Recruitment Careers: Corporate vs Independent

Whether you’re a seasoned recruiter or only just thinking about starting a recruitment career, it can be difficult to decide which agency you may want to work for. Especially when there are so many recruitment agencies to choose from.

The last report stated there were nearly 40,000 recruitment agencies registered in the UK.

Recruitment Consultant

We spoke to Claire Roberts, a Senior Recruitment Consultant who has worked for both a large corporate and more recently a smaller independent agency to give you an idea of what it’s like to work in both types of recruitment environments.

Can you give us a quick overview of your recruitment career so far?

I started my recruitment career 10 years ago when I moved to the Midlands from the Wirral. I didn’t set out to work in recruitment. I visited a well-known agency to register and get help with finding work.  It was during a conversation with a member of their team that they asked if I would consider working in recruitment and the rest is history.

To begin with, I worked as a Recruitment Consultant covering permanent commercial roles. After 3 years, I started to climb the ladder, working up from Consultant to a Senior Branch Manager position over a number of years.

More recently, I went back to being a Recruitment Consultant as I missed the recruitment bit which you don’t do as much of when you reach a management level.

What made you change to an independent recruitment agency after 10 years in a corporate environment?

After 10 years at a corporate agency, I decided I needed a new challenge and a role closer to home as I was missing out on lots of time with my son due to the commute. I was then contacted by a local agency and after 2 interviews I was offered the role and decided to make the move. The structure and plans they had in place for when I joined sounded like a great opportunity.

Do you wish you’d moved sooner?

I am happy the way I have progressed in my career and wouldn’t change this. The experience I gained over the last 10 years has given me the right ingredients to be successful at an independent agency. I felt I could come in and hit the ground running from day one.

What are the best bits about working for an independent agency compared to a corporate?

a blackboard with a smiley face in green, neutral face in orange and sad face in red written with chalk. A tick is next to the green smiley face.
  • Being given the autonomy to get on with your job and manage your own time and desk how you want rather than having to follow strict timetables
  • Being able to run a Hybrid desk
  • Relaxed yet professional environment
  • Being able to cover the whole of the UK rather than a small patch

Can you give an overview of the difference in the following areas between the two types of recruitment agencies?


The large corporate agency offered a 5-year training programme and you then also received training throughout the year. This was great for trainee consultants.

Having said that, the Independent agency provides a structured 12-week training academy programme for those new to recruitment.  There is also both internal and external training for the team at all levels.


The corporate agency had a very formal dress code and strict rules on locations and specialisms you were allowed to recruit for.

The Independent agency has given me the freedom to recruit for any office role in any location meaning I have more scope to succeed.  They are also less formal in dress code but maintain a professional image.  It’s just an overall more relaxed and friendly culture.

Working Structure

The Corporate agency was very strict in the way you plan your day, such as outlining tasks you need to achieve on a daily basis. Tasks and targets have to be done by a certain time.

In comparison, although the Independent agency does set KPIs and daily tasks there is more flexibility in how you plan your day. In short, this means you can get on with your job and have more time to recruit which is what you’re there to do. Also, guidance and assistance are readily provided if you need it.

What advice would you give someone undecided on working for a corporate vs an independent?

Large corporate agencies have the ability to offer full training programmes but can be very strict on KPI’s and area’s you can work. Whereas, Independent agencies are more flexible and give you the opportunity to work on a wide range of roles across various locations. Furthermore, they also give you the support you need to achieve these results with training and the help of other consultants. I feel my knowledge has expanded more since joining the independent agency but the corporate gave me a good start. Also, the less formal environment of the independent agency is a real plus for me.

I think your choice of recruitment agency really depends on the environment you feel you’d fit best. I’d suggest (if possible), visiting both and gaining a feel for yourself before making a decision.

What Next?

ASC is an independently owned agency who are always looking for driven, ambitious and lively people to join our team. If this sounds like you, contact our Internal Recruiter, Marie who will be happy to have an informal chat with you.

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