The Grass Isn’t Always Greener On The Corporate Side.

By David Mandar ~

Grass is Green


Thinking of going corporate? With my experience as a recruiter’s recruiter (and 18 years working both agency & corporate), I offer a unique viewpoint to candidates looking to take on a career on either side of the fence.

Lately, what I’m seeing is a fair number of recruiters working in staffing agencies looking for career opportunities on the corporate side. They have career or personal goals that they feel will be fulfilled pursuing the Talent Acquisition pathway, like financial security of a steady salary and a variety of future career opportunities.

However, before they decide, I would like to shed some light on some of these common misconceptions or at least put it into perspective:


  1. There are more career opportunities in a corporate environment:

Traditionally, recruitment agencies are flat organizations. In smaller companies, everyone runs a desk all the way up to the owner. When you get into the larger (giant) agencies you start to see full-time management and operational roles, but generally no more than a couple of management layers. The top layer is reserved for the owners. This is one of the factors that lead to the perception that there are more career path in opportunities in corporate acquisition environments.

But in most cases with corporate positions, you join a small Talent Acquisition Team that is managed by or part of the Human Resources department. The only way up the corporate ladder would require you to leave the talent team to pursue more traditional HR roles.

In small companies you may be the only recruiter. You will have a great title like Recruitment Manager, but have nowhere to go from there. In large international companies, you may be part of a regional team with one or two team members reporting to a manager somewhere else in the country or even the world. What this means is you may find yourself in a position where you have little to no influence on the companies hiring strategy and be left with no career stepping stones unless you pack up and move to the corporate office location.

The good thing is the industry is changing and Corporate Talent Acquisition is becoming more strategic every year. This means more budget and career opportunities. So question the career opportunities before you make that change, and if necessary, decide if you are willing to wait.


  1. Corporate environments offer a more consistent Income:

Every Recruiter knows the stress of starting a new month with no production in their book. Some have the luxury of a negligible base salary, but many work on 100% commission, and even the good recruiters feel the pinch when a couple of placements fail to close as expected. I guess after years of this, some recruiters feel the sweet pull of a steady base salary with benefits and paid vacation. Recruiters with new families feel the pull even more.

It’s usually a financial trade-off for security. Corporate Talent roles do pay base salaries and some even come with bonuses. The shortfall is the market rates on salaries are still playing catch-up. The opportunity to make six-figure incomes in a traditional Talent Acquisition role is rare, even with a strong bonus.

The exceptions are industries with highly competitive struggles for talent. In these, hiring is more strategic to the business, such as in product engineering or sales, and therefore is compensated accordingly. Recruiters with experience in these industries are also highly sought after.

So the question is, do you go for a potentially high income or mid-range safe income?


  1. There is more stability during recession in a corporate environment:

The term “recession proof” has been batted around quite a bit in the staffing industry. The fear of recessions is real as many staffing agencies have experienced downsizing during economic down-turns.

The misconception is that corporate roles are safer and can ride out slow hiring periods. The reality is that some of the first cuts during downsizing include the corporate recruitment team. If there is no hiring planned for two to three quarters, most recruiters will find themselves out on the street.

To truly make yourself or your business “recession proof”, you have to practice diversification. That means having many clients that span several verticals or geographic regions. If you focus on one vertical, Finance for instance, you will be able to span many different industries without difficulty. This way if one industry gets hit with a recession, the others will float you through.

If you are running a highly niche model you need to be aware of the industry trends and plan accordingly. If you are strategic to your clients’ business’, you will be included in resource planning and will know who will be hiring over the next six months and who will be locking the doors.


  1. Corporate environments offer more strategic hiring opportunities:

Many believe you can only be part of a strategic hiring team if you work in a corporate role. This is only true if you view the role of a recruiter strictly as filling jobs for your client. If instead you understand how to become an extension of your clients hiring team, you can participate in very meaningful and strategic hiring projects.

And don’t think that just because corporate recruiters are able to chat over coffee every day with hiring managers that they are more strategic. Corporate recruiters can also be guilty of just chasing requirements. It happens to everyone when we get busy. And who isn’t busy?

Whether you are an agency or corporate recruiter, think of it as the art of getting to the boardroom table with your client. To be truly strategic you need to get involved as early as possible on the requirement. This means before they are even needed. Get involved in the business planning meetings that discuss resource management. This is where you start requirement gathering, set salary range, expected time to hire and any challenges that will go with attracting the right talent. This is where you get the time to plan your hiring strategy. This is when you become strategic. Being on the agency side does not exclude you from providing this service. It just means you have to work a little harder and smarter to get to the table.

So before you start thinking the grass is greener on the corporate side, pause, think it over. There are many things to consider and I couldn’t say to take one thing over the other. It comes down to what you want. I will go with my standard answer to the standard question, “what should I do?

Do what you love!

Everything else will take care of itself.


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