Corporate or Agency: Which Is the Right Career Choice For You

Oct 23, 2014

Choices“Agency recruiting gets in your blood and it’s tough to shake.”  I’d heard that phrase many times — and it’s true. I went from recruiting at a large agency, to a large corporate company, and now back again to the agency world, working for a specialized recruitment firm. From my experience in both corporate and agency recruiting, I’ve gained some helpful insight on the pros and cons of each, as well as the questions you’d want to ask yourself if you’re considering either. Let’s get started!

Agency Recruiting

Prior to transitioning to the corporate world, I had only known the agency side of recruiting. What did I like about it? I loved the fast-paced nature, as well as the ability to choose your clients and manage relationships. I liked the compensation upside and pay-for-performance culture. It was clear that you were making a positive, significant impact on people’s lives. Think about it. What is one of the most important things in someone’s life? It’s their career. If, as a recruiter, you can help someone make a positive in that area… well, it doesn’t really get more fulfilling than that.

Corporate Recruiting

As I was considering a move to the corporate world, I was looking for three specific things:

  1. I wanted the ability to lead a team through strategic thought as a pure manager. I had been a player-coach in my first agency-recruiting role, and it’s tough to help a team grow while always being concerned about your own book of business.
  2. I wanted more project-based work. Often times in the world of agency, the expected activity metrics leave little time for anything other than activity. I was looking to slow down and be able to manage projects that helped my team work more efficiently.
  3. Lastly, I was looking for a new kind of inspiration. I loved my leaders in my agency, but I was looking for a new message and a new vision.

Making the Transition

My move to the corporate side surpassed all of my expectations. I was able to run a large team and was responsible for the strategic vision. I managed projects that had an operational impact on how we did our jobs. And lastly, I found myself with a seat at the table working with some of the most intelligent and charismatic leaders in my career. In general, I found that the corporate side of recruiting is still concerned about completing tasks in a quick manner, but it does support a longer time window with all things involved in recruiting. This includes projects, meetings, and filling requisitions. Within the agency world, time is not your friend.

Why I Moved Back to Agency

So, why come back to the agency world? As I said, “Agency recruiting gets in your blood and it’s tough to shake.” It’s true. At the end of the day, when we look in the mirror, we all know where our natural strengths lie. To say that my StrengthsFinder results labeled me a relationship builder is a bit of an understatement. Within my corporate role, I grew and was challenged every day, but at the end of the day, I knew that building and fostering new relationships was what gave me energy. When given the opportunity to return to the agency world, I viewed it as a unique opportunity to combine the best of what I’d experienced in both corporate and agency settings. I was going to be able to strategically lead a team, work in a fast-paced relationship management role, be paid for performance, and work for inspiring leadership with a vision that matched my own. Wins all the way around!

Agency recruiting and corporate recruiting each have their pros and cons, and they certainly are different. Below, I’ve outlined a few key questions you should ask yourself if you are considering a role in corporate recruiting or a role in agency recruiting.

Questions to ask when considering a corporate recruiting role:

  • Does HR/recruiting have a seat at the table within this organization? Can you make a meaningful impact to the operations side of the business? Does your role affect the company’s top and bottom lines?
  • How does the highest level of leadership view HR/recruiting? Do they understand the importance of hiring the highest quality candidates possible?
  • Where does the career path lead within the recruiting department?  Are you able to ascend as a recruiter or make a move into a different facet of HR?

Questions to ask when considering an agency recruiting role:

  • What is the reputation of the recruitment firm? Is the firm a generalist organization or do they specialize?
  • What sort of training or support will be available to you? Do you need training, or are you armed with a network already?
  • Are you willing to accept the ups and the downs of the industry? Day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year, things change and you have to be able remain steady. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.
  • Do you love relationship management? This is what drives most recruiters. If you don’t get energy out of the relationships you create and foster, the agency world won’t give you what you are looking for.

Are there any other pros and cons you’ve experienced from either agency or corporate recruitment settings? I’d love to hear about them!

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