In-house recruitment: why most companies fail

Ashburton Investments' Global Head of Talent Acquisition Tshidi Khunou explains how Standard Bank and Investec got it right.

Ashburton Investments’ Global Head of Talent Acquisition Tshidi Khunou says having the right people driving the in-house recruitment is the difference between failure and success. In this article he shares his experiences at Investec and Standard Bank – two companies that, he believes, got their in-house recruitment right.

Many corporates use in-house recruitment as a cost-saving mechanism but not many of them get it right. Firstly, it is not entirely accurate that agencies are always the more expensive alternative. The cost of recruitment can be far-reaching and many businesses don’t even realise the full extent of the costs and the impact that an in-house recruitment campaign can have on productivity. Secondly, there are a number of reasons why in-house recruitment may not be successful the first time around. Having limited access to suitable candidates, for example, can really affect the quality of hire during a recruitment campaign and can result in a business having to run a campaign multiple times in order to find the right person. 

Standard Bank

A few years ago, I joined the Standard Bank Group in the Corporate Investment Banking (CIB) space. My role focused on the graduate market, but I was lucky enough to be able to interact with all the other talent acquisition managers that managed experienced recruitment. Standard Bank had a simple recipe in their talent space,n which was to sing from the same hymnbook. Each business area across the company had its own selling points. It did not matter if you were speaking to a recruiter from the personal and business banking or from CIB. Standard Bank made sure that its recruiters remembered to sell the Standard Bank brand and not the individual businesses. This made them unstoppable in the market.

The second thing that Standard Bank did was make sure that it hired recruitment professionals to recruit in the market for them. So many companies that have in-house recruitment teams have taken generalists and made them recruiters and that, unfortunately, never works. This is not because the generalists cannot do the work of recruiters, but because that is not their niche. A few companies have huge recruitment team but these teams rely solely on recruitment agencies to achieve their recruitment goals and this can also lead to failures.


The other company that got their in-house recruitment right is Investec. I was lucky enough to join Investec when they started their in-house recruitment and the first thing they did right was to reduce the number of recruitment agencies who support them for the skills you need. In the first few weeks of this newly formed department, Investec reduced its agencies in order to get focus.

The second thing was to hire specialists to do the job. Investec made sure that it identified specialists with a passion for recruitment.

Third, was to identify the reasons for starting an in-house recruitment team. For most companies, it’s about costs, but for Investec, it was about the candidate experience. The quality of recruitment was a top priority, not the number of candidates hired.

The fourth thing was to remember to free up human capital 'generalists' to focus on performance consulting and allow the recruitment teams to build the relationships with the in-house clients. This allowed each specialisation to build its own way of working.

Investec also invested in tools that helped make the recruitment process easier. Most corporates forget that the recruiter and coordinator should focus on sourcing of candidates and not spend months trying to understand a system that takes away from their time.

Lastly, Investec made sure that it had the right captain to lead the ship.

My Lessons

  • Hire specialists, not generalists. As much as businesses look for the best sales people with sales experience, the HR directors should also be looking for recruitment specialists instead of people that have always been in HR.
  • Identify your purpose. When I joined Ashburton Investments, the purpose of my job was to reduce costs, reduce time to hire, increase the quality of hire and improve the candidate experience. These were the driving forces that helped me succeed.
  • Build a one-to-one team. In order to build success in a recruitment team, make sure that there is a strong coordinator to support each recruiter. This way, the recruitment specialist will spend more time on sourcing the right candidates, while the coordinators ensure that the right processes are followed.
  • Provide the right tools. When I joined Ashburton Investments, I was lucky enough to get access to a LinkedIn recruiter license. It is hard competing with big recruitment teams in other companies, but what made my job easier were the tools I was given to level the playing field.
  • Reduce the number of your recruitment partners. Make sure that the recruitment agencies you work with are partners and not just suppliers. It is better to give out five vacancies to two recruitment agencies than five vacancies to 15 agencies. This is how you create real partnerships

Save money

Lastly, the in-house recruitment specialists have to remember that they are part of the business, so their partnership with the business is important to their success and the support from the executives is even more important.

In seven months of being at Ashburton Investments, I was able to save R9.4 million in recruitment costs because I learned from my two previous companies. To most HR directors, a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) model is the next best thing compared to in-house recruitment teams. This is mainly because there is a belief that it is easier to outsource recruitment to a company that specialises in recruitment in order to reduce costs. A few big companies have toyed with the idea, while some have implemented the process fully. This is the reason why most RPOs and hybrid in-house recruitment teams fail.