Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….


Posted by sweens on September 22, 2009

Further to my last blog post, I would like to continue the discussion on the difference between transactional and strategic recruiting, with focus this time on strategic recruiting.

Strategic recruiting is not a numbers game. It is as the terms suggests, strategic. In a strategic recruit the emphasis is on the overall fit of the candidate to the opportunity and non-technical factors are heavily weighted in the overall hiring decision. Where a candidate sees themselves in five years or whether or not they are comfortable leading a team are just as important in a strategic recruit then their technical abilities.

For example, you may have the most technical candidate in front of you, but their communication and leadership skills could be dreadful. This candidate would not be a good fit for a senior developer role where they are going to be required to lead and mentor junior developers. Hiring this candidate is simply setting the candidate up for failure.

I would suggest that when an account manager is ‘taking’ this order from their client, they need to get a lot more detail in terms of what the hiring manager is actually looking for then they would for a position that would be considered a transactional recruit. This step is often a problem between recruiters and account managers and can lead to missed opportunities. Recruiters need to know the soft details for strategic recruits in order to find that true fit candidate.   Knowing these soft details can usually allow a recruiter to screen their candidates in to the opportunity during an interview, rather then having to screen them out.

It usually takes more time to present on a strategic recruit then it does on a transactional recruit as well. This is for many reasons but I would mainly argue that the emphasis is on finding the right candidate and it can take a bit longer to narrow your field down in order to find that one true candidate. I have also found through personal experience that the best candidates for strategic recruits usually come from candidates who are presently working. This means that finding them is done without the use of traditional job boards with a focus on referrals or non-traditional search platforms like LinkedIn. Using these tools usually takes a bit more time to deal with your candidates as they likely are not in a full-out job search.

All in all, both strategic and transactional recruiting can be effective strategies of recruitment. Firms either specialize in both or one over the other. The challenges with both are some clients may want a transactional approach to their open positions where as the recruitment cycle is that of a strategic one (or vice versa). As I said last time, transactional or strategic recruiting can be a product of the location or client base where the office is located and firms who have recruiters in one city recruiting positions in another city should take this into consideration when they look at their recruiting cycles.


  1. Hey Tom, just checked out your two-blog series here and I think you’ve differentiated these two types of recruitment exactly. It’s probably worth noting that if you’re recruiting for real temp work (office, reception, data entry, etc.) then it needs to be transactional and there’s no way you’re going to do executive recruitment with a transactional approach.

    I’ve spent the past 7 years somewhere in the middle with a focus on mid-range IT contract work. My experience there has taught me that every firm talks a strategic game and usually reverts to a numbers game depending on the market, overall busy-ness and whatever other factor affects them. The lack of consistency in that area really makes it a challenge to differentiate one’s self in the market or increase the credibility of recruitment firms in general. It’s also what makes that “middle ground” the most interesting, I think.

    Thanks for the posts!

    • sweens said

      Thanks for the comments Dave. I definitly agree with your assessment about coming ip in the middle. My firm is a mid-range IT shop as well and the transaction VS strategic recruit for us really depends on the location and the skill set. There are some jobs where there is a surplus of candidates and others where there is a shortage. The recruit can really depend on who needs who more for that specific opportunity.

  2. Great article/series… It is great to see/read about what I preach… I am more strategic.. Less REQS and more quality…. I turn down searches all the time that are transactional…

    enJOY your day.. Best, Brian-

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