Retained Search Firms Vs. In-House Recruiters

Company recruitment and talent

Close up on a file tab with the text "recruitment" and a handwritten a note that says "talents" Jim RudmanBy Jim Rudman, CEO, Ashton Tweed

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It’s important to understand the recruiting industry as a whole when planning your hiring strategy. One of the main questions many companies have is whether to use a retained search firm or their in-house recruiters and why. There are major differences between the functions and abilities of these two resources. Outlining these differences will help you make the decision that is best for your company and your future hire.


First, let’s define the two terms. Retained search firms are external companies with specialty research, sourcing, and recruiting expertise, but still work exclusively for your company on a project-by-project basis. In-house recruiters are an internal branch within your company and are typically generalists supporting a broad range of departments. Traditionally their efforts are more geared toward online advertising and application responses than the pure research and direct recruiting done by retained firms. Now, let’s go into the specific differences of each:


Retained Search Firms


  • Filling the position at hand is their sole responsibility, so their top skills are communication, research, and direct recruiting within specialized industries.


  • Have to perform extensive research to familiarize themselves with the company culture and values in order to describe it, but have the benefit of being unbiased and trusted by candidates.


  • Executes specialized research and sourcing for job candidates outside the client company to fill positions and have larger networks.


  • Ideal for specialty, mid to senior level management, and executive positions.


  • Contact candidates directly ( a practice sometimes referred to as “headhunting”) as part of their research and screening process, and keep client information confidential.



In-House Recruiters


  • Searches for and promotes employees from within their company to fill new and vacant positions.


  • Ideal for earlier career level roles or large numbers of positions that need to be filled.


  • Mostly use online systems to reach out to and screen candidates, often via public job boards or private company programs.


  • As a part of the company, are able to genuinely describe the culture and values of the company to outside candidates if the search stops looking within.


  • Have additional HR responsibilities as far as company reorganization, resizing, etc. and therefore their top skills lie in being efficient in these areas.


These are major details to consider when choosing your hiring strategy for your next open position. Assess the nature of the search project to help decide which strategy is best. Looking for a retained search firm that specializes in the life sciences? Contact Ashton Tweed today to discuss your project.


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