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So you want to be a recruitment consultant? In-house vs agency

by Sellick Partnership | 30 June 2016

Four months ago I relocated and made a career move from in-house recruitment to agency side. The in-house versus agency debate rages on, as professionals in the industry seek the best work environments for fulfilling careers. But tales of late nights and imperious clients may make applicants think twice about working agency side, while complaints of a lack of breadth and support can deter applicants from in-house roles. 

Both areas offer unique challenges and opportunities to develop, it just depends on what you are looking for. Here is what I have found to be the biggest differences between the two.

1. Depth of knowledge
Working in an agency transforms you into a walking Wikipedia. To exceed at the job, you have to understand your clients, their industry, your competitors, what’s trending and what sets you apart from the rest. You will never have enough time to look too in-depth at competitors’ products or services, so you need a good understanding overall of what’s going on and your clients will fill in the gaps. 

In-house recruiters also have company competitors, but they do not handle a large range of products and services in one go. They get the chance to develop an intimate understanding of not only their company’s products, but also the particular industry – and in most cases, they have enough time to do so. They can become experts in their industry and carve a niche for themselves which can benefit future roles. 

Although in-house teams are able to understand their niche markets, when it comes to particular roles they can lack experience. In my market, recruiting for a niche Financial Controller can prove difficult for an in-house recruiter with minimal financial knowledge. Specific duties, qualifications and system experience can be accidently overlooked and that is why many clients come to specialist agencies for these types of roles. 

2. Flexibility
Agencies generally have more flexibility to consult and be creative. They are able to come up with out-of-the-box campaigns which they have drawn together from their previous experiences. This allows them to have less processes and restrictions when finding the ideal candidates. Whereas in-house recruiters have specific directives from upper management, which means they have lower flexibility to test new ideas and methods.

An example of this would be head hunting techniques. Agencies use head hunting as a method to find unique candidates already working within the industry, and in-house teams are usually not able to use such an approach.

3. Professional Development
From the first day of working with an agency you are thrown into the thick of things. On-the-job training is implemented with a great programme in place, meaning you pick things up as you go along. This type of training is ideal for people who learn from being hands-on, a trait that all recruiters will have. 

In-house also offers on-the-job training, however it usually begins with 7-14 days of orientation programmes which involves learning about the background of the company. Training workshops are made available to the majority of agency workers to improve and develop specific skills, whilst in-house offer little training and if they do; it usually involves touching on softer skills such as team work and communication.

4. Clients
In in-house recruitment, your ‘clients’ are the people who you work alongside and who you probably have a great relationship with already. Whereas ‘clients’ to agencies are strangers who you are trying to build a relationship with from scratch. Managing a client’s expectations and building a relationship with a total stranger over the phone can be difficult, and it is probably the most important skill you learn when working in an agency. Once a relationship is built, the professional respect is maintained and you can work together, understanding each other’s requirements.

When making my decision to stay within in-house or make the move to agency, I took many of the above in to consideration. I knew I wanted a role where I could progress my career and work somewhere where every day is different. For me, the main difference between in-house and agency is client management. 

Being able to build new relationships and sell yourself as a professional is a tough skill, but once people buy in to you and your services, doing the rest of the job becomes second nature. Working with many different companies and clients is what I enjoy most about my job. Speaking with different people every day and being able to find them new talent to add to their business is very rewarding. 

Sellick Partnership also offers a great company culture. I realised this when I met with some of the established employees who clearly understand the importance of balancing work life and social life. We have many team building events, which allow us to build strong relationships between the different offices. I certainly made the right decision with joining Sellick Partnership. 

If you're looking for excellent benefits, career progression and the opportunity to specialise as a recruitment consultant, check out our 'Work for Us' section for the latest roles and news from Sellick Partnership.