Not Us vs Them - Behind the Scenes of Internal Recruitment

Nathan Callaghan

Nathan Callaghan

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Working within tech and digital recruitment is often an extremely varied job. From Front End Developers to Agile Project Managers and DevOps Engineers, I’m often working on a number of different briefs at any one time. This is particularly true at Futureheads, where as part of a growing technical team, I am often called on by clients to fill complex and varied briefs.

For the last four months, I have been working on a retained basis for the digital marketing consultancy Cognifide. As my first taste of in-house recruitment, it’s been an eye-opener and really helped me to understand a client’s perspective of the recruitment process.

As a rapidly growing business, Cognifide faced a challenge that will be familiar to many successful SMEs, - how do we scale rapidly while ensuring quality hires? Starting back in February, I was engaged to set up a robust and effective internal recruitment function that would not only solve an immediate need for people, but also deliver a long term capability that would allow Cognifide to scale.

This project gave me an extremely useful insight into the role of an internal recruiter and the realities of client-side hiring. There can often be an “us vs them” mentality between internal HR and recruitment teams and agency suppliers and by breaking down the barriers I have learned a number of lessons.


1. The recruitment agency landscape is a minefield.

There are a lot of bad agents out there. As soon as I updated my LinkedIn profile to reflect my in-house role, I was bombarded by other recruitment agents asking me for business. Their approaches varied in wording, but the consistent theme was sending me candidates who they had not qualified, who didn’t know their CVs were being sent out, in the hope that I would respond. The best example of this included someone that we already had in our interview process being sent to me as an “exclusive” candidate! Even after being told that we weren’t looking to use third parties, the approach then switched to constantly calling, emailing, and sending LinkedIn messages. Seeing things from an internal perspective, it became clear why there can often be communication problems between agency and in-house recruiters.


2. Feedback can’t always be instant.

Just because you haven’t received feedback, doesn’t mean your candidate has been forgotten! Any successful recruiter understands urgency. Our job is to constantly operate at pace and we know the value in keeping momentum going throughout the process. When we don’t get instant feedback, we assume that the Hiring Manager or HR contact has forgotten, and that sending any number of very similarly worded emails will help speed things along. I saw firsthand at Cognifide how many different issues come into play when at latter stages. It’s never a simple yes or no, and even when it looks like everyone wants to move ahead, all it can take is a delayed project start date or a change in requirement to put the brakes on.


3. Retention is key!

Clients don’t care about placements, they care about retention. For an agent, our focus is on getting our candidates through the interview process and placed with the client. Everything comes down to getting an offer on the table that our candidate accepts, and that is our ultimate end goal. For the client, however, this is just where things start, and the proof of an agency’s competence is not in how quickly they turn around CVs or get somebody into a seat, but in finding someone who will add genuine value to the organisation, buy into the culture, and build a long term career with them.


4. Internal recruitment is hard work!

Internal recruitment is hard work! There’s an unjust perception in the recruitment agency world that internal recruiters are people who couldn’t deal with the targets or pressure of an agency environment. Having seen the internal world for myself, I can say hand on heart that this is complete rubbish. Juggling multiple stakeholders, maintaining a constant pipeline, being accountable for candidate generation, process management and managing offers and on-boarding is no mean feat, and takes a great deal of organisational ability.


Overall, the experience has been fantastic, and it’s been great to work with Cognifide. The company is made up of incredibly bright people working on extremely interesting technical problems, and they’re at a time in their lifecycle when their growth is set to go stratospheric. As a recruiter, I’ve gained so much in both perspective and practical tools, and can safely say it has made me better at my agency job.

Having finished off my engagement with Cognifide this month, I am now available for both contingency and retained work, and I’m particularly keen to consult with clients in a similar position who need advice on scaling a highly skilled, technical work force. Feel free to drop me a line at john@wearefutureheads.co.uk if you’d like to know more!