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May 16, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Yeah, yeah, I know, staffing agencies and headhunters can be a pain sometimes. Look, I’m not trying to offend anyone, I made many of those annoying phone calls for about three years before I joined the corporate world. I continue to maintain numerous agency relationships and develop new ones from time to time. A quality person who has acquired broad, trusted relationships in specific verticals such as IT, insurance (for me), marketing, etc., can be a valuable ally in the recruiting world. Plus I remember that world very well and how much I learned from it. There are many teachings to be learned from being an agency recruiter that can make you a better corporate recruiter.

Learning More about Businesses

One of the parts about being a headhunter was learning about all the different types of businesses I called on. It opened my eyes to the fantastic array of business and cultures in the city I live in, many of them I had no clue about until I called and got an appointment. Being able to go in for a meeting was even better because I got to feel the culture of each business I visited and tried to sell my services. For me, this was phenomenal in learning what the companies people want to work at are and which companies people don’t for many different reasons. When I moved into the corporate world, this made me naturally curious about what all my company did, which helps me become a better internal recruiter.

Learning the Value of Relationships

Ahh, one of my favorite words, relationships. When you can help a company find a developer or a tax manager one of the best by-products is the relationship that develops from that. The cool thing is once you take care of a client’s needs, they remember you and will typically call you first when the next need arises. This is how relationships are built. This got me my first corporate recruiting gig. I had met the VP of HR at an HR function, and we hit it off. After a while, she told me her company was looking for a corporate recruiter and would I be interested in speaking to her about it. I informed her it sounded interested but being honest I wasn’t that good a recruiting, I was better at sales. She said that’s okay, she was looking for someone that could build relationships across departments, and she’d teach me the recruiting stuff I needed to know. Pretty cool.

Learning How to Think Outside the Box

It’s been my experience that corporate recruiters who have grown up inside of the company tend to be somewhat process oriented. There is a system and a method that needs to be followed. If it doesn’t fit in the box or follow the process, there’s a pressing problem. When you are a headhunter, you figure out how to get a deal done, or you don’t get paid, period. So you tend to get pretty creative with problem-solving so that both sides have a solution that works. Working with different companies who have unconventional processes allows you to learn about a variety of systems and thereby expands your knowledge. This knowledge helps you figure out solutions to a variety of roadblocks that can spring up.

Learning To Pick Up the Phone

As we are always reminded (and for a good reason) the phone is a great sourcing tool. When you are an agency recruiter, the phone is practically glued to your hand. You’re either calling on businesses to try to set up a meeting to sell them your services or your calling on potential candidates. In many agencies, there is a requirement on the number of dials you make in a day and over the course of a week. It teaches you not to be afraid of making cold calls. In the corporate world, it’s all too easy to rely on email and the ATS system to get in touch with folks. Learning not to be afraid of the phone is essential in both worlds.

Learning How to Treat Candidates

When you are an agency recruiter, you learn how painfully long the recruiting and interview process can be with companies. Between the onsite interviews and the testing and the communication, it can be a super slow process. All during this time the best agency recruiters stay in touch with their candidates and keep them informed of what’s going on. Don’t get me wrong; there are many agency recruiters who treat their candidates like a number and don’t stay in touch, the good ones do. Again, they realize the value of the relationship. And when you move to the corporate side you remember how much a candidate enjoys hearing updates, even the not so good ones. Communication is a powerful tool.

Take It with You

For some people, it’s a natural progression to move from a headhunter or agency type recruiting role to a corporate recruiting position. It unquestionably was for me. When I was an accounting & finance headhunter, I was on a draw, so I learned quickly that I needed to make things happen or I was going further and further into the red on my paycheck. The plus side of this is it taught me to hustle and learn new businesses, think outside the box, pick up the phone a lot, and the how valuable relationships are and how important it is to treat candidates as you want to be treated.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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