How To Run a Successful Recruitment Business

By Tony Restell

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Thousands of new recruitment businesses are started every year, but what steps can you take to ensure yours is one of those that goes on to become hyper-successful? Having worked with hundreds of recruitment business owners, here are some areas to focus on that I have seen have the biggest impact in making an agency successful. Think of this less as a recruitment agency startup checklist... and more as a list of ideas to work through in your business to position it for ongoing success.

How To Run a Successful Recruitment Business


Don’t back away from choosing a niche

I've seen lots of recruitment business owners shy away from really going after one specific niche. The fear is that by being perceived as niche, you'll miss out on engagements that clients might otherwise have turned to you for help in fulfilling.

The problem with this approach is that you miss out far more by not choosing a niche. I could write a massive long blog post on this topic alone,  but here are a few reasons being too much of a generalist will negatively impact on your success...

Firstly, niche suppliers tend to be able to charge a premium - meaning the whole profitability of your business is potentially impacted. Being a specialist in a particular field means, over time, you will earn credibility and gravitas that results in businesses finding you, rather than you always having to hunt down new business. When clients want to work with you, that totally changes the dynamic of the relationship - and the fees you're able to charge - compared with the generalist agency that is always chasing business in competition with countless other generalists.

Everything else you try to achieve will also be negatively impacted by you having no niche focus. Want to get your website ranked highly on Google? Well then you need Google to perceive your website as being expert in a particular field. A generalist site is unlikely to achieve that and is unlikely to achieve backlinks from other companies in that niche sector. So the likelihood of you ever achieving SEO success is undermined. It's the same story when you turn to social media. Whether you want your social media to bring in client leads or attract candidate interest, it's far easier to achieve this if your profiles are a magnet for people in a particular field. If you try to have your social media profiles appeal to too broad an audience, the chances are they’ll end up delighting no-one - meaning it will always be an uphill struggle to get tangible business results from social media.

I could go on and on, but in summary definitely try to carve out a niche for your recruitment business to maximise your chances of success.


Make your website work for you

Most visitors to your website are unlikely to become clients or candidates on their very first visit.  So the primary goal of your website is to capture people's details or enable your business to market to them again over the coming months. This is how you ensure your recruitment business is front of mind at the point at which those clients or candidates do need your help or are ready to make their next career move.

Huge numbers of recruitment business websites are purely a brochure for the business. They talk about the sectors served, maybe provide some case studies or testimonials to lend credibility to the business. But all too rarely do they actually enable the business to be able to follow up with visitors after they've left the site - meaning it’s left to chance whether that clien or candidate will ever return.

Even those businesses that list all their latest jobs and encourage applications from candidates are missing a trick, as are those that offer the option of uploading a CV via their site. A website like that is unlikely to convert more than a few percent of visitors to actually register with the business. That's on the candidate side, on the client side the figure is likely to be even more negligible. So what should your website do instead? Well you should be striving to develop a website that captures the details of as many of your visitors as possible and that has retargeting code set up on it so that you're able to re-market to your visitors on Google, Facebook, Twitter and across the web.

By being creative, you should be able to come up with multiple reasons for both clients and candidates to take some kind of action when they're on the website that provides you with their details or has them requesting to be kept in the loop about future developments in your business. When coupled with a modest budget for remarketing, you should then be able to saturate your niche market with your brand and messaging, such that you are always front of mind when candidates or clients are thinking of working with a recruitment agency.


Outsource or delegate all non-essential tasks

There's always the temptation in a small business to try and do things yourself. Whether it's building your website, working on your SEO, running your social media marketing, sending your invoices, doing your monthly accounts or publishing your email newsletter. The list goes on and on….

The problem with this approach is that it hugely constrains the growth of your business and deflects your attention from the  most value-adding things you can do to make your recruitment business successful. In a small recruitment business, your time is best spent selling to potential clients and delivering on recruitment assignments you have secured. No other activity comes close to generating the revenue for your business of these activities. Therefore, anything that takes your time away from these activities should be avoided.

As your recruitment business grows, your time is then best invested in training the new hires you make to become successful business winners and highly productive recruiters. At no point are the more mundane tasks listed above things that could ever bring greater success to your business than spending time on these core tasks.

As if that weren't enough, it's also the case that you will do these things far less effectively than a specialist -  be that a specialist supplier that you've outsourced to, or a specialist employee that you've hired. Scrimping on costs to do SEO properly or structure your finances in the most efficient manner is going to cost you many times more in the long run. So force yourself to be disciplined and only ever do the most value-adding things you can do in your business.


Invest in technology

If being disciplined about how your own time is deployed in the business is key, so too is investing in all the technologies that can help the rest of your team to massively improve their productivity. This is an area where you as the business leader can have a huge impact on the success of your business. There is a wide array of technologies you can invest in, spanning everything from AI powered candidate sourcing to video interviewing and job board multi-posting; sales tools to boost client win rates, automated follow up tools and SMS integrations to squeeze efficiencies in everything your team does.

Having worked in your niche industry for some time, you are best placed to determine which of these tools has the greatest potential to transform the productivity and speed-to-market of your team. Invest early and invest wisely would be the best advice here. Too many recruitment businesses struggle on, using spreadsheets and internally developed processes that are far less effective than the leading-edge market solutions that you could choose to invest in. The sooner you invest in these tools, the bigger the lead you can build over your competitors and the quicker you’ll strengthen your profitability margins.


What else would you add? Is there anything you've particularly seen impact the success of a recruitment business? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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