Hokey Cokey

Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By Shane Horn, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I’m an odd recruiter. Not in the sense that I don’t fit the traditional image we all know (and love?!) but because I went in-house, came back out again, and am far better because of it.

My recruitment agency career was going well – I had managed teams, moved to a search firm but still had an itch to scratch. The Holy Grail was an in-house role – how great would that be? No more business development days (fancy dress was not my bag!), no more internal arguments about candidate ownership, no more end of the quarter panic to hit your numbers. No, it would be great. Lots of jobs to fill, with warm line managers who wanted to work with me – heaven!

I really enjoyed my time in-house. It opened my eyes to the issues faced by my clients, which, without the experience I would have no idea of. I had many recruitment consultants ask me; “what’s it like? It must be great working in-house.” Or; “how did you make the move, I am keen to but always get rejected.” Oh, if only they knew! The role of an in-house recruiter is complex, where you are often accountable to multiple stakeholders. It is frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. It is impossible to understand the challenges that are faced everyday unless you have seen them yourself.

What I learnt very early on is that you can’t walk away from a problem. You can’t look at a tough job to fill and say ‘you know what, I don’t fancy working on that’. You can’t put it at the bottom of the pile and hope it goes away. Your clients (the majority just down the corridor) want results, and in some cases can’t understand why a shortlist isn’t forthcoming within 24 hours of the brief! You need to be on top of your game constantly. Who knows who will walk round the corner next and need to know why they haven’t seen any CV’s. You have to give answers and responding with “the market’s tough out there” just doesn’t cut it. Control was also an issue, as it is in any recruitment campaign, but in-house, the variables were huge. If it wasn’t a line manager going off PSL or a recruitment consultant not following process, it was a role cancelled at the last minute or issues getting salaries signed off. Fire fighting is something that is often talked about, but at times, it was a raging inferno and all I had was a garden hose!

Saying all this, I certainly felt valued in my role and felt a part of the HR team. Though my particular role was lonely at times (I would find myself calling recruiters on my PSL for a chat!), I did feel I was making a difference and that I was supporting the business move forward. With an outsider’s point of view, I felt I brought a commerciality to the role and certainly improved the process. So, why did I leave? Something was missing and ultimately it was this that led me back to the shark infested waters of agency recruitment.

What I missed most was the variety offered by working with both client and candidate. I admit, I may have been unlucky with my move in-house as I am sure there are many of you who have the variety I craved. But, as agency recruiters we build relationships on both sides and I really missed this. I missed updating with people to understand how they were doing, helping to shape their careers and offering advice. I missed talking about the wider market with clients, understanding their challenges and looking to help where I can. I also missed the commercial aspect. Reading an article in the press, keen to share that with my network and add some value.

My role now is more varied than ever before, and this is down to the fact I worked in-house. I’m involved in assessment centre design, CV re-writing and job profiling, something I wasn’t in the position to do before making the move. Previously I was in the rut of filing jobs, and didn’t really view recruitment as anything more than that. I feel I now work better with clients, and understand their frustrations and demands. I am certainly treated better – like I still have the old school tie!

By performing both roles I can understand what role is better suited to me, what plays to my strengths. More importantly I was able to join a firm that mirrored my values and beliefs.  I am sure the tag ‘failed recruiter’ sticks with many  in-house people after moving on from an agency because they end up treating recruiters how they were treated.  NOT ALL AGENCIES ARE THE SAME!  It’s not all about sales targets, and constant no finish line mentality. I am sure if more in-house recruiters thought about moving back over the fence the market would be all the better for it. You can still work with clients as if you were part of their HR team, and you can add real value to a business and make a difference – you just need to find the right agency for you. Have a look around, you never know, you might be tempted back to the dark side!

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