Solutions Driven

Recruiters: Internal, External, or Something In Between?

Companies are often torn between using internal or external recruitment resources. What if a third option meant your organisation didn’t need to choose?

Every business knows that recruitment is an essential part of their operations. Without the right people in place, growth, profitability and productivity can fall off a cliff edge, but how should you go about the process? Some companies opt to bring their entire recruitment function under one roof in-house, and some outsource everything from sourcing and interviews to on-boarding. We take a look at the pros, cons and best-use cases for each, and ask if a third way isn’t the answer businesses have been looking for. 

In-house Recruitment Teams

Companies may see the reduction in recruitment fees as a comfortable compromise to paying a full-time recruiter’s salary, but only if hiring needs are constant rather than seasonal or project-based. Many recruiters begin their careers in an agency and then progress to an in-house role. Some may prefer not having to win business or sell any longer, or have chosen to narrow their focus in a particular field. It therefore stands to reason that businesses may have a better talent pool to choose from than recruitment agencies, but the job itself varies greatly between agency and in-house roles. 

team meetingFor a start, in-house recruiters are expected to be intimately knowledgeable about the role and cultural fit they’re hiring for, and need less input from hiring managers or internal stakeholders as a result. Depending on how niche a role is and how many discrete verticles a company has, in-house recruiters may be specialists in a particular area or generalists who are expected to cover the breadth of a company’s hiring needs. In-house recruiters benefit from knowing the company values and hiring style inside-out, and may find it more straightforward to get approval or signoff from the necessary stakeholders due to their closer relationship and proximity. There’s also the major plus-point of being able to leverage an employer’s brand and tailor offerings depending on candidate needs; agency recruiters often have to work on an anonymous-client basis and are limited by the parameters of the client brief. 

This familiarity is an obvious benefit, but what happens when an internal recruiter is faced with company growth, an urgent hiring need, or a time-sensitive project? Their business-as-usual responsibilities can leave little bandwidth for unexpected vacancies, and they could have between 30-40 roles on their plate at any one time. In-house recruiters, unlike agencies, will also have to deal with on-boarding, retention, stakeholder and candidate engagement, employer branding, candidate value propositions and referrals… it’s easy to see how additional support could be required from time-to-time. 


External Recruitment Agencies

One of the primary differences between internal and external recruiters is that the latter is driven by sales and business development, whereas the former is more closely aligned with company KPIs. Commission and sales targets are an external recruiter’s bread and butter, so their style of recruitment can lean towards fast-paced quick wins with candidates who can be found by searching an existing database. It’s in their best interests to provide a stand-out service so that clients return with repeat business, thereby reducing the time they spend prospecting and chasing leads. However, clients must place a great deal of trust in agencies to represent their brand, role and candidate experience as they would wish them to. 

agency recruitersWorking patterns also vary between these two types of recruiter; in-house is likely to adhere to the 9-5 office hours, whereas agencies will often work around the clock to get roles over the line. This might mean the process moves more quickly, as candidates are often unavailable during typical working hours. Recruitment agencies also have access to state-of-the-art hiring tools which companies may be reluctant to invest in; agency specialisms mean that invaluable resources such as job boards, automation tools and people analytics are often much more available agency-side. 

Recruitment agencies are often able to provide a more specialised service than in-house generalists and it’s common for agencies to have specialised departments or teams to cover specific role types or industries.However, some organisations have reservations about the care and attention external recruiters give to their vacancies; less reputable agencies have been known to adopt a ‘see what sticks‘ approach, piling unsuitable candidates on clients. That said, relationship building is crucial to an agency recruiter, both with candidates and clients. They often have more time and scope to build a solid professional relationship with passive candidates in particular, acting as an adviser and confidante with potentially multiple suitable roles. 

The Third Way

Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to both in-house and external recruitment practices. The nature of any people-centred business means that there will always be variables and unpredictable performances, but we’ve been wondering if companies really need to choose between two less-than-perfect options.  

internal recruitersYes, it may seem more cost-effective to hire internal recruiters than engage an agency, but what about slow periods? Wages still need to be paid, and without the focus on commission and sales internal recruiters work more steadily than heavily-targeted agencies. On the other hand, some agency recruiters are guilty of taking less care with vacancies than an internal recruiter would, and there’s always a risk that an employer’s brand and culture won’t be communicated effectively. Ultimately this may lead to an unsuitable hire. 

There’s an obvious solution; a recruitment partner. Less common than external or internal, a recruitment partner’s job is to become an extension of an internal team without sacrificing the speed, quality or success rate of either method. They take the time to understand and become comfortable representing a brand just like an internal, but are still driven to succeed with targets like an agency. The seamless transaction between hiring managers, internal recruiters and a recruitment partner ensures candidates have the best experience possible, while the best passive candidates are supplied due to the recruitment partner’s expertise combined with state-of-the-art recruitment technology and techniques. Niche hires, technical roles such as those in the STEM fields, hard-to-fill roles and business-critical hires are best served by this holistic approach to recruitment. 

At Solutions Driven, we pride ourselves on delivering the best of both worlds for our clients. With the urgency of an agency and the skill and attention to detail of an in-house recruiter, it truly is the ideal solution to one of the biggest common dilemmas facing talent leaders.


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