When to Use an External Recruiter, and When to Keep Hiring In-House

April 13, 2021

Specialized recruiters are one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to boost your hiring process. But still, there are times where sticking with your internal process makes the most sense. Here’s our guide to when you should use an external recruiter, and when to keep a hire in-house.

As a recruitment firm specialized in Supply Chain Management and Procurement, we’re used to singing our own praises. As we’ve written about many times, the use of a recruitment partner – especially one with a deep understanding of your job category – can be a tremendously valuable thing, both for hiring and for searching for a new job. It’s often faster, more cost-effective, and more humane than today’s internal hiring processes.

We’re always trying to communicate this message to organizations – many of whom might not have experienced the power that a specialized recruiter can offer to their hiring process. We’re biased, of course. But we wouldn’t have kept working in the industry for 20 years if we didn’t believe in the power of our service.

That being said, there are situations where sticking with your internal hiring process makes the most sense. That’s why, when we hear from a company looking to hire in Supply Chain, there are certain situations where we’ll turn away their business. Situations where it’ll be more effective overall for the client to keep the search in-house. Our goal is to be a strategic partner to clients – and we wouldn’t be offering our maximum value if we recommended using us across the board, no matter the situation.

In short, recruiters are effective for many hires, but not every hire. But if you’re working in a Supply Chain leadership role and need to staff up – especially in this market where candidates are in high demand – how do you assess whether to use a recruiter or not?

Today, we’re sharing this post to break down situations where using a recruiter makes the most sense – and the situations where you should hire internally.

When you should use an external recruiter:

Specialized Searches:

Right off the bat, we’ll start with the reason why firms like Argentus exist in the first place. If your roles are highly specialized, for example in Supply Chain Management, there’s tremendous value in using a recruiter who deeply understands that niche.

Many companies encounter an issue with specialized searches: their internal recruiters – sometimes junior HR people – don’t always have the deep understanding of the role that they need to assess the right mix of technical and soft skills. Meanwhile, the senior people (say, the Director of Supply Chain in our example) have the deep understanding of what they need, but don’t have the time to source these people on their own.

Recruiters step in to bridge that organizational gap. We can work with the internal HR on process (scheduling interviews, follow-ups, etc.) while working with the senior leaders on fit (presenting pre-qualified candidates from our network based on our own deep understanding of skills). This helps companies find the alignment in their process that’s sometimes elusive when companies hire on their own.

Difficult Searches:

This one is related to, but often separate from, the above. Sometimes searches are difficult because they’re highly specialized (picture a Sourcing Specialist who needs to have experience buying a highly specific commodity) – but sometimes they’re difficult because the active candidates aren’t applying. In either case, if your role has sat open for over a month, it might be time to consider a recruiter. Specialty providers have reservoirs of “passive talent” — in other words, candidates who aren’t actively looking for jobs, but are open to making a move for the right role. Often, by tapping into these candidates, we can fill jobs in two weeks that have sat open for months. It’s some of the most satisfying recruiting that we do. Paying a recruiters’ fee is more cost-effective than the ongoing long-tail cost of reviewing profiles that aren’t right, not to mention the opportunity cost of having a role sit unfilled.

When You Want to Hire Fast:

There are situations where an internal hiring process can move very quickly, but sometimes, when you need to move fast – whether because of an imminent need, or rapid growth – a skilled recruiter is the best way to expedite the hiring process. A recruitment partner has a huge incentive to find the right person as fast as possible, because that’s how we get paid. An internal HR team has an incentive as well – their performance hinges on successful hires, of course – but some of our clients find that they lack the same urgency. An internal team also must often start a recruit from “square one,” whereas a specialized recruiter already has a candidate base lined up that they can assess for the role, and deliver results fast.

This is especially true for contract (short term) roles, whether it’s for project work, leave coverages, or other strategic reasons. The market for contract talent is smaller, since candidates either need to be dedicated contractors or in between roles. Adopting an approach where you “wait for candidates” is usually ineffective for these searches, whereas a recruiter who has a base of skilled contractors lined up can greatly expedite the process.

When Resources are Stretched Thin:

This is another business case we encounter quite often: the hiring manager is busy fighting day-to-day fires, or implementing business transformations or other strategic projects, and a recruit gets put on the back burner. Sometimes the volume of hires needed is so great that some searches go by the wayside. A specialized recruiter is, if nothing else (and it should be a lot else), an augment to your resources. They make sure that your roles stay on the front burner, forwarding candidates and helping manage the process while you focus on other priorities.

When you should stick with internal hiring:

When You’re Hiring for Transactional Roles or Front-Line Roles:

If you’re hiring a very junior role, say an entry-level Purchasing Clerk, Administrative Assistant, or Warehouse Employee, it might be more cost-effective to keep the search in-house. Transactional roles with more forgiving skills requirements are easier for junior HR staff to source and screen, so you don’t run into the problem we outlined above. A recruiter can fill these roles, but because they represent less revenue for us, and companies can hire them fairly easily on their own, we often turn this business away. A big exception would be if you’re hiring a lot of people at this level – say 5+ individuals. There are recruiters who specialize in placing people in these roles at a high volume, and even a more specialized player like Argentus will work on volume roles at this level because our pre-existing roster of qualified candidates makes it quicker for companies to hire.

Where You’re Likely to Hire an Internal Candidate:

Sometimes, your internal candidate network is already good enough. You might have some great team members you’re looking to elevate into a role, or candidates in mind already through your extended network. In these cases, where you suspect you won’t need to source new candidates, it makes sense to keep the process in-house. Still, you might benefit from bringing in a recruitment firm to present comparisons. You only pay the fee to a contingency firm like Argentus when a candidate is placed, so your risk is very low. But in those cases, it’s best practice to be as up front as possible with the recruitment firm that you have candidates in the pipeline already.

When the Need to Hire Isn’t Urgent:

Sometimes, a role just isn’t high priority, and that’s okay. Sometimes you recognize that you have a need, or will have one in the future, but are willing to keep the search on the back burner while you focus on other tasks. In these situations, engaging a recruiter may lead to frustration for everyone involved: we thrive with engaged clients, and our candidates are often fielding multiple offers at once. So if that urgency isn’t there, and you’re willing to wait, it makes sense to take the long view and allow the process to unfold more slowly.

Our goal is to help equip you with some of the advice we give to clients when they contact us – but this is of course just an introduction. If you have any more questions, or are hiring and aren’t sure whether you should use a recruiter or not, feel free to reach out to us directly! You can call 416 364 9919 or send an email to


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