role was never in my plans until I met Pro. Our MD Pat Keogh is an inspirational leader who I wanted to work for as soon as I met him and I was still surrounded by like-minded people and ways of working that suited my style.
If you are feeling like you are at a crossroads and ready for the next challenge, make sure to really think about your reasons for wanting a move, and what you want to achieve before deciding to only look down the internal route. Meet a few different businesses and benchmark them against the company you currently work and see the differences. When it comes down to it, it’s your career and you have to go to work everyday so make it count and make sure it’s a job, company, environment and culture you love, whether this is agency recruitment or an internal role.

We are looking for recruitment consultants to join the Pro family. If you think joining our close-knit organisation could be the right step for your career, please contact Loren von Sternberg on 020 7269 6358 or

Loren von Sternberg