The Difference Between Agency Recruiting and Corporate Recruiting: A Quick Guide

I tend to forget that not everyone in the world is a recruiter. Therefore not everyone is aware of the difference between an Agency Recruiter and a Corporate Recruiter within HR.

I started my career as a naïve college graduate at a recruiting agency. I was thrown into the recruiting world with extremely little knowledge on the industry and minimal training. I did not even have an idea what the different was between HR and a Hiring Manager. My only goal was to get anyone from a company onto the phone with me so I could spew my agency sales pitch. Usually, I was reaching the wrong people because I had no understanding of how exactly a company works when it comes to staffing.

Let me outline this for you.

Agency Recruiting: This is primarily a sales organization. The main goal of an agency is business development; candidates are typically secondary. Usually a staffing agency is comprised of Recruiters and Account Managers.

Recruiters are responsible for finding appropriate candidates to fill open job requisitions. Additionally, they are searching for leads by probing candidates about their interview activity and past mangers. By doing so they can call on these “hot leads” to pitch their agency and ask for staffing business.

Account managers are more business development-oriented than recruiters. Their primary goal is to keep great relationships with their current accounts and seek out potential new accounts. So what exactly is an “account” for a staffing agency? An account is typically comprised of a certain group or team at a company.

If a hiring manager at an organization is looking to hire a new employee, he or she can take several different routes:

  • They can fill the position themselves.  This is not always an option since these managers are particularly limited with time. Their capacity to post the job, recruit talent, phone screen and interview is not there.
  • They can ask their HR department to fill the position. This is free of cost for the Hiring Manager, but it is lengthier than hiring a staffing agency. HR is working on hiring every opening in their company, as well as other duties and responsibilities.
  • They can hire an agency. Depending on the agency this is quick and easy for the Hiring Manager, but it is not free. Agencies can run all sorts of high fees, and they don’t always deliver the best long-term quality.

Staffing agencies typically avoid HR at all costs – they see HR as a roadblock to a potential deal. This makes sense because why would HR encourage Hiring Managers to utilize an agency? It’s like asking someone to outsource their own job.


Human Resources. HR has its hand in many different areas of hiring. Depending on the size of the HR Department and the size of the company they work in, responsibilities can vary anywhere from:

  • Recruiting
  • Interview Process
  • Salary Negotiation/Analyzing
  • Training/Professional Development
  • Promotions/Raises
  • Warnings (think: Toby from The Office)
  • Firing/Layoffs
  • Compliance Issues

Within many HR departments lies an Internal/Corporate Recruiter. This person is responsible primarily for the candidate side of recruiting. There is no sales involved in terms of business development since they work directly for one company or firm. Their job consists of posting job advertisements, head hunting candidates, phone screening candidates, getting candidates interested in their company, and setting up the interview process.

They are making a brand for themselves and their company so it is even more important that a candidate has an excellent “candidate experience.” By “candidate experience” I am referring to the level of professionalism and responsiveness throughout the entire interview process. A corporate recruiter may find they are focused more on building relationships and rapport with candidates. It is a more consultative approach in this type of recruiting from agency recruiting.

I have done both sides of recruiting and I hope this post makes it clear on the differences between each. I also think job applicants can benefit from realizing the difference from a recruiter calling directly from a company and a recruiter calling from an agency.

It is important to note that in both agency and corporate recruiting, the recruiter is the gatekeeper to a job opportunity. It is important to be professional when dealing with any recruiter as it is up to their discretion to submit any candidate information to a Hiring Manager. In addition, be sure to not confuse the recruiting with the Hiring Manager. Ultimately hiring decisions come from the Hiring Manager and the recruiter is the liaison between the candidate and a Hiring Manager.


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