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The Differences Between In-House Recruiters and Agency Recruiters

In Hiring Strategy — by Dave Anderson


Every growing company reaches a point when it will need someone to manage its hiring efforts. If there are multiple roles to fill, someone is needed to write job descriptions, source candidates, arrange interviews and prepare employment offers.

There are generally two routes a company can go when it hits this milestone. The organization can hire an in-house recruiter to manage all the hiring responsibilities or it can outsource the efforts to a recruiting agency.

In-house recruiters and agency recruiters have different skills and work in different ways. In this article, we’ll highlight everything your company should know when deciding which option is best.

Sales Focused vs People Focused

One of the first things you’ll likely notice when working with an agency recruiter is their aptitude for sales. Since their main goal is to generate revenue for the agency, they tend to focus on selling their services to both hiring companies and candidates. They’ll likely welcome your company as a client without reservation and promise they’ll present you with an array of talented professionals you can consider hiring. Agency recruiters also bring that same confidence to their conversations with candidates by saying your role is an excellent opportunity that will elevate the person’s career.


Check out our “Building a Recruiting Team Guide”


Most staff recruiters don’t have the same sales gene. Their objective is to find talented candidates who are the right fight the job, team and company as a whole. They’ll be focused on the company’s long-term plans, striving to fill multiple positions while keeping employee turnover to a minimum. In-house recruiters tend to be much more forthcoming with both hiring managers and candidates by trying to match people with the right backgrounds with the company’s needs.

Speed vs Precision

Agency recruiters move fast. They want to help your company fill your role so they can get paid and move on to the next position. In some cases, they’ll even have a database of candidates ready to be contacted so you can skip the sourcing stage and get right to interviews. They’ll likely present you with a few different candidates soon after you enter into an agreement with them and encourage you to hire someone from that group.

In-house recruiters tend to be more meticulous. They’ll want to meet with the hiring manager to understand the exact role requirements before they even post a job description. Then they’ll collect candidates from multiple sources and screen each one prior to scheduling interviews. If they find that the hiring team isn’t overly impressed with any of the initial candidates, they should have no problem reposting the job description and generating more applicants to share.

Technical Understanding vs Organizational Understanding

Many staffing firms specialize in hiring for particular jobs. Their understand exactly what skills are required and know how to identify candidates with the right backgrounds. This knowledge allows them to move quickly since they don’t need to spend much time learning what the hiring manager is seeking. Working with the right recruiting agency can be especially beneficial when hiring for technical roles and difficult-to-fill positions where qualified candidates are lacking.


Audit the effectiveness of your recruiting agency with our checklist


In-house recruiters, on the other hand, are most often generalists. They’ll need to focus on hiring for a variety of roles across the different departments in your company. While they’ll sometimes lack the understanding of what a specific job entails, they’ll always have deep knowledge of what your company values in every employee. And if your company has long-term growth plans, your recruiting team will be able to plan and execute a detailed hiring roadmap that ensures the right roles are filled at the right times.


A lot of times, deciding between an agency and in-house recruiter comes down to what your company can afford. A recruiting agency is almost always less costly. Pricing schemes can differ from firm-to-firm but most charge a percentage of the newly hired employee’s salary. Additionally, you can work with a recruiting agency on an as-needed basis. You’ll only be charged when hiring takes place and you can move on if the staffing firm doesn’t meet expectations.

An in-house recruiter is an employee like any other. You’ll have to pay them a salary or hourly rate and provide them with benefits. That being said, you can get creative and ask your HR department to double as your recruiting team. You can also employ a part-time recruiter or 1099 contractor recruiter if your company doesn’t have the funds or need for a full-time employee.

Takeaways – When to Hire an Agency Recruiter

  • You need to fill a position quickly and don’t have time to source, screen and interview multiple candidates.
  • Your company is hiring for a technical or difficult-to-fill position and needs a recruiter with a deep understanding of the role.
  • Your company hasn’t yet defined its culture and is only concerned with skills and experience when hiring.
  • You can’t afford or don’t need a full-time in-house recruiter.

Takeaways – When to Hire an In-House Recruiter

  • Your company has a clear culture and wants to hire employees who fit in with the wider staff.
  • Your company has long-term hiring plans and needs an internal recruiter to lead the effort.
  • Your company wants a recruiter who will work closely with hiring managers to identify the right candidates.
  • Your company has a definite need and budget for an in-house recruiter.


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