May 9, 2023

Can Internal and External Recruiters Be Best Friends?


Episode Highlights

End Double Work In Recruiting


We Want To Make Internal Recruiters Look Good


Recruiting Carve Outs Are The Most Efficient Way To Hire


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What’s with the tension? Aren’t we trying to accomplish the same thing?

There’s nothing more counterproductive in all of hiring than the adversarial relationship that (some) internal and external recruiters have. Internals begrudgingly use externals on hard searches when they don’t really want to pay a fee. Externals angle around internals when they don’t feel they’re on a level playing ground.

It’s silly. But what causes it? And why is it so unique to the talent acquisition space compared to other areas of professional services?

Jeff Smith and James Hornick will dig into the insanity and provide a more productive path forward in The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 65 “Can internal and external recruiters be best friends?

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig in, all our content can be found on

This week’s topic, episode 65- is it 65 or did I miscount? I think it’s 65. Oh, we don’t have it on the top of the notes. Yeah. 65. Yeah, I think it’s 65. Yeah. Can internal and external recruiters be best friends? A shameless opportunity to use a stepbrothers gif. Yeah. Yeah. I used- I still call gifs, but yes, I used one the other day, so. It was either that or the war song, you know, why can’t we be friends. One or the other.

Yes. Probably the stepbrothers though. Yeah. Days are confused. There’s multiple Gen X movie opportunities. Anyways- Jeff, back in time when you were leading internally, when you were working internally leading a TA function, did you ever have external recruiters try to go behind your back to hiring managers?

I’m going to answer your answer with a question. When you started external recruiting, were you taught to go around HR James? You know, strangely enough, it was like day one. So my old firm, way back in the day, my original firm, not the one I’m at now. We didn’t train this into people, but I came in, it was very much a boiler room, old school operation and it was- I got that Game of Thrones mentality with your clients’ schooling.

Kind of soon as I started, took me years to unlearn it. Just was told like, going around HR and talent acquisition is what you’re supposed to do. I mean every recruiter out there knows what we’re talking about. There’s this, whether internal or external, most mature adults who are recruiters at this point have good productive partnerships, or at least had have some.

Yeah. But you still, you know what we know what we mean and we say this because that’s not every relationship you’ve had. That’s not, maybe not every relationship you have right now. There are times where working with partners it’s like high school all over again. But here’s a question- like why?

Why is there this weird adversarial thing in our industry? Why does it even exist? Like we’re trying to solve the same problem with hiring managers, trying to fill positions. It’s as simple as we’re trying to hire people.

Why is it so hard? Why are we at each other’s throats? Why are we getting behind each other’s backs and being sneaky and secretive? Why does that ever happened? It’s the only place professionally that it happens to. We’ve tried to find the corollary somewhere else and it just doesn’t exist, which is mind blowing.

Look, so the motivations are kind of what we want to dig into here. So look at it from the external side, it’s purely about driving revenue. Yes. We- at least we, now, me being on this side, we do this stuff for altruistic reasons. But no one stays in external recruiting long term without being heavily money motivated.

It’s just a fact. I mean, that’s the main motivation. Let me say that’s the motivation, that’s not the reason for this though. We’ll get into that in a second. Exactly. Yeah. These are the behaviors that are manifesting themselves into other things. Internal recruiters, they just want to escape the living hell of what

just happened when they posted a job or they have 50 million external recruiters hitting them up when they post that job. They have to sift through all these resumes. They get scolded by hiring managers because you’re looking for this tiny little needle in a haystack. And quite honestly, many of them just want the magic bullet and they want it fast.

And like you said, unfortunately, oftentimes this is framed again on both sides as like a complete clash of culture. So I hear all the time from internal recruiters, “I’m worried. Like I’m worried that the external recruiter will come in when we engage and show me up” which might be valid if your culture kind of sucks.

I would say like, why not frame it as value add? Let’s take this off of your plate so that you, external resource, can focus your attention on something that’s a little bit more strategic, et cetera. Internally also, the conversation is oftentimes framed as, “Let’s fix this problem at the least amount of spend possible” which makes it not at all about hiring the best person, but hiring at the lowest cost.

So we’ve already talked at nauseum about why that’s literally the single worst approach in the game. Yeah. And just backing this up if you’re not convinced, let’s make some examples of like other aspects of life. I mean, adversarial business partnerships are not just unhealthy, they’re insane.

I think we should be able to agree on that. Jeff, you’re getting your kitchen redone. I know I heard you talk to the gentleman before we got on here, ask him to keep the noise down for a minute. Yeah. It’s like, do you ever sit there like “I hate this electrician. I’m going to rewire this kitchen myself.”

No, because your boss, your wife, already made the decision to spend cash on the renovation. You’re not saving anything. You’re not going to do a better job by backing into it yourself- I mean. Yeah, true story. When I used to live behind you, literally, I did try and rewire a floodlight once and almost blew myself up. That’s not lying.

I full bore electrocuted myself. I don’t want to do that again. Yeah. Fun fact, Jeff and I used to be neighbors. That was great. Yeah. Anyways. But let’s go back to office to work circles still- like if you’re a lawyer, if you’re a marketer and you’re a counterpart from like your partner firm, whether it’s like internally or externally, it doesn’t really matter.

You’re working on a joint project together and suddenly, are you ever like F*** this. I’m doing this work too with the exact same tasks to present to the same stakeholders, to angle behind someone’s back” like never happens, like any other office. You know what everyone loves? Double work.

I mean, you’re thankful that someone else is taking this aspect of the project on, so you don’t have to do it. Like why is this- the rest of the world has this figured out, but recruiters are still trying to work on the same things to get like brownie points for it or something.

Yeah, it just makes no sense. Full savagery. All right. Look at it from the internal side, perspective time. We talked about the motivators, but here’s the perspective. A little bit of empathy for all y’all internal recruiters, corporate recruiters. I having been one in a previous life. We get it. No one wants to look bad in front of your boss.

I get that and we get that using an external recruiter to make a fill, you didn’t make, is it comes at a price. Like there is a price there and maybe your boss or the CFO kind of walks away scratching their head. But here’s the thing, that’s not your fault. Mr. or Mrs. Internal recruiter. That’s literally leadership’s fault.

Yeah. So why do they have you working on the same search when they’ve gone out and are willingly open to spending tens of thousands of dollars on a fill? Yeah. If it’s insanely hard, why are you working on it at the same time versus doing something more productive? This is exactly why I’m not plumbing in my kitchen, because

I’ve got this to do. I’ve got a rant to do with you, right? Yeah. Well you were doing electrical work first, now you’re doing plumbing. But yeah. Might as well do the whole thing. I get to bitch on live streams, right? I mean, leadership does have to know how to strategically use their sources. Sometimes demand outweighs what a recruiting team can handle. And in those instances, spending that money well with an external partner makes everyone look like a genius, number one.

Yeah. All right. I’m going to ask you, do you have more in the tank there? Can you go on the external side? Big breath. Okay. External side. External recruiter’s goal, as we stated before, it is to fill the job, it’s to make money. But the secret of all of this is we really do want to make you,

you external internal recruiter, look good because you will be the gateway to getting us more business in the future. That’s how consultative partnerships work. So it turns from this dangerous interaction to a mutually beneficial one. And like I said, I’ve been on both sides. Never once when I went to spend money at an agency did I frame it as, “How do I get this at the lowest cost possible?”

I always framed it as, “Does what I’m proposing to my senior leadership solve the problem strategically?” In fact, I often reached out to recruiters that went around me to my hiring managers as an olive branch. Because like you said, they’re just doing what they’ve been taught to do, just like I was and maybe wrongly viewed me as a roadblock, when in reality I was the gatekeeper to their business. And

unfortunately though, you just, you never know what you’re going to get, which is why forming relationships with both hiring managers and the internal recruiters is smart practice for those external recruiters. Now here’s the thing. When we started writing the notes for this one, because this is a topic that’s been driving me crazy for a long time, like I just don’t get why is there- because you see it on, it’s in real life. It’s on the internet, on LinkedIn, on Twitter. There’s this weird dichotomy where there’s kind of different sides. And I was like, okay, why is this happening though? Okay, what’s the core reason behind it? And I like, again, I swear this wasn’t the intention, but the trigger that actually allows this to happen is just that if you’re asking someone to work on something potentially for free without paying them because you’re going to compete against them on it.

That’s the reason. The entire contingent business model is the reason why this happens. All of solves are just kill contingent recruiting. I mean, I was trying to avoid contingent recruiting on this topic, but it’s unavoidable. It is the reason and just the adoption, the blind continued adoption of this model as something that’s normal when it’s completely weird, is the reason why you have so many inefficiencies.

Right. Full stop. Anyway. Takeaways, because there are a couple here. What do you got? Shameless plug time. I mean, we do this by the way! The carve out concept- we’ve always wondered why a single resource like HR/TA person at a growing company actually wants to own the transactional part of recruiting.

It sucks, especially when you’re trying to build like an HR ecosystem around something that’s exploding real time. You would literally assume all of the risk with almost no reward. So spending less, handing it off to somebody who’s actually good at it where it’s our bread and butter, until you’re ready to build out something that actually functions for you

longer term, makes a ton of sense. We know it’s our plug, but it makes a lot of practical sense in the real world. Yeah. We’ll get nerdy for a second. It’s one of the central problems of economics. We have unlimited desires and we have limited resources to fulfill them. Just thinking about it from an economic standpoint, the key is finding the most efficient way to allocate those resources.

And I promise you, making internal and external recruiters doing double work over the same reqs, that’s not it. Not remotely efficient. It’s not rocket science. It’s literally not it. Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of business models in recruiting: retained, contained, fixed cost. Maybe something you haven’t heard about before.

They’re all better than the competitive double work that is contingent recruiting. As any recruiter who’s managed to build good partnerships internally or externally can tell you, anyways. Let’s all just be friends. Yeah, let’s be friends. Why can’t we be friends? Anyways, we are short on clock.

That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series which is always available for replay on, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, or Amazon. Jeff, thanks again as always. Everyone out there, we will see you soon.

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