Last week my fellow blogger Scott Burnett took me down memory lane with his playful jab at the internal recruitment market. Once upon a time, The Rice Whiteboard was a hot bed of scandalous opinion, hearsay, and on occasion, facts. Perhaps of late, and with age, we’ve become slightly toothless, so it was lovely to see a number of people with their kickers in a twist/panties in a bunch (delete depending on geography) in the comments section. It was my buddy Will Brown who suggested that I should write a counter argument defending the fun and frolics that can be had in the market that I serve – which is of course that of Internal Recruitment. So here’s the dilemma: Do I write today’s nonsense about the joys of internal recruitment, or do I double down? Well, hopefully the click-bait title should give you an idea of which way I’m heading.
Firstly, my credentials. Once upon a time, I was an internal recruiter for two of Europe’s most successful businesses. Since this time, I have placed more Internal Recruiters into internal recruitment functions than anyone else in New Zealand. I’ve also interviewed more internal recruiters than you – no matter who you are. This may sound impressive as I yell it to myself in the mirror each morning, but if we’re honest, I’m the only person stupid enough to serve such a tiny market in such a tiny country. This is therefore no boast. Just the sad reality of my recruitment life. Secondly, I don’t necessarily agree with every one of Papa Burnett’s points. I just agree with most of them, and also appreciate that there are a number of things that Internal Recruitment offers that Scott hasn’t even considered. And as someone working in Agency rec-to-rec, nor should he.
Like all good blogs, it did get me thinking however. And whilst trying to get a newborn to STFU, my mind landed on this point. Given that Agency recruitment is seen as a sales job staffed by sharks, agency recruiters do more actual consulting than their internal counterparts. Think about it for a moment; In agency land currently, a tech candidate can contact an IT recruitment firm and say “this is me, this is what I can do, this is what I like, and this is what I want”. The Recruiter can then use their expertise to represent this person to any number of appropriate firms. They can challenge the candidate’s thinking. They can educate the candidate on new players in the market. They can give market intel. They can actually consult. What happens when the same candidate contacts an internal recruiter? They either match a live vacancy and fit the culture, or they’re sent up the road. The internal recruiter doesn’t consult with them. And yes, I know someone in the comments will bang on about “talent pooling”. However, if someone isn’t right for your business you don’t help them. So please bear this in mind if you’re an agency recruiter looking to go inhouse to “help people”. I’ve done the job, and there were heaps of great candidates I could do bugger-all with.
And then there’s point number 2 that arrived in my brain courtesy of a 4am feed. Agency Recruiters are more inclusive in those who they help secure employment for. I for example could never work for Air New Zealand or Kiwi Rail. Not because I don’t think them fine businesses, it’s just they operate dry sites and I do love a quick pint at lunchtime. The internal recruitment functions at the above cannot help people like me. The agency down the road can. They’ll have me out interviewing with the booziest mob in town before I’ve even corrected the typos in my CV. We talk too much about “good” and “bad” culture, when the truth is – there is only culture. And that culture is either right or wrong for you. Internal Recruiters are good at identifying those who fit the mould that their hiring managers want. The rest can jog on.
And then there’s candidate care. I know of many Internal Recruiters working on 60+ vacancies currently. If each vacancy receives 10 applicants, how much candidate care can you give? Yes, your ATS can send a pithy rejection, but this isn’t “care”. That’s like having an AI girlfriend and shagging a anime-shaped pillow and calling it “love”. Or so I’ve heard. If Recruiters are intrinsically crap at giving feedback, surely we’re more likely to get it from someone working 6 roles instead of 60? And given that agency recruiters can actually generate revenue from rejected candidates, I wouldn’t be surprised if more rejected agency candidates got a phone call than those who apply via an internal recruitment function. I could be wrong of course. Quite simply, if your a recruiter on either side of the fence working on more than 20 vacancies, you’re going to be giving a shit service to someone – be it client or candidate, and that’s not being a consultant.
So when do internal recruiters act like Recruitment Consultants? Well, it is true that they do consult with hiring managers as to the best approach to take to fill a vacancy. And they consult when a hiring manager is about to reject someone who is actually really good. They also should consult on how to run a good recruitment process – although evidence suggests they’re rarely listened to. However, this is only part of the consulting services offered by their agency counterparts. And this is perhaps why we now see the more accurate term of “Talent Acquisition Consultant” (a term I also dislike FWIW, but that’s for another blog) used instead of the out of date “Internal Recruitment Consultant” misnomer. And this is where the value of an internal recruiter lies. Good internal recruiters need to be masters at sourcing, fantastic at running campaigns, superb at selection, great at selling a role and a business, and have the balls to win over, challenge, or rein in stubborn hiring managers. And, unmentioned in Scott’s blog, this can be fantastically worthy, fun, challenging, rewarding, and well-rewarded work.