Agency Vs. Corporate Recruiting: Which One Is Best To Work With?

African American young woman recruiter with headset, looking at the laptop screen, talking with colleagues or clients by video call, conducts consultation

Agency recruiting and corporate recruiting share a common goal: finding and hiring qualified candidates for a company’s open roles. While they share many of the same job functions, agency and corporate recruiters have distinct priorities and their benefits to the companies they work for differ. 

Here, we’ll discuss agency versus corporate recruiting and help you decide which one is the best choice to serve your needs. 

What Is A Corporate Recruiter?

A corporate recruiter is a full-time, in-house employee of a company. Their job is to fill positions within that company. 

Corporate recruiters have a deep understanding of the organization for which they work and may even be specialized to a certain department within that company. Google, for example, has recruiters who are dedicated specifically to hiring employees in search, UX, cloud, commerce, and more. 

A corporate recruiter is paid a salary, sometimes with a small commission or bonus structure. Often from an HR background, a corporate recruiter may also be responsible for other tasks besides recruiting, like onboarding new hires and managing employee benefits. 

Because corporate recruiters work for just one company, the position comes with more stability and consistency than an agency recruiting job. 

What Is An Agency Recruiter?

An agency recruiter works for a staffing agency. Also known as headhunters, agency recruiters fill positions within companies that are clients of their agency. 

Agency recruiters have knowledge of the way different companies are structured and an understanding of what their various clients are looking for. They may specialize in recruiting for a certain industry, like healthcare or tech. 

An agency recruiter receives a nominal salary and earns most of their income on commission based on the positions they fill. People in this role often come from a sales background or have some combination of sales and HR experience. 

Because their work involves serving multiple clients and is commission-based, agency recruiters must be sales-oriented and comfortable with a fast-paced job.

Related: Is Your Business Ready for Professional Staffing Services?

Key Differences Between Agency And Corporate Recruiters

Here are some of the primary distinctions between in-house and third-party recruiters. 

Time to hire

Agency recruiters typically move faster to hire than their corporate counterparts. They focus on recruiting all day, every day, and don’t split their time with other tasks. Because they’re competing against other recruiting firms to attract the best candidates, speed is essential. At the end of the day, their income and their agency’s reputation depend on making the right hires quickly. 

Related: Ways to Reduce Your Time to Hire

Knowledge of company

When it comes to company knowledge, corporate recruiters have the leg up because they only need to focus on the nuances and hiring preferences of a single organization. As an employee of the company themself, they have a more direct understanding of the culture and how the company operates than someone on the outside looking in. They also have the benefit of being able to leverage tools like an employee referral program to bring in qualified candidates from within. 

Knowledge of industry

On the flip side, agency recruiters work with many different companies, often in the same field. They hire for the same types of roles over and over again. This gives them a breadth of knowledge about what different organizations in an industry are doing to attract talent. They can offer their clients a consultant-like perspective on how to best compete in the market. 

Level of engagement

Because corporate recruiters are in-house employees, hiring managers may feel more comfortable with having a higher level of accessibility to them. Agency recruiters may only make contact at certain points within the hiring process rather than maintaining an ongoing line of communication. 

Agency versus corporate recruiters also have different motivations for staying engaged with their searches. For agency recruiters, their objectives are to fulfill their contract with a client and collect their commission upon making a successful hire. Corporate recruiters’ motivation is to meet their departmental goals and hire people who are the right fit for their company. 

Size of professional network

Agency recruiters are natural-born networkers. To be able to successfully hire for many different roles at different companies, they must maintain a consistent, diverse stream of candidates in their talent pipeline. Because of this, they form long-standing relationships with people from a range of backgrounds. This is in contrast to corporate recruiters, who don’t usually have the same volume or assortment of contacts. 


If a position is particularly challenging to fill or the market is experiencing a talent shortage, corporate recruiters may have more flexibility to adjust the hiring timeline or change the requirements than an agency recruiter, who is bound by the terms of a contract. An agency recruiter, on the other hand, may be able to help companies find creative ways to address hiring needs based on their experience with other organizations. 


Both agency and corporate recruiters bear an ethical responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of their candidates and clients. If you need iron-clad security around your search, however, using an in-house recruiter is the safest bet. Agency recruiters sometimes cannot disclose the clients that they’re working with, but sometimes the details of a role or the job requirements will make it easy enough to put the puzzle pieces together for someone who’s digging for information. 

Active vs. passive candidates

Corporate recruiters engage mainly with active candidates–those professionals who are actively searching for a new job and applying to the company’s openings. Agency recruiters do a lot of networking with passive candidates–people who are currently employed, but may be open to making a career move for the right opportunity. Targeting passive candidates can help companies connect with talent they wouldn’t have reached by merely positing a job listing. It’s one of the best strategies to fill openings in a competitive market.  

Things To Consider When Choosing Agency Vs. Corporate Recruiting

For companies

For organizations looking to hire, agency recruiters can offer the benefits of a dedicated recruiting team at a lower cost than employing a full-time recruiting staff. They can help you reach a wide pool of talented candidates beyond your traditional network, which can be beneficial for niche and high-level roles. 

Many companies opt to supplement their in-house recruiting teams with outside help from a staffing agency, which lets them reap the benefits of deep company expertise and a rich talent pool. 

Related: How In-House HR and External Recruiting Agencies Can Work Hand In Hand

For candidates

If you have one or two companies that you already know you want to work for as a candidate, your best bet may be to contact their corporate recruiters directly. They can advise you of the company’s available positions and keep you in mind for future openings that may be a good fit. Establishing a relationship with a corporate recruiter is a great way to get your foot in the door at your dream job if you have a particular employer in mind. 

If you’re open to possibilities or need a little direction in your job search, an agency recruiter may be a better fit. Because they work with so many clients, they can point out openings that are a good fit for your skills that you might not have searched for directly. They can also alert you to upcoming openings before they’re posted on public job boards, which can put you at an advantage in applying early. 

Neither corporate nor agency recruiters charge candidates for their services. 

Ultimately, both agency and corporate recruiters serve a need in the job market. Which one is right for you will depend on your timeline, level of urgency, and specific needs as a candidate or hiring organization. 

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn