With direct recruitment high on the cost-saving agenda, employers are advertising more roles than ever through mediums like LinkedIn. What happens when you click on that button to apply for that post? We’ve heard lots of stories, but one keeps reoccurring…

Transactional interaction

We’re told that initial communication with in-house recruiters are fairly transactional. There might be a short telephone interview to start with, but dates are confirmed by email based on the strength of a CV and the ever-important LinkedIn profile. There’s no prep, no background explanation, no scene-setting and no advice. Candidates are going in to an interview pretty blind except for the generic job spec and their own internet research. Once they’ve overcome this, the next tricky part appears to be following the interview. How easy is it to give honest feedback directly? Not very, especially if there are reservations about the interviewer. How easy is it to negotiate directly? Pretty tricky – HR professionals are not trained negotiators. Many of our candidates at this stage wish they had an intermediary to manage these communications.

Reflecting poorly on company? 

Since many in-house recruiters are unlikely to need to recruit for the same position twice, they don’t feel the need to invest in the individual. Some are oblivious to the effect this has on their company’s image. If a candidate isn’t suitable for the role, they’re often dismissed without being given any feedback – usually all they get is a standard rejection email. They’re left with a bitter taste in their mouth and a very bad impression of the company.

What are your experiences?

As with everything, there’s always exceptions. I know of some outstanding in-house recruiters, many of whom are ex-consultancy who understand how to give a candidate a full, professional and positive experience. I just get the sense that there are some out there who believe the market is swarming with talented job seekers who should be grateful that they’re being considered for a role within the business. The reality is that real talent is hard to find and if the candidate experience is poor, they’re unlikely to ever attract the cream of the crop.

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Written by Emma Crichton, associate director, Consult-HR Ltd

Emma started her recruitment life in 1999 with Hays, working within their Finance & Procurement divisions delivering to commercial businesses and then a move to Capita gained her extensive public sector exposure. For Consult-HR she manages all levels of HR recruitment and with her 13 years of diverse experience from interim to executive, blue-chip to government departments, there is not an industry that she hasn’t worked with to seek the best talent. When not recruiting, Emma is the proud mum of a toddler who is far more demanding that any client she has ever worked with!

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8 Responses to “The in-house recruiter: good or bad?”

  1. Claire says:

    Interesting blog Emma – this has been my gripe for some time now. As an in-house recruitment manager, in my experience (9 years) I have always tried to keep direct candidates fully up to date and give full, honest and constructive feedback (not an easy task as you say!). However, with the changing recruitment landscape over the last few years, my view is that part of the reason for this recurring theme is that many companies (not all) place more and more direct sourcing responsibility on the in-house recruitment team. There is a danger that too much of their time is expected to be doing that and not enough on the candidate experience; in my opinion, there are (at least) two separate sections within in-house recruitment: the direct sourcing of candidates, and candidate/pipeline management. I hope the drive to reduce costs doesn’t forget that.

  2. Hi Claire – thank you for your comments. It is great to hear the views from the other side of the fence. Achieving great candidate/customer experience requires investment and as the purse strings are tightened there simply does not seem to be enough time to deliver at every stage. But, with great talent in high demand, candidates need to be highly engaged from the word Go and if you lose that engagement along the way you are likely to lose them altogether.
    I like the division you have made between sourcing and pipeline management and wonder if any recruitment functions currently operate that way?

  3. Emma,

    The questions and points you’ve raise regarding the value of in-house recruiters has come up regularly over the past years – especially post the economic downturn – as businesses have looked to reduce costs and to improve employer branding to attract best talent. (Linked in has many similar threads you may find insightful).

    Having worked as an in-house recruiter for a large multi-national company I can certainly see the benefits of having in-house recruitment team but this model is not a one-size-fits-all approach for all companies. For example, a smaller company may have a small HR team whereby an HR generalist would probably manage their recruitment (I know quite a few of these!). Typically they would struggle to really provide a best in class service as they have other HR issues to juggle – and candidates / clients can end up getting a poor service.

    If an organisation is in a position to have an in-house recruiter/s then it comes down to the efficacy of that person or team to deliver a great service to its clients & candidates. If you have a seasoned recruiter – not necessarily with agency experience – you can see real (tangible and intangible) benefits to the recruitment process. Further to Claire’s point regarding breaking up an in-house recruitment function into two core areas, it could actually be further divided into four core areas: 1. Resource Planning, 2. Attraction/Sourcing, 3. Selection / Assessment, 4. Candidate Management / On-boarding. A good [in-house] recruiter should be strong in all four areas across multiple vacancies they are required to fill, but within reason.

    Through personal experience, if the in-house team is given too many roles to fill with too little resource then that’s when the cracks start to show and ultimately candidates or the business have a bad experience. The balance has to be right with the right recruiters in place. Good agencies should always be on hand to help an in-house recruiter fill roles but this should be the vast minority!

    Sorry for the rather long thread but interesting points you raise.

    Kind Regards,

  4. Gail says:


    Some interesting points are raised in this blog – many which I have also seen leveled at agency recruiters!

    I am intrigued at the notion of a “transactional initial contact” – surely this is mirrored in the external recruitment world as well? As a trustee of a job club, I regularly hear members tell me they feel like little more than an irritation in the life of a recruitment consultant. I cannot speak for all internal recruiters, but I love nothing more than selling my company to them and hearing them buy into the exciting opportunities we can offer. RPO’s, now that is a different story – they are not direct employers, neither are they in an agency – that is where I have heard most of my horror stories of poor candidate experience. Perhaps they are working to some daft KPIs agreed by someone in an ivory tower who has never recruited?

    I would also refute the notion of poorly prepared for interview – I am a recruiter – I want people to shine, therefore the level of preparation I give each and every directly sourced applicant is equal to that I did as an external recruiter. Each and every vacancy gets the same brief prepared and this is sent to agencies I am working with and also my own sources – how on earth can I recruit the best talent if I don’t give everyone a fair starting point? Again, an RPO recruiter is at a disadvantage – they are not employed by the end company and whilst may be on site, they will not be working to their standard packages and will not feel as passionate about the company as a direct employer. Perhaps this is where some of that feedback has come from?

    Feedback – again, the worst examples (lately from a family member) have come from large RPOs where the relationships are not the same as those of a true internal recruiter. I challenge all line managers for constructive feedback on each and every vacancy and ensure it is delivered, personally, by me. I am very conscious of the importance of the employer brand and will work damned hard to protect it and I stand by my twitter profile – passionate about employability – if I cannot equip candidates with this, then I have failed in my role. I blogged about the subject nearly 3 years ago and still stand by the damage not doing this can bring.

    When all is said and done, recruiters are recruiters no matter which side of the transaction they are on – their role is to recruit the best talent for the open opportunities as painlessly as possible for all parties. Sadly, there are lazy, poorly trained recruiters on both sides of the fence, who could do with spending some time with myself and Emma!

  5. Anne Eden-Russell says:

    I have to say kudos for pulling together a distinct piece of propaganda here. Some very out dates and unsubstantiated views in this piece.

    An agent will never compete with a truly effective in house recruiter. I have been fortunate to work with some of the best in-house recruiters in the HR media industry and I have first hand knowledge and experience of how we outperform agents (sales folk) every time. We are brand ambassadors for our businesses, something you can never get genuinely from a third party. We are not incentivised in the same way and as a result we are motivated by genuine desire to attract and recruit talent to our organisations.

    Your point ” Since many in-house recruiters are unlikely to need to recruit for the same position twice, they don’t feel the need to invest in the individual. ” is entirely untrue. We do recruit the same skill sets repeatedly. We absolutely have to invest in the individual to ensure we protect our brand, provide a strong candidate experience, create talent pipelines and ultimately we could end up directly working alongside many of the individuals we hire.

    Ultimately the benefit we demonstrate to both hiring managers and candidates is that we have no commercial bias, unlike sales recruiters. We understand talent management and what talent looks like in our organisations much better than any third party sales person ever could.

  6. Jude says:

    I disagree with many points in this article and feel it reflects an outdated view of in-house recruitment. I don’t know of any in-house recruiter worth their salt that expects real talent to just fall in their lap.

    The core recruitment principle of candidate engagement is absolutely at the heart of any good in-house team. To suggest that the majority of in-house teams operate a transactional model, on a vacancy by vacancy basis is untrue. Many companies are investing heavily and rely on their employer brand to attract talent. Who better to champion your own brand than you?

    I think working in-house means you develop the ability to remain objective about candidates throughout the recruitment process, which is essential in finding the right person for the right role. In-house teams go to great lengths to present strong pools of candidates to the business but also appreciate the importance of impartiality when taking them through a selection process. I’ve had too many experiences of agencies trying to push less than qualified candidates into companies I’ve worked for.

    In-house teams and agencies often use the same strategies to attract and engage with candidates. The difference is the motivation. In-house teams act in the best interest of their brand and company ambition. Agencies act in the best interest of their business.

  7. Louise Myers says:

    As ever..a hotly contested topic and one that is very close to my heart. As someone who has worked as both an agency and in-house recruiter and manager – I would tend to agree that as an in-house recruiter you truly are (or should be) a brand ambassador and who better to understand not only the skills that each role requires but also the culture and attitudes of an organisation? Round one to the Internal function! Unfortunately, as a job seeker applying to organisations that have either removed the ‘human element’ from their internal talent engagement process or who do not have the right level of resourse, the candidate experience is the same (agency or direct) – frustrating!

  8. Good article here although slightly one sided I would say. That being said it is very constructive in the points you make Emma. I think the idea of the brand has to be the key one, its all about perception and if the initial contact with internal recruitment teams is not great you can attract or keep hold of the best people through the process.
    I think there are many points to consider and I have touched on a few on a piece I have written comparing agency and in house teams