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Agency or in-house recruiter: who will help you hire better?

March 21, 2016, by Tam Campbell Trant | Recruitment

Agency or in-house recruiter: who will help you hire better?

Potential clients often ask if we are in-house recruiters or a recruitment agency.

We happily tell them that we are in-house, but we’ve learned there's much confusion around the two recruitment models—and the many terms associated with them.

Do I need a corporate recruiter or agency? Is fractional recruitment the best choice for me? Are there other recruitment options I’m not considering?

To clear the air and help you choose the right recruitment solution for your needs, we put together the guide below.

Key takeaways: TL;DR

  • Their similarities have to do mostly with the fact that they both have the same goal—to help fill your roles with the right people. Where they differ is their client commitment level, as well as their ability to integrate into your team, tailor their services to your needs and budget, and avoid conflicts of interest.

  • In-house recruiters are more focused, integrated, customizable, and cost-effective, but may lack the resources and guarantees of larger agencies.

  • Agencies often offer hiring guarantees and have the resources for more niche services (i.e. helping employers and individuals find jobs), but divide their time among multiple clients, operate from the outside, may lack customization, and can be affected by conflicts of interest.

Where agency and in-house recruiting are similar

It’s easy to see why choosing the wrong recruitment model is such a common recruitment mistake . Agencies and in-house recruiters both have the same goal—to help fill your roles with the right people—and the expertise, skills, and tools required to achieve this goal are relatively the same across the board.

Talent Acquisition Expertise

The success of both parties relies on being able to identify and attract top candidates, conduct comprehensive interviews, and evaluate skills and team fit.

Client Collaboration

Before a recruiter can effectively get to work, they need to sit down with you to understand your specific goals; the same goes for in-house recruiters.

Candidate Assessment

Regardless of who’s recruiting, what makes a perfect candidate is the same: competence, team fit or add, and any other requirements you outline.

Market Knowledge

Agencies and in-house recruiters have the same obligation to stay informed through industry trends, market conditions, salary benchmarks, and other relevant data.

Where agency and in-house recruiting are different

The key differences between agencies and in-house recruiters relate more to their partnership approach, pricing, and commitment level.


When working with agencies, you’re competing for their time with other clients. In-house recruiters typically work with one client at a time, allowing them to be more focused on you—and only you.

Company Integration

Agencies are typically outside teams that sell their pre-built services to you, while in-house recruiters integrate into your team. With this insider perspective, they can better develop and implement a strategy that aligns with your goals, culture, and values. As part of your team, contact, feedback, and general collaboration is also smoother than with someone on the outside.

Cost-Effective A-la-carte Services

As mentioned, agencies work with multiple clients simultaneously. Because of this, they often don’t have the time or resources to develop and price different services for different clients; you pay the same as everyone else, regardless if you need the same services. In-house recruiters are much more a-la-carte, or fractional as it’s also known, which means you can choose and pay only for the services you need, making it more budget-friendly and cost-effective.

No Conflicts of Interest

Agencies may have relationships with multiple clients in the same industry, creating potential conflicts of interest. You don’t have to worry about this with in-house recruiters, as they’re working exclusively with you.

How do I know which one is right for me?

For help deciding which path is right for you, consider the chart below comparing HR à la carte, an in-house recruiter, to the typical recruitment agency.

Alt description: A chart comparing HR à la carte to typical recruitment agencies on the following criteria: Fee structure, services, resumes (who owns them), placement guarantee, results, and whether or not they offer services to candidates looking for jobs (in addition to employers).

Summed up, here are the main reasons you’d choose one or the other:

  • In-house recruiter: You want to pay only for the services you need, want to own the resumes of your candidates, and prefer a more integrated, one-on-one partnership.

  • Agency: You want a placement guarantee, need a job yourself, and/or don’t mind not owning the resumes of candidates and working with an outside team.

Agency vs in-house recruitment FAQs

What other kinds of recruitment services are there?

There are many other kinds of recruitment services, including:

  • Temporary Staffing Agencies: These agencies provide temporary or contract workers to fill short-term staffing needs. They are commonly used for seasonal, project-based, or interim roles.

  • College and University Career Services: These services help companies connect with recent graduates and entry-level talent. They often host job fairs and provide resources for campus recruiting.

  • Outplacement Services: These services provide support to employees who are transitioning out of a company, helping them find new job opportunities and providing career guidance.

What is the difference between HR and a recruitment agency?

The difference between HR and a recruitment agency comes down to specialisation. HR, an internal department, manages the entire employee lifecycle, handling recruitment, employee relations, benefits, and more. Recruitment agencies typically specialise in sourcing candidates for specific job openings and operate externally.

What is the difference between a recruiter and a hiring manager?

The difference between a recruiter and a hiring manager is where—and to what degree—they’re involved in the hiring process. Recruiters, who can be internal or external, are typically involved in the initial stages of the hiring process, identifying, sourcing, and early-stage assessing candidates for job openings. Hiring managers, who are usually internal, usually take it from here, conducting later-stage interviews and ultimately making final hiring decisions. Hiring managers also often define job requirements.

What is fractional recruitment?

Fractional recruitment, often referred to as "fractional hiring" or "fractional talent acquisition," is a flexible recruitment model where an organisation employs a part-time or temporary recruiter to manage specific aspects of their hiring needs. This approach allows companies to access recruitment expertise on a part-time basis, optimising costs while efficiently addressing fluctuating hiring demands.

What is full-cycle recruiting?

Full-cycle recruiting encompasses the entire recruitment journey, from defining job requirements, sourcing candidates, conducting interviews, and making the final hiring decision. Full-cycle recruiters manage each step, ensuring a seamless hiring process and the placement of the right candidate, making them ready for their role within the organisation.

Partner with the right in-house recruiter

Hopefully, this helps you understand the differences between in-house and agency recruitment—and which one best suits your recruitment needs.

If you decide an in-house approach is best, our team of HR and recruitment professionals is ready to help. We’ll partner with you to find better candidates, solve your biggest recruitment challenges, and save money in the process.

Get in touch to learn more about our fractional recruitment services .

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