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A guide to moving from agency to in-house recruitment

Tags: Recruitment Transformation

The move from agency recruitment to in-house recruitment is common, but it’s definitely not for everyone. And there are lots of misconceptions about what in-house recruitment is actually like.

If you’re thinking of making the move because you’ve got a vision of better hours, better pay, and less pressure… that might be unrealistic. In-house can offer those things but it doesn’t necessarily – as we’ll explore.

And in-house talent acquisition is an extremely competitive space that can be hard break into, especially without previous experience.


Is in-house recruitment right for you? 

And if so, how do you get your foot in the door?

In the first session of our four-part webinar series with Recruiting Brainfood’s Hung Lee, we asked three fabulous panellists for their take:

  • Joey Nk Koksal, Global Talent Acquisition Manager at EVBox
  • Chantelle Jones, Talent Strategy Director at Nash Squared
  • Samantha-Leigh Hayward, Founder of SL Haywood Associates

Differences between agency and in-house recruitment

From the outside-in, agency recruitment and in-house recruitment seem pretty similar. But actually, they’re extremely different roles. Make sure you know what to expect, if you’re considering making a move.   


Agency recruitment is primarily about placements. Bums on seats are the bottom line, because that’s what you’re paid for. 

In-house recruitment is much broader. In-house recruiters tend to focus much more on long-term culture, leading to priorities like quality-of-hire, employer branding, and candidate experience.

(Although that said, Sam points out that the best agency recruiters hire like they’re in-house. They care about finding amazing candidates, know the culture of the business they’re hiring into, and do a brilliant job of selling that brand to candidates.)

You’ll need to align with lots of different teams, and typically work earlier in the process to shape strategy and build processes. 

One important note, though. If you’re considering moving from agency recruitment to in-house because you want shorter hours and less pressure, that’s often not the case. It’s different hours and different pressure, sure, but in-house talent acquisition is still demanding and fast-paced. 


Hung points out that because your focus is different in-house, it means success looks very different. For an agency recruiter, it’s clear if you’re succeeding because you’ve got one clear metric. And you’re rewarded accordingly.

When you move in-house, it can be harder to tell if you’re doing a great job. And to prove to others you’re doing a great job.

Depending on your motivation, this can be a difficult shift to embrace. Ex-agency recruiters sometimes prefer to move into wider sales positions than in-house recruitment. 

Plus, when you’re an agency recruiter you’re almost entirely responsible for your own success. In-house, that’s not the case. 

You’re much more dependent on the whole organisation. If marketing doesn’t help you promote your brand, for example, that’ll impact your metrics. If managers are a bottleneck pushing up time-to-hire, you can’t sell that candidate into another business: you just lose them. 


Hand-in-hand with success looking different, the compensation structure for in-house recruitment is different. In-house recruiters typically have a higher base salary than agency recruiters, with lower (if any) commission on top.

That translates into more financial consistency year-on-year but, if you’ve done well as an agency recruiter, probably a drop in your overall earnings. 

Saying that though, Chantelle and Joey make a strong case for the career trajectory of moving in-house. In-house recruitment could be your path into senior leadership roles that can be extremely lucrative. (Just look at now-CEO of B&Q, Graham Bell, for inspiration). 

But that’s not something you can count on. Hung says he never achieved the same earnings as his agency career when he moved in-house. 


One major difference between agency recruitment and in-house recruitment is your working environment. Agency recruitment is a faster-paced, sales floor type environment, which you typically lose coming in-house. 

If you’re joining a growing business, you’re probably joining a tiny (or non-existent) team in an organisation with low talent acquisition buy-in or maturity. It can be a real culture shock. 

It’s also worth considering how you feel about remote versus office work. Our panellists agreed the writing seems to be on the wall with remote working, with many in-house teams returning to the office at least sometimes. 

Stakeholder relationships 

Agency recruiters are often used to meeting with hostility from HR decision-makers and hiring managers. But Sam says this is one key difference if you move in-house. Stakeholder management tends to be easier because everyone’s overtly on the same side.

But again, it’s a misconception that in-house recruitment doesn’t involve sales. It just involves a different sort of sales. Internal influencing isn’t too different from business development agency-side, bringing many of the same challenges. 

Hung also points out that internally, you’ve got less choice about who you work with. As an agency recruiter you can choose to walk away if there’s not a good relationship fit, but internal recruiters have to push through.  

How to land an in-house recruitment job from an agency

In-house recruitment roles are very competitive, especially right now. Getting your foot in the door can be challenging because there are so many other applicants with like-for-like experience. 

Here are some pro tips from our panellists to break into the in-house talent acquisition industry for the first time.  

Leverage client relationships

Your client network is your biggest asset as an agency recruiter. Moving in-house with one of your clients is a well-trodden path. It’s a no-brainer from both sides, because the relationship is already strong, you’re facing no competition, and they’ve already had the world’s longest job interview. 

If you’re considering making a move, deepen your client relationships, understand their culture, and build your social capital.

Leverage candidate relationships

Don’t forget about your candidates, Sam says. There’s gold here too, because you’re exposed to so many more candidates than clients. Yes, your candidates might not have hiring responsibility but they’re a warm connection into an organisation. 

Also, in-house talent teams are often looking at your wider candidate relationship building skills. Strong relationships with your candidates are testament to your ability to deliver a great candidate experience.

Get into the right rooms

Sam and Chantelle talk about the importance of breaking into good communities, where you’re rubbing shoulders with in-house recruitment professionals. 

Tribepad’s webinars are a great place to start and there are plenty of LinkedIn communities – including Hung’s brilliant Recruiting Brainfood. Being part of the in-house recruitment community helps you keep your finger on the pulse with important trends and build great connections. 

Upskill where needed

In-house recruitment is a different kettle of fish to agency recruitment. Hiring decision-makers will want to see that you understand the differences and have closed any gaps in your knowledge and skillset.

Joey talks about his priorities when he’s interviewing recruiters:

  • Domain knowledge
  • Sourcing skills
  • Understanding of in-house role
  • Adaptability
  • Finger on the recruitment pulse

How do you stack up in those areas?

Know what you bring to the table

Yes, moving in-house can be competitive and difficult. But that’s not because in-house recruiters are “better” than agency recruiters. Each bring different skills. Although you’ll need to upskill in places, you also bring skills that in-house recruiters might lack.

  • Process. Sam thinks most in-house recruitment teams lag agencies on recruitment process, feedback, recruitment marketing, and tech stack. 
  • Pace. Chantelle believes agency recruiters can bring a pace, urgency, and drive that’s sometimes missing in-house. 

Small in-house teams sometimes aren’t set-up with the right processes, tools, or perspective to achieve their hiring goals, especially as recruitment gets more challenging. An ex-agency recruiter can help drive change.

Look for teams who hire for skills 

If you are going to apply to ads, Chantelle and Hung recommend you prioritise organisations who conduct skills-based hiring over looking at CVs. 

Look for companies who talk about skills-based hiring and use assessments to recruit, so you can prove you’ve got what it takes to excel in-house. Otherwise you might face rejections, because you’re pitted against applicants with more immediately relevant experience. 

Whether you’re an agency recruiter or an in-house recruiter, recruitment is tough. But as you know if you’re reading this, it can also be massively rewarding. 

Connecting people with the jobs where they’ll thrive and helping them build fulfilling, joyful careers – there’s nothing quite like it. Whatever side of the talent acquisition coin you’re on.

Tribepad is the trusted tech ally to smart(er) recruiters everywhere. Our talent acquisition software is a springboard for faster, fairer, better recruitment for everyone. 

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