What’s it like being an internal recruiter at an agency?

There is a very strange and inaccurate misconception that internal recruiters have taken the easy route, and often failed as a 360 consultant and this is why they moved internally.

Hiring recruiters in an agency is one of the most challenging and impactful recruitment roles you can do, it’s a very competitive and saturated market and some recruiters will get multiple approaches in a day from R2R’s, internals, team leaders and directors and if they are open to new opportunities, this number will increase significantly. It’s extremely rewarding and great fun but it’s definitely not the easiest option you can take in my experience.

Due to the competitive nature of the industry, companies are going out of their way to attract and retain the best talent, and internal recruiters have to be consultative, punchy, sales focussed and pretty darn good at their job to stand out and get in front of the best recruiters.

Here are some of the best parts of the job

You are working in an agency and agencies are fun! Recruitment companies go above and beyond these days to attract and retain recruiters through funky offices, great perks with a strong emphasis on culture and engagement and you will have the same fun as you do in an agency with usually a lot more freedom around KPIs and targets. You will often get included on lunch clubs and trips too, make sure you ask before you join if you can have targets to hit the sales incentives.

You get to be the heartbeat and face of a business and really understand how recruitment companies are run. The exposure you get to the business side really is fascinating, you understand how to forecast, the impact of a hire on a P&L, how quickly it takes for a hire to get productive and cover their desk costs, the impact of good retention on sales, the impact of high attrition on profit and many more elements. When you work as a 360 recruiter, you never really see the total impact you can make to the business or work with the hires you make, so you get to see someone’s career develop and know that you played a part and that is really rewarding.

Recruiters are generally awesome people. There will be the odd one who is a dick but the personality and drive of recruiters is really infectious and being around people who are fun makes the long hours worth it! Recruiters also know other recruiters (they are an odd bunch and often marry other recruiters!) so you already have a potential candidate base just from asking who they know and who they worked with that was good, waiting to be tapped into. Referrals are the number one way of hiring from my experience and you are more likely to trust a friend saying a business is a good place to work than the person getting paid to place you there.

The earning potential is still good, whilst you won’t ever make the money like a 360 recruiter, businesses are getting more competitive with internal commission structures and you can expect to earn around £50k plus when starting out (with commission) and as you progress upwards of £100k and this market is only going to keep growing as more and more recruitment businesses launch and the market evolves further. The career paths can also be more varied once you are internal, opening up more opportunities in Operations, HR and L&D making a career transition easier.

With any market there are downsides of course and here are some of the challenges that are inevitable: 

Recruiters will ghost you – yes they do the same job as you and yes they know exactly how that feels but this doesn’t stop them doing it. There is a lot of pressure on recruiters and sometimes they genuinely can’t get out of the office or they just don’t want to make a move right now. Things change very quickly and rather than tell you, some will ignore you. Don’t take it personally. This is normal but the better you are at qualifying them, understanding their pain and building trust, the more likely you can influence them to come in or to make a move in the future.

You will find it hard to get phone numbers at times. I mentor a number of internal recruiters and this is the number one challenge they face and I found the same. The best recruiters aren’t going to give you their number from one Inmail, especially if they aren’t looking for a job. It takes time and sometimes you will just catch them on a bad day and they are open for a chat. There are ways that you can get their numbers – Lusha and other add ons will give you their email and phone number, the company website will often have a direct dial or a mobile number. Alternately try and find a job advert they have written, as they will often include a contact number. Going out of your way to get hold of someone can stand out so don’t give up and don’t expect them to meet / interview after one call!

It’s all about timing and you can’t control that. Even the best relationships in the world can’t make a good recruiter move before they are ready. Even if they are miserable, a good contractor book or good perm month can retain someone for 3 months or more. So be prepared to play the long game, build strong relationships and check in every few months. Unless they know you extremely well, they are unlikely to think of you when they are ready to make a move and if someone catches them at the right time they will likely place them. Know who the best recruiters are in your market, build a relationship with them and keep in touch with them.

After seeing the career opportunities for internals in agencies and how many businesses hire the wrong person into this crucial role, I decided to set up Insphired Talent which will focus on hiring all levels of internal recruiters. If you are just starting out and are finding the job challenging feel free to get in touch. I mentor a number of internal recruiters and I am happy to take on more! It can be a lonely role and if you are the first internal into a business it can be disheartening if you aren’t getting the results you want, there are so many things I failed at miserably and absolutely smashed that I can pass on!

If you are interested to hear what businesses I am working with and if I help you with a career move or if you are looking to hire an internal recruiter for your business, then reach out. I am always happy to pass on guidance or introduce you to someone that can help if I can’t.

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