Whether you're an experienced agency recruiter or HR professional trying to break into the recruitment game, you will be faced with the decision to choose a career in agency or In-house recruitment. And if you have chosen a side its gloves off. Let’s face it, there is a genuine divide, even though the goal of each role is similar: Find and place Talent.

Speak to an In-House specialist and they will say that Agency Recruiters are hacks, that they are all salespeople, peddling candidates like it’s a meat market. These Agency Recruiters are all money hungry snake oil merchants, not to be trusted.

On the other hand, Agency Recruiters view In House Recruiters as sell-outs, HR gatekeepers and paper pushers, an obstacle to get over, or around.

So which is better I hear you ask?

I have worked on both sides of the fence and experienced the differences between the two. This article isn’t designed to praise one recruitment method over the other, but more so to provide insight in the day in the life of both and how each style differs.

Recruitment is a mix of sales, marketing and HR, but regardless if you work in agency or in-house, it's fair to say that recruiting and playing cupid have a lot in common, you’re responsible for matchmaking, both job seeker and company. So, what's the difference?

Sales and Marketing vs Business Partnering

Agency recruiters have a big emphasis on how much they have billed and the reason for this is because they’re in the business of generating revenue, or as some like to call it "Sales and Marketing”. You’re either selling your recruitment services to new clients or selling an amazing candidate to an existing client (vice versa) and most importantly, closing deals! Yes, half the job is consulting, influencing, career advising and working through the process, but at the end of the day, sales is a big part of the job. Whereas In-house recruiters focus on how much they have saved the company, they tend be more proactive and strategic when it comes to recruitment – from workforce planning, to working closely with hiring managers to determine headcount for the next three months, reviewing and streamlining the internal talent function and educating hiring managers on getting the most out of each interview. Both agency and in-house recruiters are responsible for sourcing and filling vacancies, but their purpose is the complete opposite.

Managing your workload

It goes without saying, agency recruiters have the luxury of picking and choosing which jobs will be at the top of the tree and which jobs they choose to ignore. Don’t get me wrong, your clients are your biggest asset and it’s in everybody’s interest that you fill as many vacancies as possible and yes, you may experience some pressure from your closest clients, but nowhere near as much as working in-house. Every job requires equal attention, every job is at the top of the tree, not just the most profitable or easy to fill ones, all of them! In the eyes of your hiring manager “my job vacancy is the most important, “my job vacancy needed to be filled yesterday” and it’s your responsibility to figure out which vacancies are most important to the wider business and prioritise accordingly. It’s not uncommon to have the hiring manager walk up to your desk demanding an update, so communication and transparency is key when it comes to managing expectations.


Unlike in-house recruiters, many agencies measure their KPI’s similar to a sales position, focusing on candidate/client calls, internal/external interviews, client meetings and most importantly placements/billings. KPI’s/metrics are a big part of every agency recruiters day to day responsibilities and rightfully so. Recruitment is a competitive game and recruiters are fighting for the same business and the same talent, you can’t rely solely on job ads, existing clients and your current network. Activity is key and can be the determining factor as to whether you hit your monthly/quarterly billings or not. As for in-house recruiters the expectations isn’t measured so much on volume of calls or new clients/jobs, its more about closing as many vacancies as you can and as quickly as you can and without compromising on quality. It’s not common for in-house recruiters to be managing 10, 15 to 20 jobs at any given time and if you’re not filling those vacancies, you’re slowing that team or the company down, which is why time to fill and number of fills is so important. But metrics is becoming more prevalent in In-House, time to fill, fill ratios, avg time to hire and other metrics are becoming more important to company’s with In-House Recruitment teams.

So, which one is right for you?

At the end of the day, both careers can be very fruitful, but if you enjoy working with multiple clients, and love the sales aspect, and are highly driven by money, then agency recruitment might be the better fit. If your interests lie more along the lines of talent acquisition, strategy and business partnering, go in-house.

But at the end of the day, let’s all be friends, after all we are Recruiters after all.