Rumors of external recruiters’ demise have been somewhat exaggerated. Yes, there have been some minor flesh wounds – Injuries from a thousand cuts courtesy of myriads of startups chipping away at the role with every take on recruiting: full-on broad marketplaces, niche marketplace plays by function/industry/demographic, startups with unique technical angles (AI, ML, video interviewing etc.). Most recruiting-related upstarts’ ultimate goal is to disrupt recruitment fees and get in on that action. This hasn’t quite happened so far. Why is that?

In a nutshell, and somewhat ironically, the people factor in the people business is hard to replace. There are a few crucial areas where the lack of interpersonal interaction puts a virtual spanner in the works of recruiting technology: Candidates and clients alike both want support and guidance in the process, privacy and discretion throughout, and ultimately to get the best monetary deal for themselves and the best career option for the candidate.

However, I would argue that the biggest people-centric reason why external recruiters aren’t going away anytime soon is that at the core of the function, recruiting, done well, is basically sales and interpersonal selling of your company to a candidate over other career options is impossible to beat with technology. This is especially the case in the recruiting of sales and sales management professionals. Someone – not a machine, not a technology- has to properly sell the candidate on why a particular firm is right for them and their career versus the myriad of other choices they have. No amount of PPC advertising on indeed or Linkedin is going to replicate a compelling argument for why this opportunity is right for you from a recruiter. Often that fact gets overlooked, and the default placement of the internal recruiting function, under HR, can, in the wrong hands, repress what needs to be done in a competitive marketplace: selling. Selling your firm, your job, your career path much like you sell your company’s platform or solution to your customers

Candidates expect and want to be sold and I believe external recruiters are generally far better positioned than internal recruiters to do that, especially for candidates that are higher in the funnel. There are loads of parallels with product/platform sales with how you should be recruiting and handling candidates.

I believe that the more closely your recruiting function acts as a sales organization in dealing with candidates, the more success you will have. Here’s an idea of where you can work those sales parallels to your advantage:


Like any good sales process, listen to what your candidate is saying and explain the benefits of your firm and the role in that context. Give them the opportunity to get all the answers they need to make an informed decision


Treat candidates like you would your customers at all stages of the process with great pre-sales customer support. Remember, you are also selling them. so make the process a smooth one with seamless interview arrangements, your teams’ full focus when you are interviewing them, logical and clearly defined steps in the process (transparent from the start) and, most of all, great follow up and useful feedback- regardless of the outcome. 

Marketing support / Sales enablement

Empower your recruiters with supporting documentation – briefs on the company, the job, insights into the hiring managers personalities and preferences. Yes, a lot of this information will be publicly available and can, perhaps, serve as a test to see if the candidate has bothered to prepare before an interview, but a tidy brief is always appreciated. Try using Pointdrive on LinkedIn as a repository. You can then use that to see who did their homework prior to interviewing!

Be prepared to offer detailed insights into differentiators versus competitors, deeper insights into the industry sector or subsection and why this is an industry that is right or better for them. 

Monetary Motivation

Incentivize your internal recruiters so they have the drive to do the grunt work around building the pipeline to get you the right candidates that will be with you for a long time. That means rewarding them like sellers. Solid commission structures that reflect the opportunity cost of using outside recruiting firms.

Pipeline management

Speaking of pipelines, as with sales, in recruiting you will need at least 3 candidates at very late stages to ensure the closure of 1. That means up to 50 candidates at the top of the funnel. Smart sellers are always working new deals at the top of the funnel to ensure smooth performance against numbers. For recruiting the parallel here is always to be recruiting – even when you don’t have the active job reqs.


Arm your recruiters with tools that you would expect of sellers – CRM platforms or ATS  platforms that act like CRM platforms, Social platforms for message dissemination. Sourcing tools like Zoom info, Linkedin Recruiter for candidate outreach and Sales Navigator for client hunting). Use automation and BPO (or RPO in this case) to eliminate the mundane aspects of the job and let your recruiters focus on the selling aspects of the role.

Professional help – External Recruiters

External recruiters are a crucial recruiting sales resource for you. Internal recruiters are structurally at a disadvantage to external recruiters. The crux is this – internal recruiters are, by definition, one-trick ponies. They can only really offer perspective on their own firm and the conclusion to listening can only be their firm or their job, spun to match the candidates’ interests.

External recruiters can instead offer a perspective from across the industry and across a myriad of clients that they represent – culminating in real choice for candidates. External recruiters can not only offer detail on differentiators of the firm within the industry but, perhaps more importantly, differentiation of the firm, the role and career prospects across different companies and industries – thereby facilitating better decision making for the candidates. I would also argue that external recruiters have a better long term incentive to have their candidates best career interests in mind.

Of course most of the time it isn’t an either/or situation. External and internal recruiters complement each other well but these top of the funnel structural advantages suggest a division of labor works well – with internal recruiters better to focus at the bottom of the funnel when working in tandem with external firms. 

In Conclusion

As Daniel Pink’s book title says “To sell is Human” and humans are critical in the sales aspects of recruiting. Give those humans the same treatment, tools and resources as your sales team and your firm will stand out from the crowd.

I am interested to hear other areas in which you apply sales best practices to recruiting so please comment below.

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