What I have learnt after 6 months “on the dark side”

Headstar recently coaxed one of our latest recruits, Nichola Davies, away from her long-standing career in internal Talent Acquisition (TA) to join the team in late 2023. But what does she make of working in an external agency, what she always saw as the “dark side of recruitment?” Six months in, here is her report…


Yes. The rumours are true.


After 14 years building internal recruitment teams for some very demanding organisations, I have joined the dark side and moved to agency. I’ve finally made the move to the coven.


Gulp. I am now officially an agency recruiter.


Now some of you reading this might be in TA. And utterly disgusted by my defection. But round about now, your curiosity will be creeping in too…


Do you have to wear a shiny suit? Do they all speak in catch phrases? How many of them fund Porsches with 98% of their disposable income?


What’s it really like?


It’s exactly what you think and would expect.


No, I’m joking…


6 months in, here’s my report.


The dark side isn’t actually that dark.


I haven’t yet seen anyone in the classic blue suit, brown shoes uniform (and I know that sentence made you think of someone!)


It isn’t like a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street (well, not at Headstar anyway.)


They do 100% run on coffee (but I’m still a tea girl).


But no-one’s had their phone taped to their hand. Yet.


In fact, if I’m honest, it isn’t that different this side of the fence at all.


Some candidates can be flaky (I know you will emphasise with that).


And some hiring managers are unrealistic.

Sound familiar?


Of course, you do have to sell. And you have a number above your head to deliver.


But that’s not a million miles away from what we’re all used to is it?


I’ve always seen the core of my job as convincing people to engage with me properly and hitting our target number of successful hires.


Same shift. Different warehouse.


My take home so far is this: just as there will be good internal Talent Acquisition teams, there will also be some bad ones. The same is true for recruitment agencies.


You know that conglomerate that will spam your inbox and contact every Hiring Manager in your organisation? Well, on the other side of that are the good agencies that will genuinely listen to what you need, support (and challenge when needed), and be a true partner and extension of your internal recruitment team.


If the leadership is based on the right values, then it works.


So far, so good.


But watch this space. I’m not done yet.


About the Author

Before joining Headstar, Nichola Davies has worked in internal Talent Acquisition and Recruitment teams since 2010. Working her way up from Resourcer to Global Head of TA reporting directly to the board, she has experience in a variety of industries including manufacturing, hospitality, translation and transportation. Nichola’s approach has always been to find the best fit for the business and not just a ‘bum on the seat’ to fill the vacancy.


Interested in hearing more about how we can solve your challenges? We’d love to hear from you.

Nichola Davies



Nichola Davies