8 Key Differences Between Corporate Recruiters & Agency Recruiters

April 9, 2018 by
8 Key Differences Between Corporate Recruiters & Agency Recruiters
Rodney Boman

Enlisting the assistance of corporate recruiters or agency recruiters are two main ways to fill positions. The two are very different, however, both fundamentally and operationally. To understand which best serves your company’s needs, you need to understand how they differ from each other. Here are eight key differences between corporate and agency recruiters!

Corporate Recruiters vs. Agency Recruiters

1. HR vs. Sales

Corporate recruiters generally exist within HR departments and often come from a human resources background, rather than a recruiting background. This makes the approach to recruiting that corporate recruiters take different from the approach that staffing recruiters take. “There is no sales involved in terms of business development since they [corporate recruiters] work directly for one company or firm” says Katy Smigowski, senior technical recruiter at Fitbit. “Their job consists of posting job advertisements, head hunting candidates, phone screening candidates, getting candidates interested in their company, and setting up the interview process.”

Staffing recruiters, on the other hand, operate at least as much in a sales function as they do in a human resources function. “Agency recruiting,” says Smigowski, “is primarily a sales organization.” Accordingly, agency recruiters are typically hungrier and typically have more experience negotiating and closing deals.

2. Exclusivity vs. Competition

Staffing agency recruiters know that they have to perform exceptionally well in order to have steady work and steady pay. “Recruiting in the staffing industry requires you to compete with other recruiting companies and adds an additional layer of pressure to respond quickly to the customer” says Michelle Rusch, manager of sales and delivery at Epitec.

Corporate recruiters don’t have that pressure, because they’re regular employees of the company. Just as competition in the market benefits the consumer, competition among staffing agency recruiters benefits the employer.

3. Technical Knowledge vs. Recruiting Expertise

Staffing agency recruiters are highly skilled at recruiting overall and must be able to fill all sorts of different positions in all sorts of different industries. Corporate recruiters, on the other hand, are specialized at filling roles within their company’s industry. “Most corporate recruiters and sources work within a single vertical or group” says Mark Tortorici, founder at Transform Talent Acquisition. “They usually have 5 to 10 open reqs they are working for the length of their stay at the company. Agency staffers receive multiple new reqs each day from a wide variety of clients.”

This specialization translates into corporate recruiters typically having greater technical knowledge for the relevant roles than an outside agency recruiter would have. This is more of a benefit for some positions, like hospital positions, than others, like sales, management, tech, etc.

4. Firsthand Culture vs. Secondhand Interpretation

Because corporate recruiters are company employers, they live the company culture. Staffing agency recruiters, on the other hand, only know the culture from what they can observe in limited meetings and primarily what the hiring manager tells them it is.

“Internal recruiters will be able to articulate and respond to questions about what it’s really like to work in your company in a way that external parties won’t” says Randell. “External recruiters will never know your business as well as your own staff, try as they may, because they don’t work in the organization on a day-to-day basis, experiencing all its nuances and political challenges.” Especially, if using agency recruiters, offer top candidates a campus visit and/or participation in a team lunch to give them great cultural insight.

5. Investment in Corporate Brand vs. Self-Interest

Staffing agency recruiters work hard to fill positions because that’s how they get paid and how they develop a good reputation and continue to get contracts. Corporate recruiters, on the other hand, are more invested in working in a way that promotes your company’s best interests specifically.

“They are making a brand for themselves and their company so it is even more important that a candidate has an excellent ‘candidate experience’” says Smigowski. “By ‘candidate experience’ I am referring to the level of professionalism and responsiveness throughout the entire interview process. A corporate recruiter may find they are focused more on building relationships and rapport with candidates. It is a more consultative approach in this type of recruiting from agency recruiting.”

So why aren’t corporate recruiters clearly the best choice? Staffing agency recruiters have a lot of other advantages over corporate recruiters, in addition to points one and two on this list, as continued below.

6. Salaried vs. Performance Based Remuneration

Corporate recruiters are normal company employees and that means they’re always on the payroll. “If you don’t hire a lot of people each year, it’s probably not worth having in-house recruitment staff” says Randell. Staffing agency recruiters can be a more cost-effective solution for companies that aren’t constantly hiring for a lot of evergreen roles.

Corporate recruiters are standard employees and thus not as easily dismissable and replaceable if their results aren’t quick and high quality, unlike staffing agency recruiters. “Agency recruiters can be measured based on client feedback and the number of times roles have to be re-filled at no charge to the client, which can happen if the wrong hire is made” says Randell. Thus it’s easier to get your money’s worth from staffing agency recruiters than from corporate recruiters.

7. Slow vs. Fast

Staffing agency recruiters recruit all day, every day, with high stakes. They operate in a highly competitive environment and are accustomed to accumulating contacts and utilizing every networking opportunity to grow pools of active and passive candidates for nurture. This translates into larger applicant pools for staffing agency recruiters than corporate recruiters, says Randell, and often faster hiring cycles. Given the high cost of slow hiring, both in dollars and lost opportunities, that’s a major benefit.

8. Invent Options vs. Change Requirements

Staffing agency recruiters have to find, or create, a way to fill a position in a way that pleases a hiring manager, or they won’t get paid. Corporate recruiters, on the other hand, can simply draw out the hiring process or even adjust the job requirements if they aren’t finding suitable candidates.

“Corporate recruiters may have more influence to change position details, change job requirements, or even outsource to a staffing firm the positions they do not have the domain expertise to fill” says Rusch. “However, a staffing recruiter must use creativity to reconcile differing interests, quickly advance shared interests, and carefully assess the realism of candidate and customer expectations for each position they work to fill.” Staffing agency recruiters are more motivated to find what you’re looking for, so you may be more likely to get what you want if you use a staffing agency recruiter than if you use a corporate recruiter.


This article was written by Danai Kadzere