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You’re Hired? The Conflicting Objectives of an Agency Recruiter and an Inhouse Recruiter

Picture the scene – you are an Agency Recruiter and one of your clients has presented you with a new assignment. The role is one that you are very familiar with as you placed a candidate in a similar role last year. You quickly set to work to source candidates who meet the brief.

This all sounds perfectly normal I hear you say; both you and your inhouse counterpart are working towards a common goal. You are correct……..on the surface; however, a deep-dive into this scenario is likely to uncover conflicting objectives in some form or other. 

Caution: what follows are my own opinions at a broad level and will not apply to all. They are not intended to offend, prejudge or exclude in any way.

While the recruitment industry has seen an incredible shift over the last decade (particularly with emerging technology), the basic fundamentals remain the same. It continues to be a service industry, based on the client / supplier relationship with people being the key commodity. 

Having started my career in agency recruitment to moving to inhouse HR roles to now owning a HR and Recruitment company, I am often surprised when people in the industry seem reluctant to accept that the key to success in both professions can, at times, conflict each other. While the end goal for both professions remain the same, the journey to get there may look quite different. 

By way of illustration, I have listed below an example of 3 typical performance objectives for: 

a)     an Inhouse Recruiter / HR Professional (with recruitment responsibilities)

b)     an Agency Recruiter with an established client base

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If we play out the scenario above, the Inhouse Recruiter has determined that agency support is required for this particular role. This can be for a myriad of reasons (critical business demands, lack of direct sources, market availability of candidates etc). It is worth noting that the Inhouse Recruiter will not have taken this decision lightly, will have had to review YTD spend and may have had to seek internal approval. This decision will have an impact on #3 performance objective. 

The role is given to 5 Agency Recruiters and quite quickly 25 relevant and qualified CV’s are received. This now creates a bottleneck. The Hiring Manager will not be presented with 25 CV’s to review! The Inhouse Recruiter’s role is to review and select suitable options to present to the business. This exercise is resource intense with the objective to invite 3 candidates for interview, whilst juggling the relationship with this and other Hiring Managers, the Agencies and being ever conscious of the Candidate Experience and Company Brand. 

From the Agency Recruiters perspective, this bottleneck can cause frustration as there is likely to be a lack of communication to allow the Inhouse Recruiter to manage this activity. They are juggling their own relationships with the Candidate (who may be at late stage with another employer), their relationship with other Clients and other likely Internal Demands. 

On the basis that 3 candidates are called for interview with 1 being offered role, this leaves a further 22 relationships to be managed effectively for the Agency Recruiters. This creates another bottleneck, as to manage each candidate’s expectations will require feedback from the client. From experience, this may cause frustration for both parties, with candidate relationships / brand being important to the Agency Recruiter and time efficiency being important to the Inhouse Recruiter. 

As above, the overarching objective for both parties is the same (hiring the right candidate), however the journey to get there can be burdened with challenges for each professional.

Advice for Internal Recruiters / HR Professionals (with Recruitment responsibilities

Engage with your suppliers from a longer-term perspective and try to avoid viewing the relationship as a purely transactional one. If we all took a transactional approach to something as basic as food, we would not choose one restaurant over another. Build a small network of trusted agencies, see them as your market advisors and bring this intel back to your organisation. This will limit the number of resource intense activity, creating capacity for other activities. 

Advice for Agency Recruiters

While the phrase the Client is King is commonly used in the industry, from my experience it is more efficient and profitable to engage with clients who you know appreciate the value you and skills you can bring. Limit the number of clients whom you believe have a ‘transactional’ mindset. Once you have built a strong relationship with your clients, limit the number of CV’s you send for each job (max 3), as if you have truly gained this trusted relationship, your own CV Send to Candidate Interview ratio will increase considerably. 

Finally, as mentioned, these are purely my own observations and insights in what is an industry that is constantly evolving.

By Steven Drew