The love-hate relationship between internal recruiters and third-party recruitment firms

  • Reading time:4 mins read

A battleThe battle between internal talent acquisition departments and external third-party recruitment and executive search firms is a never-ending story.

It’s a love-hate relationship characterized by conflicting emotions and interests.

The question that is on everyone’s lips, who is the best of the two options – your internal recruiter or the third-party recruitment and executive search firm?

Over the past 10 to 15 years, large sized companies have strengthened their recruitment efforts by setting up Talent Acquisition (TA) functions within their Human Resources Department.

More often than not, the Talent Acquisition department is staffed by former third-party recruitment people.

CEO and Hiring Managers: Questions To Ask Yourself

CallingHow does your TA call your competitors’ key people without causing a stir? I have seen more than once when a competitor brings such activity to their head office and the consequences when two agitated CEOs need to sort out the mess. Not pretty and why a third-party “middle-man” can act as your cover.

  • An internal recruiter (TA) may at best be involved in searching for candidates for senior management positions once every second or third year.
  • Compare that to an executive search firm that does it 25 times every single year.
  • If you were going for surgery, I guess you would not think twice to go for the doctor who has already done 24 this year and not the doctor who did one two years ago. Right?

Many senior external recruiters have more than 10,000 or even 20,000 LinkedIn connections. Most in HR and TA has below 1,000. Who is best connected?

NetworkingHow do your TA and HR build their network in the candidate and job market so they can easily reach out when a vacancy must be filled? Compare to the best third-party recruiters who easily attend 5 to 10 networking events every month. Year after year.

Great third-party headhunters have tremendous selling and influencing skills that are used to pull in passive candidates (not actively job seeking).

Do you think top executives, that you are hunting, prefer to talk to a young 20-30-year-old internal TA/HR recruiter or with a third-party headhunter over 40-50, who has been there, done that, around the block a few times?

How likely is it that an internal TA recruiter, who was hired from a third-party recruitment firm, will easily admit that s/he has exhausted own sources? Is it likely that the TA will suggest the Hiring Manager to seek help from their perceived “competitor” third-party firm? LOL. No way José.

Do you hire enough new people during the year to keep your TA department busy?

What are the compensation, benefits and social costs of your TA team and how does that compare to the recruitment fees you would pay to the third-party recruiter?

What severance pay must you pay to your TA staff when they leave employment unwilfully (read: employment terminated)? By the way, there is no “severance pay” when you have no jobs for the external recruiter.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.