Posted on 18 March 2010


Types of Recruiters: Corporate vs Agency



A post over at JibberJobber got me thinking about how agency recruiters and corporate recruiters often have a different view of the world and, for a job-seeker, knowing the ropes here can make a world of difference in the success (or failure) of your career search.

Corporate Recruiters

Corporate Recruiters generally get paid a salary (not commission) by the company for whom they are hiring. They are full-time, salaried employees who have been hired as an internal, dedicated resource aligned to support some unit(s) or function(s) of the company.  They are required to focus not only on “the fill” of a position, but often have some say in the big-picture of a company’s recruiting strategy.  They (or their bosses) are (hopefully) involved in talent management initiatives along with workforce/succession planning.  They are often deployed against solving special deficiencies in the organization around certain talent requirements.  The corporate recruiter has to focus not only on the transactional element of the jobs they fill, but also on the overall impact to their organization and they have a long-term, vested interest in the success of the organization overall thanks, in part, to the talent they bring to the table.

Corporate recruiters often have a set of job requisitions, or a “req load” that they are tasked with filling.  Many companies measure their recruiters in terms of the old stand-by metric: “time to fill” (how long a job is open before it is closed) while many progressive organizations are tying in other metrics designed to determine overall “ROI” of the acquired talent back to the business.  They are often part of a recruiting or staffing division of a larger Human Resources department.

Corporate recruiters are often focused on the strategy and quality of a hire long before the posting goes live on the website and long after the newly minted employee smiles for their security badge on day one.

Agency Recruiters

Agency/External/Third-party Recruiters work either alone or in concert with others in an agency/vendor model.  Their fee structure can be either contingency (pay-per-placement), contract (on-site, but paid as a consultant) or retained (off-site recruiting, but paid a flat fee per search or set of searches) search.  Contingency recruiting is the most-common type of external third-party recruiting agency you will find. Their focus is generally on a specific market and/or set of companies/industries or skills.  You may find agencies dedicated to nursing, finance, or engineering, or you will find general “full-service” agencies with specialized divisions to help across several of your business needs.

Agency recruiters (sometimes called headhunters) are simultaneously trying to please two clients–the company that pays their headhunting fees and the candidates who they find, develop and submit to companies.  If push comes to shove, the corporation wins the fight between the two because having the best, most-qualified candidate doesn’t do any good if nobody will hire them from you (and pay the fee).

Some agencies may have dedicated business-development people out selling the firm’s abilities and locking in contracts. In the “back office”, there may be one or several recruiters and even sourcing/support people searching for and dialing up people that fit the newly caught job orders the sales people bring in the front door.  In this model, the recruiter owns the candidate relationship while the sales person owns the client/business relationship.

Other firms, especially smaller boutique/custom recruiting shops have recruiters who run a “full-cycle desk” meaning they are responsible for finding opportunities to fill and filling the jobs–the entire recruiting lifecycle.  Often, these are the most highly specialized, niched recruiters.  Often with several years of good recruiting behind them (and the nice car and bling to prove it) or a chosen preference for controlling everything (or both), these recruiters  are usually the best in the business and have seen and heard it all.  Efficient, quick, and expensive, they make hiring manager’s headaches go away, and they are paid well for it. Often, these recruiters tend to specialize in high-level, executive recruiting or very niched industries where there may be a very limited number of candidates in the world who could perform the job.

Agency recruiters are deployed when either companies do not have the internal resources to do a qualified search for a given job, or they want to outsource much of the finding, screening and administrative work of hiring. Often, companies of all sizes, including startups will partner with agencies to provide a “second pair of eyes” to ensure the right person gets hired for the job, no matter if they came from an agency, or from a direct applicant.

Compare / Contrast

Some key differences you should note about each recruiter is to understand their focus, how they get paid, and how they view a “hire”.

Both roles are highly transactional, but the agency recruiter is very narrowly focused on filling their open positions quickly. That drives the kinds of conversations you can have.  They aren’t naturally going to spend a lot of time with you unless you’re similar to talent they have placed before.

Also note that while corporate recruiters are generally paid salaries, headhunters earn some sort of commission-based incentive either straight-commissions or a low base salary and they have to earn the rest of their keep. Time is money for all of us, but even more for agency recruiters.  So. Please. Be. Brief.

Agency recruiters will work to staff up a whole team of people if hired to do so, but that is the extent of their influence on the organization.  An internal recruiter is tasked with (and takes on) owning long-term per-placement quality overall.  Therefore, they are more apt to develop long-tail relationships and develop broader pipelines knowing that a wide net may be better in the long-run than lots of small, focused nets being cast in the short-run.

3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. James Alba Says:

    I think that overall it makes sense in the way that both sides are represented. The one thing that I will disagree with is that corporate recruiters have more at stake over the long haul. My practice is built on keeping my clients happy so that I can spend more time working with them and less time looking for new clients to take on. I need them to recognize the dedication I put in.

    On the candidate side I try to spend some quality time with all of them so that I can help match them to the right position. The Information Technology side of the fence used to be all about skill set and experience, but now company culture and team compatability are added in the mix.

    Just my two cents….

  2. hemenparekh Says:

    To my knowledge, there is only one recruitment software which is equally popular amongst the recruiters and the jobseekers.

    It is “ Resume Rater “.

    Recruiters love it because it enables them to find the 5 best resumes out of 5000 received against their advt., in a matter of minutes.

    Jobseekers like it because rating their own resumes [ using “ Resume Rater ” ], before sending to recruiters, tells them whether it will get listed in those “ best 5 “ !

    One can download “Resume Rater“[ free and without login ]
    from almost any link on the first 2 pages of Google search results ( – although there are 59.4 million links ! )

    with regards

    hemen parekh

    Jobs for All = End of Militancy = Peace on Earth

  3. Robert Merrill Says:

    hemen, I have never heard of resume rater from anyone but you. are you sure
    you are not just trying to pitch something here?

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