Dear Artemis: How do I determine my in-house vs agency partnership hiring strategy? Any tips?
Updated: Sep 20
Welcome back to Dear Artemis: Where you ask us tough questions and we use our collective 45+ years of knowledge in the recruiting space to answer them.
We have a ton of open reqs and want to use our internal recruiting team wherever possible, but will use agency partners where necessary. How do I decide which roles to fill with my internal team, and which roles to partner with an agency for? Any other tips?
CEO, Series B Scale up
Great question! Deciding which roles to focus on in-house and when to partner with the right agency is critical for your hiring success.
First up - Prioritize: To decide which roles you want to focus on in-house, and which to partner on, know which gaps are urgent and which are critical . Try making a priority chart, like below. Take out a piece of paper and break it into a 4-section quadrant. At the top, write “timeline” and on the left, write “critical” - like this.
Put in the open roles or grouping of roles that you need to hire based on this list. The more urgent, the higher on the list. The more critical, the further left.
Critical/Importance: Is this person/role crucial to the daily functioning and success of your business? What difference will it make if you hire someone awesome for this role vs someone average? Will other employees or teams depend on this person (ie. is there a risk of attrition if you don’t get this role filled?). Will not having this resource impact your customers?
Timeline/Urgency: Did you need this resource yesterday or is it next quarter? Is there anyone fulfilling these duties right now? Does anything “break” if this role isn’t filled and ramped ASAP? Can you afford to hire someone who is a great culture fit, but who has a steep learning curve?
Repeat Hires vs One-Offs
There are many roles in your business where you will be constantly looking for great people, building teams and then promoting people up through the ranks. This will likely include developers, customer success, sales - and possibly marketing and operations. Getting really good at hiring for these roles and having a solid candidate pool ready to go is a huge asset and will help you move and grow quickly.
Where you need a single, specific hire, you may be better off using a partner who can headhunt and who may have a ready pool of candidates.
Even in a tight talent market, there are some roles where you will find great candidates by posting the role, and leveraging internal referrals and networks. Your internal recruiting team will do a great job here. For other roles, where the skills and experience you require are scarce, and where you know the best candidates are busy working for your competitors and not applying to jobs. For these roles you need a headhunter - someone who will dig deep with research and be professional, resourceful and diligent. You may have internal recruiters with these skills, but if not you need to find a partner you trust.
Here’s what we recommend:
For critical, urgent roles, partner with an agency you trust. They will dedicate resources and move quickly, while also bringing expertise and insights to ensure that you find someone awesome. More on this below!
If you have roles that aren’t urgent, or that you expect to always be hiring for - build in-house recruiting capabilities and invest in systems to manage a candidate pipeline. That being said… make sure your internal recruiting team still gets growth and learning opportunities. For example, if you’re hiring for a Director of Sales and an in-house recruiter wants to try a senior role, consider giving them the req if it’s not super urgent (so they have the time needed for the learning process!).
For your current recruiting team, know their strengths and determine where they’ll succeed and where they’ll struggle. For example - perhaps executive roles require more white-glove treatment but your team excels at the volume game. Work with an agency that specializes in what it is you need. Their network becomes your network.
Part 2: Picking the right agency partner. Here are our top tips:
Often the dream candidate isn’t actively looking for the next role. Make sure your agency partners focus on an outbound, targeted, headhunting approach - not just job postings.
Ever heard the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none?” This applies to recruitment agencies, too. You’ll have more success with an agency partner that specializes in a few key areas, as they’ll have a head start with a network and will be able to discern good talent from great.
If it’s your first time engaging with an agency or if you’re looking for a new partner, ask for references! Ask your peers if they have any agency partners they like to work with. You want a partner who is able to get great candidates excited about your company and this role, they have to be great storytellers and convincing negotiators. You have to trust that they’ll both understand your priorities and deliver the best candidates, not just the people who are easy to find.
Be clear on how urgent these hires are in initial conversations and make sure your agency partners have the capacity to go at the right speed for you. Ask how many other roles they are working on and what time they’ll dedicate to you. Ask about their success metrics. How many people do they typically introduce before a client makes a hire?
Speaking of speed - your agency partners can only move as fast as you do. Make sure your team has the capacity to review candidate resumes, support the booking process if needed, and get feedback to the agency in a timely manner.
Hopefully this helps. If you have any specific questions, send them our way! We’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, Negin & The Artemis Team