Tips for Tuesday - Corporate and Agency Recruiters: Working Together in Harmony

As someone who has been on both the agency and corporate side of recruiting, I firmly believe every recruiter should start in the agency world. The agency world is a trial-by-fire environment; you make your calls, send your emails and earn your placements or you're fired. It is a fast paced, high stress, micromanaged environment. I have nothing but respect for people who are life long agency recruiters. There is truly something awe-inspiring about agency lifers. For me, starting on the agency side taught me the importance of metrics, casting a wide sourcing net even for targeted roles and how to deal with constantly hearing the word "no."

Admittedly, the agency side was too stressful for me. I am not a salesperson in the traditional sense and agency recruiting, no matter how an agency tries to spin it, is a sales job. I was rarely intimidated by candidates; it was the hiring managers, the HR gatekeepers that rattled me most. The harsh turn downs, the lack of feedback, the occasional "holier-than-thou" attitude all got to me. I often wondered why corporate recruiters were so mean to me when all I wanted was to accomplish the same things they wanted: fill that role! Now that I am a corporate recruiter and the "HR gatekeeper," I have a fresh perspective from both sides of the recruiting world and wanted to share my Tips for Tuesday on how we can build better relationships across agency and corporate recruiters.

If you're pressed for time, or this article is too gregarious, the overarching point is that both sides need to cut each other some slack. For those interested in the breakdown, read on:

  • Corporate recruiters need to remember that it's the agency recruiter's job to bring in new business and agency recruiters need to remember just how many agencies there are vying for the same corporate recruiter's time. 
    • Agency Recruiters-remember you are not the only agency trying to talk to us and get our business. Corporate recruiters can get as many as five or more calls/emails a day trying to form "partnerships." Just like with candidates, the more personalized and targeted the marketing, the better the results. A well thought out email or phone presentation will always win over the generic, "we have Dice, we have LinkedIn recruiter, we have a database" schpeel we see or hear every day. Focus on your agency's track record of performance in the corporate recruiter's industry, let them know that you have time to devote to sourcing and contacting candidates only for them. Send over some name-blanked resumes from your database that match current job openings; anything to show that you have viable candidates readily available! Anything to show us you're going to make our day more efficient!
    • Corporate Recruiters-be nice. This one, even coming from the agency side, was hard for me to always follow at first,especially on stressful days. It's always helpful to remember just as filling roles keeps you employed, new business turning into repeat business is the lifeblood of agencies. I know our days are swamped with meetings and hiring managers  who kindly, but firmly, ask where their candidates are, but agency recruiters want the same thing we do and that's to get butts in seats. Working with the right agencies will help accomplish just that! To suss out whether or not an agency is right for you, let them submit a few blind resumes and actually take a minute to go over them and tell the agency why they do or don't work. That one agency you give a chance to could help you find your purple squirrel!  
  • Keep open lines of communication 
    • Corporate Recruiters-Before I went corporate, I didn't realize just how quickly things change internally because my internal contacts would shield me from all the back and forth. While agencies don't need to know everything, it is helpful for their internal contacts to tell them when a position has filled, when a position has been put on hold (even temporarily) and when a position's requirements have changed. It's a good way to build trust with agencies and for agencies to know that the time they're putting into your reqs isn't wasted. It's obvious, but bears repeating, you're not the only place that needs Java Developers. 
    • Agency Recruiters-keep communication to a minimum and let your actions speak for you. I know this may seem counter intuitive considering this tip's title, but if a corporate recruiter is working with multiple agencies, the agencies that save us the most time and fill the most roles will be favored. You can help us save time by always sending candidates with a well formatted resume and a succinct, but detailed, write up that includes: where the candidate is located, how much they're currently making (not what they want to be making--I mean, we'd all love a million dollars), how they fit or exceed minimum qualifications and visa status. Every corporate recruiter appreciates when you provide the same level of transparency we have to provide our hiring managers and the business. 
  • Respect the process
    • Corporate Recruiters-respect that agencies are filled with good, genuine people just trying to put butts in seats and it's part of their process to try and obtain your business. You are free to say, "no, thank you." You are free to ignore the spam emails; but if someone is really trying hard, no matter how "sales-y" the pitch, consider giving them a shot. Once you've established a relationship, respect that part of the agency process requires feedback on their candidates. They can't find you better candidates if you don't tell them what's wrong with the one's they're sending.
    • Agency Recruiters-respect your client's process. If a corporate recruiter tells you they are supposed to be your only point of contact, then respect that. That's their way of trying to keep the lines of communication clear. I don't care if you know the CEO of the company for which they work; if you continue to go around them after being explicitly told not to do so, that's incredibly disrespectful. To put it in perspective, that's like an internal recruiter agreeing to do business with you then contacting the candidates you submit directly without your knowledge and placing them without giving you a fee or acknowledging your role in how the candidate came to the company no matter how many times you prove to them that the candidate came through you. Not fun, huh? 

For those of you who have made it this far, congrats! I've come down off of my soapbox. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of what recruiters can do to work together in harmony. This is a "safe space" blog, so I welcome all comments, feedback, constructive critiques and thoughts. 

Until Next Time, 

Katie B. 

Views: 244

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 13, 2014 at 6:46pm

Katie ("Kate Bauer with a firm handshake and eye contact"),


What you say are good things and only if it were always so...

I will keep it short [for once] and simply say that as long as internal HR staff continue to be rude to us and continue to display a total lack of understanding of the -in my case- Executive Search business, we will continue to speak directly to the Hiring Authorities who do receive our candidate's resume, do interview them and do pay our fees.

In all the years I've been in this business, I've spoken with HR less times than the number of fingers on my hand and in most cases, I only hear from HR when someone very junior in HR is calling to confirm the address to where they are overnighting our recruitment fee.

I have nothing against HR, I just don't have a need for their involvement in my practice and to date, that seems to work -most of the time- for the HA's with whom I interface.

A perfect example was recently when after speaking at length with a global VP of HR and getting a long-winded stall, the HA let that person know in no uncertain terms he was not willing to work within the structure of their processes and thereafter, he and I handled the interview process between us...just the way I like it.

I don't think there is anything for a typical internal corporate HR staff to 'understand' about Executive Search, I just think they ought to know when to step aside and let us do our job as it was meant to be done.

Having a 'single point of contact' who is in HR does not really facilitate a search, it only bogs down the process of getting someone hired.

I have nothing to complain about- if every time I called and corporate HR welcomed me with open arms, well, I'd have no one from I could recruit, n'est-ce pas?

What you describe as an ideal symbiosis works well for the Employment Agencies but in Search, it really is necessary to be able to interface directly with the HA.

Who also, by the way, totally understands that the productivity of our candidates more than amply reimburses the cost of the recruitment fee and is thus not driven to be asking us to reduce our fee just to suit policy.

By the way, I like the looks of your executive team at Vivaki- they look like a real bunch of Jams.



Comment by Katie Bauer on March 14, 2014 at 11:18am

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your comment! I love engaging dialogue and multiple perspectives. Your comment raises a point I should have addressed. This entry is geared towards agency and corporate recruiters working together to fill independent contributor to director-level. While I haven't recruited at the Executive Level (I'm assuming that means Executive VP to C-level), I know those searches are time consuming, a long process and very different recruiting at the independent contributor to director-level. 

With that said, I think you're right about working directly with the high level executives for an executive search. This blog entry was not directed at executive search, but lower level contributors and managers. Since that was the aim of my post, and I should have clarified that, I still stand by my assertions that agencies and HR can work together in harmony if we're all nice and respectful. 

Thank you, 

Katie B. 

P.s. I'm not familiar with the phrase, "real bunch of Jams." What does that mean? 

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 14, 2014 at 11:58am



"...nice and respectful..." or as I might say, 'Playing Nice' is an elusive distinction and certainly applies to a world of interactions between and among people. I could not agree more with you this is a key consideration toward resolving differences of perspective, particularly among people with varying agendas.

I think that you are fine with how you wrote your piece- this is more an instance of my meddling than your omitting anything; there is a certain amount of commonality between the agencies and search firms so I took an opportunity to express myself in this regard- whether we are agencies or search firms, there needs to be a 'peace' between ourselves and corporate HR.

As for 'Jams', that is me, being me. I've been successful over the years in creating new vocabulary words that with my persistent use, become adopted by others over time.

I refer to 'Jammers' as people who like to have fun and are basically good-hearted with no underlying agendas.

I am a good reader of people and once I looked over the pictures of the executive team at Vivaki, it was easy to see that most everyone there looks like people who are well balanced and are a joy to work with.

To see so many such people in one setting speaks well for the company and I'm sure, how it executes.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

Best Regards.


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