Why Good Old Fashioned Competition Works

Good evening!  My name is Andrew Parrott and I’m a Partner at a recruiting agency here in Denver.  I’ve spent nearly 5 years performing lifecycle Account Management and Recruiting in the web apps space, both in CO and nationwide.

Many of you will point out, and not entirely inaccurately,  that agency recruiters like myself target companies in a predatory fashion, spin biased bullshit, and are technically incompetent, knowing just enough to be dangerous to ourselves and misrepresent your firm.

Those arguments are sometimes true, and I have personally been guilty of each at various times in my career.  Yet the more I grow in the profession and the older I become (yes, I’m at the ripe old age of 25, receding hairline notwithstanding), the more I become convinced that the majority of human interactions may be simplified to two things: Relationships and Competition.  Perhaps in no profession is this as evident as technical recruiting.

Why use recruiters (internal or agency)?

Many VPs of Engineering and the like are well-connected in their field.  As such, they will likely first elect to mine their known contacts.  After this, job postings on myriad sites may be the next option.  Postings will certainly generate a large applicant base, but are these the applicants you want?  At any time, but certainly in today’s economy, the best candidates are those actively employed and passively seeking, afraid to move yet afraid of what might happen if they stay at their current employ.  Job boards, by and large, yield a very disproportionate ratio of qualified to WTF candidates.  Someone then has to sort through those candidates to find the golden nugget(s).  Does your VP of Engineering have something better to do with his/her time?  Perhaps that is why you have an internal recruiter or HR employee.  Agency vs. Internal recruiting aside, we have now qualified the need for a recruiter of some sort to actively hunt passive candidates.

Agency vs. Internal recruiters: the Agency value-add

I’m one of those sick cardio Nazis who competes in the Leadville Trail 100 and ultramarathons of similar nature.  The best way I personally can compare Agency vs. Internal recruiters is in terms of physical training.  Growth, whether personal or professional, requires dynamic–not static–challenges and environments.  Internal recruiters and HR tend to be static for numerous reasons.  First, they are only selling one company—yours.  But that’s a good thing, right?  Not necessarily.  Fish is a healthy meal to eat, yet if I cooked fish every night I would soon find myself mindlessly repeating the same steps, less aware of my surroundings and more efficient ways of giving myself nutritional value add.  So too with recruiting, which requires an adaptive, dynamic, and opportunistic mindset.

I submit that agency recruiters have more dynamic and specialized knowledge due to their work with similar skillsets across multiple verticals and product offerings.  Admittedly, my knowledge is broad and shallow.  Yet I do my homework on your company, seek out the intangibles for which I am allowed to discriminate but internal HR is not (e.g. the ever-elusive “cultural fit”), and most importantly, I listen.  A good recruiter spends most of his/her time asking candidates and VPs of Engineering alike questions and listening, and in this way educating him/herself.

Imagine there are two lions.  One lives in a zoo and has a guaranteed meal every day.  The other lives on the African plains and can only eat what he kills.  Which lion is quicker, stronger, and more aggressive?

That’s the value-add to agency vs. internal recruiting.


Eric Omer, Speaker and Business Coach, says by conservative estimate, it costs 30% of an employee’s salary to hire him/her, data supported by other estimates.  The typical perm fee for an agency is 20-25%.  For a $100K hire, that means you pay $5-10K less/employee.  It costs internal HR time and money to interview candidates, not to mention loss of productivity, learning curve for the new hire, and the like.  Conversely, I specifically screen all candidates via in-person interview prior to submittal.  Moreover, I work directly with VPs of Engineering and IT Managers, thereby eliminating the “middle man (read: HR)” and streamlining the flow of information.


In the world of recruiting, companies are one of two things: Clients or Sources.  Do I recruit your top talent if you are not my client?  Absolutely.   Will I sell the value of your company to your competitor’s top talent, using every resource, network and tactic available—for free?  In a heartbeat.  You only pay me IF you hire one of my candidates.

This is not merely a pitch for my company, although we are the best (and there is a great example of a recruiter’s biased bullshit).  Agency recruiters compete because we enjoy it.  Competitions are more fun for true athletes (i.e. recruiting firms) and ultimately more beneficial for your corporation when there is a diverse field and the best are allowed to rise to the top.

True competitors do not want safe base salaries and a pile of resumes to sort through—they want to be free to use their faculties to compete and prove they achieve the best results.

All I ask is for the free opportunity to allow myself and other agencies to prove that we are who we say we are—you be the judge.


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