Recruiting Career Advice: Agency or Corporate?

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Today's Question: If you want a career in recruiting, you'll have to choose between walking the corporate path or joining a recruiting agency. There are pros and cons to each, and today, we invited three experts to weigh in by asking them, "What advice would you give to someone choosing between these two career routes?"

1. Urgency or Control?

Agency recruiting pushes a sense of urgency ��� the need to be first, the need to control candidate behavior. In the agency world, you're expected to have creative and/or advanced sourcing skills, because your agency will likely lack brand recognition. The ability to work the vendor management system (VMS) effectively to gain customer calls is crucial ��� or to work with an account manager who may not have a clue about the requirements, but who can close clients on your candidates because they know how to sell.

Corporate recruiting pushes process control ��� the need for the 'perfect' technical and cultural fit at discounted pricing, the need to 'guide' hiring managers who refuse to follow HR interview protocols. Inside of corporate recruiting, applicant tracking system (ATS) skills become crucial to harvesting low-hanging fruit and building relationships with the onboarding team. Candidate control is more about scheduling and alignment to benefits than interview preparation.

��� Dirk Spencer, Resume Psychology

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2. How Do You Feel About Sales?

The difference between agency recruiting and corporate recruiting comes down to one word: sales. Although consultative, agency recruiting is still a sales business; typically, recruiters are engaged only after client organizations have exhausted all other avenues.

In general, our clients pay us a percentage of a candidate's first year's total identifiable compensation, and that percentage typically ranges from 25 to 35 percent. They are paying us that amount with the expectation that we will present them with candidates that they could not find on their own and through their own efforts ��� which includes the work that corporate recruiters have done sorting through inbound inquiries and internal referrals.

In other words, agency recruiters are brought in for only the toughest searches, and those searches require a strong sales ability, because the candidates in your talent pool are often gainfully employed. They are generally content where they are, and they do not usually want to speak with you until you can show that you can provide value to them that will be relevant either now or in the future. Agency recruiters pursue candidates on the passive marketplace, while corporate recruiters typically interact with the active candidate market.

��� Karen Schmidt, Sanford Rose Associates

3. How Well-Connected Are You?

Although similar in nature, these career routes present significant differences.

First of all, one typically does not choose a career as a search consultant. If you look into the ranks of search firms ��� whether within the big four or boutiques ��� a vast majority of consultants previously held different roles. A vice president of marketing at a major consumer firm, a CFO of a pharmaceutical company, a business leader in the tech industry: These are the kind of people who often choose to join a search firm as a career change.

This is considered as more of a business opportunity, where one's industry knowledge, coupled with their ability to connect, influence, and drive business, will be valued. It is a consulting and sales-oriented role.

On the other hand, I believe one purposely chooses a career in corporate HR. Recruitment is one of many components of an HR department. As a corporate recruiter, you will help shape an organization and bring valuable insights to a leadership team, but you won't be at the core of the business. In order for your career to evolve, you will need to be exposed to other talent management topics.

The route to success for both career paths is fundamentally different.

��� Pierre Trippitelli, Pi Executive

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