The Drawbacks of Going Internal

As a die-hard agency recruiter since I was 23 and now founder of my own recruitment agency DG Recruit, I benefitted immensely off of the bet I took and the horse I bet on: myself.

Sadly, not every recruiter has seen the success, fun, money, and power that a great agency career and provide. Therefore, their thought for the “solution” automatically becomes a HR job or internal/corporate recruitment role. What’s sad is that many recruiters only work at one agency before they give up and go corporate, when the solution could have easily been to work at another agency before fully exiting this side of the table!

All recruiters considering a move to the corporate side really need to consider the drawbacks to going internal, which are:

#1. You’re now only recruiting for one client.

Shockingly, many recruiters are happy about this, when actually it’s horrible when you actually think about it! The reason is that most recruiters don’t see the client side as they’re what we term “split-desk” recruiters. They’re working at an agency that only has them run one “side” of the desk, the candidate side. Thus, they don’t see the problems on the client end. They don’t see how many hiring managers exist who are intolerable, rude, wildly out-of-touch, yet still want everything their way, only to be heard and not listen to the market.

Here’s the real problem: When you’re married to ONE client, you’re now forever in their control! If they find you ineffective or simply don’t like you, now your career is literally at risk! Not to mention, you have NO CHOICE. Even if you don’t like them back, you have to represent them like they’re the best thing since sliced bread. This is exactly the problem with some of the “best” companies to recruit for. They’re usually led by ego-maniacs and team leaders who are so detached from reality that the recruiter’s job there is very difficult.

WARNING: The workload of an internal recruiter is shockingly high, much harder than the workloads of most agency recruiters. You’re now expected to recruit for at least 50-300 reqs across MULTIPLE specialties. How exhausting is that?! You lose all the advantages of long-term returns on time spent to build markets up and the financial rewards of doing so.

Now, you’re completely firing on all cylinders like a chicken with its neck cut off!

Side-note: for closing around 25 placements in ONE market, I made over $215k in income while working 9-5 and taking 4 weeks’ vacation, living very comfortably. This isn’t all. I also got free company-paid trips, extra incentives, and awards I received as a top agency biller. It literally boggles my mind that recruiters at the wrong agencies or in internal roles have to close over 50 people a year to be considered decent. I never had to work wholesale like that.

#2. You have no real advantage to woo candidates.

The reason why agency recruitment fees aren’t decreasing (in fact are increasing in certain markets) is that headhunters are gobbling up the best talent, slapping them on exclusive, and representing them to you at a high markup. Headhunters corner the candidate-tight markets so in those roles you have zero competitive edge.

Why would a great candidate respond to you when they can just utilize their favorite headhunter who has a hold on their market and career? Remember, a headhunter’s service is absolutely free for the candidate, so a candidate is MUCH better off using a representative to initiate contact to multiple companies without the risks of going direct, which can impact every single facet of their process ($, negotiation, timing, fit, pressure, etc).

Sadly, what happens in internal recruiting is: You’re screwed if you do, you’re screwed if you don’t.

If you do manage to place a hard-to-fill role, that was your job anyways, you don’t get massive kudos (or pay) to do it. Your employer is entitled to you closing reqs because they’re paying you a fat base to do so. If you don’t fill roles, well, again, your job is at risk. For more on this point, listen to this.

WARNING: As candidates get more sophisticated and educated on how to work with headhunters, their incentive to respond to direct solicitation from corporate recruiters will continue decrease massively. This trend is already the case and will only exacerbate.

#3. The job itself is less rewarding, more administrative.

Only junior roles and easier-to-fill/client driven markets provide candidate flow directly for the internal teams to take. Candidates at that level are not wooed by headhunters because the fee is negligible and not worth building a market within. Most candidates also don’t know any better and will apply directly to job portals, thus agencies are not needed to supplement those types of hires. The grunt work is left for the internal teams to deal with.

Instead of tackling challenging candidate markets that are intellectual, senior, and tough to handle, you’re now stuck dealing with the administrative tasks of calling through ad response for simple and junior roles. The job is much less exciting than focusing on a market, career, and industry that clients desperately need candidates in. The joy, recognition, and reward you get as a businessperson (agency recruiter) is much different than an administrative role (corporate recruiter).

#4. The culture of your work changes, perhaps not for the better if you’re truly an agency recruiter at heart.

You’re part of HR now, which means you have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Put your PC hat on and never take it off. Whether to your candidates, your hiring managers, or colleagues, the game of politics is ON and your career is at stake.

Gone are the days where you and your colleagues can talk candidly about the good, bad, and ugly in your job in a spirit of camaraderie.

You have to watch what you say now. Anything you say (or do) could be used against you. The Machiavellian bureaucratic games begin. Since this role is less focused on meritocratic achievement, those who are strong politickers do very well, while those who are strong at execution get left on the sidelines.

WARNING: No one really gets staffing except people in staffing. You’ll find that people pay less attention to you, understand less of your gripes, and just frankly don’t care about your issues. They just want the candidates.

#5. You’re less respected as a professional internally as a corporate recruiter than a recruiter at an agency.

This is one of the biggest reasons for why I would never go internal. As a top producer at my past employer every year, I was spoiled! Accolades, huge commission checks, shoutouts on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, rapid promotions into senior roles, and total fame across the entire global organization with recognition from all the executive leaders, and I was highly paid to boot.

Because I have dignity, self-respect, a thirst to prove myself, and a huge chip on my shoulder to be at the forefront of my company and not someone in the backseat, I would never take on a job in HR or TA because that would have been a true step backwards in my career as an agency recruiter.

At most organizations, the attitude towards HR people and internal recruiters is that they’re at the bottom of the totem pole, not at the top. However, in the agency world, the top producers are the absolute crown jewels of the entire organization, treated like royalty, given massive career opportunities, and fast-tracked to highly visible senior roles.

WARNING: Most organizations, executives, and hiring managers don’t understand staffing. They’re not willing to listen to your needs to help you do your job better; they just want youto do your job better for less money and reduce your spend. So it’s actually hard to do better. The negative cycle goes on forever, that’s the trade-off for a bigger base.

#6. Your career is too dependent on things outside of your control.

Because you’ve forsaken commission and revenue generation responsibilities for an internal job where now you’re a liability to your firm from a cost-perspective (net negative spend) versus positive income generation, your firm is always going to monitor your ROI. If the company goes through ANYTHING that is negatively impacting hiring needs, your head is on the chopping block.

A drug not approved, a nasty PR incident, a bad reputation on the street, bad financial quarter or economic indicators, all will hurt your stability in your role. Because you’re no longer earning income for your organization, you’re a liability NOT an asset.

But you’re saving agency fees! Doesn’t that make you an asset? No, it’s viewed as your rightful duty. You’re cost-saving, NOT income-generating, still a HUGE difference in function and perception to your employer.

WARNING: Not only is your job at stake due to negative factors that impact your company’s livelihood, your ability to recruit is massively eroded due to the same negative factors! Your job gets harder and again, you’re married to one client so you don’t have other sites to get candidates to.

#7. You have a regular job again.

Most people who start their career in agency recruitment perhaps were sold the same dream I was: financial freedom and high commission potential early. That’s why I busted my butt so hard 7 days a week when I first started out in this industry on a $35k base in 2011. I wanted that backend income desperately so that I could buy houses, get rich, and retire early.

I specifically chose the route of sales to avoid having a “regular” 9-to-5! I wanted to avoid the stationary desk, the monotony of a regular job, the lackluster career path, and the no-name anonymity of being just a worker. Literally, going into internal recruitment sticks you right into this crowd. Unless you get super lucky and hit it big lottery-style on the hottest startup* to cash out on equity, you’re just stuck working on a decent salary that isn’t going to move mountains.

Forget early retirement, you’re right back into the rat race.

*Even then, you won’t have a personal brand – you’re again married to XYZ organization as just the people guy/gal at that company.

In Conclusion

Everyone has a very different worldview on what success looks like. Agency recruitment allowed me to reach the success I personally wanted. By age 28, I was able to retire off of the income I earned as a top producer, so much so that I could start my own companies and become an investor and business owner.

As my business helps recruiters find a similar path to mine, it truly is a mission of mine to help young professionals avoid making mistakes that change their entire life’s trajectory. Because, while the % of top-billers are low in this business, the rewards are very very high for those who persevere. This job isn’t rocket science. If you have a positive attitude and a great work ethic but are not finding success in our job, most of the time, the problem is not this job or this business, it’s the firm/manager/team/market you started your career in.

The simple fix would be to get educated and networked into our industry. Get in touch for a private conversation with me and my team. We’d love to see how we can help you evaluate your career potential in agency recruitment!

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