Market insight Moving jobs Recruitment

5 reasons why top billers move to recruitment agency competitors

Top billers are responsible for generating a large chunk of revenue for recruitment agencies and when you lose one, you will feel it!

If a consultant is a top biller, they’re doing a great job delivering the best talent for their clients. If that consultant moves on, that client is highly likely to move with that recruiter in the future, of course assuming no non-compete rules are broken in the short-term.

But why, if they’re doing so well in your agency, do top billers leave to other agencies? Here are the top 5 reasons we hear from some of the industry’s best billers in Asia.

There’s no one to learn from

The top performers are always hungry to increase their performance and learn more. If they get to a stage however where they become the top biller in the agency, they may feel that they have learnt all they can.

This could be in the form of recruiting processes, such as best practices and advanced recruiting techniques, or perhaps specific to the market the recruiter is specialising, such as niche areas like Quant Trading Technology.

The latter is quite common, especially if the recruiter is working in a large generalist agency. They may see moving to a brand that is only known for their market segment as a good move for them as they can surround themselves with more recruiters in the same market they can learn from.

In these situations, we see some recruiters who are in the SGD $600 – 700k range, who are at the top of their game in their current agency but they want to become a million dollar biller to take the next step up, so they move to an agency who have recruiters billing more than them.

As recruitment becomes more competitive by the hour, especially with the current economy, I can foresee this to become more important over time as a recruiter’s intricate market knowledge becomes more important to differentiate.

They’ve reached a ceiling for career progression

As a recruiter climbs the ranks, they might get to a certain level where there is no more progression, especially if that person is managing a team.

If there is someone above them with some coverage within the consultant’s market who has been there for 10 years and is unlikely to leave, the recruiter may be more receptive to opportunities that would offer them a larger scope.

They are only however receptive at a stage where they’ve been in that position for a while, so generally the recruiter would have served a commendable tenure in the agency.

They’re not keen on the management and get pushed into it

A classic one! Naturally if a recruiter is doing exceptionally well, the agency will want to expand that team in an attempt to generate more revenue. The issue is that, if your top biller is moved into management and as the team expands, the biller has less time to bill, and hence decreases earnings, which leads to dissatisfaction as they lose one of their major motivators.

They may also have no interest in managing at all, and forcing someone into that route could be a recipe for disaster. They will either leave, or not manage well, leading to turnover within the team.

A good strategy in this case is to either hire a peer with clearly defined market segments, or a manager who wants to manage and can bring external experience, however structural changes like this could be very sensitive should be discussed openly and transparently to reduce the chances of someone becoming unhappy.

Your commission scheme isn’t competitive enough for their appetite

An obvious one, but this is one of the top reasons. Recruiters are money motivated and if they hear through the market that other agencies pay more on commission, you’re already at risk of losing them.

This is most prevalent when a recruiter is moving from boutique to boutique, because more often than in global players, in a boutique, a recruiter needs to build their market with fewer relationships and less infrastructure or support from a platform.

The recruiter should always of course consider the platform offered by their current agency that has enabled them to develop into a top biller, but if they get to a point where they no longer need that support, they might make the jump to another agency that pays more.

They’re not happy with the way deals are split

Less common, as the the top billers generally have a good foothold in their market to get 100% revenue recognition for their deals, however some firms have certain structures where the consultant loses a good portion of revenue due to a split structure.

This is a tricky one to get right and it really depends on the structure of your agency. Do you operate 360? 270? 180? Or all? Some agencies offer a 30% split for candidates who are referred internally to other consultants, some offer 0%. Some go up as high as 50%!

Experiencing any of these frustrations?

As an agency specialised in the Rec2Rec market, if we look back at most of our top biller placements over the past year, a majority of them are due to one of these frustrations.

If you’re a recruiter facing some of these frustrations, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn for a confidential chat about your situation and different ways we can help to resolve it.

If you found value in this article, please consider subscribing or following us on LinkedIn to have new articles for recruiters like this delivered directly to your inbox!

Moving jobs Recruitment

5 reasons to join a recruitment agency startup

Joining a startup is perceived to be risky for a number of reasons. The challenges that come with it are immense, such as starting a desk with no candidate or client base or working for a brand with no reputation.

The risk of failure, both as an individual recruiter and collectively as a business, can be far higher compared to joining an established consultancy. So why should you, as a recruiter, take such a leap?

Offsetting the risk is the reward that could come with joining a successful startup and there are, in fact, some convincing reasons why you should join one.

Jump forward 5 years in your career

By joining a newly formed agency, a recruiter can jump ahead by a number of years in their career. In the early years of Charterhouse, I hired an Associate Director into a Managing Director role and over a small number of months, he ended up running a team of 80 people.

Being part of a startup can mean becoming a bigger fish in a smaller pond. You will have a substantial influence on strategy and decisions from the outset. Early joiners will also have a significant impact on the culture and the eventual success of a startup. They write the story of the brand from day one.

As a founder that has seen meteoric growth, I can confidently say that the sharpest memories, and indeed the best resultant war stories, reflect the early days of the startup phase. After all, every business was once a startup. It’s simply a phase in the history of a business.

Take the opportunity to join a startup and jump ahead in your career, influence strategy and nurture a culture.

Make substantial money

Most founders understand the importance of overcoming concerns that potential joiners will have, and often this benefits a recruiter’s income when joining a new firm. There are two ways to ensure your income will grow:

  1. Obviously, you are in a position to negotiate a very competitive base salary. I can only speak for myself, but I can confidently say that I was always prepared to offer a competitive increase on base salary. After all, I wanted to attract top recruiters from my competitors whilst mitigating the perceived risk of moving to our startup. It’s not a long-term strategy, but it is one employed by a number of well-funded recruitment startups.
  2. A startup is also likely to have a very competitive recruitment commission scheme, and certainly one that is designed to both attract and retain recruiters. This is a long-term strategy.

The combination of a competitive salary increase coupled with a very exciting commission scheme goes a long way to alleviating concern of risk.

Build your own desk with limited restrictions

A startup could offer an increase in candidate and client exposure. If you contrast a global firm’s structure with a newly formed business, you may have some restrictions in place such as a salary band or candidates you can’t approach, account managers with ownership over clients or even restricted to working roles based in certain locations of Singapore.

In a startup, very few constraints exist when it comes to the above. There could be flexibility to work a desk you’re really passionate about that no-one is recruiting in, or filling a role in Hong Kong but based in the Singapore office.

On the flip side, you will have to develop clients and relationships from scratch. It’s about as tough as it can get, but it could be worth it in the long-term and you would have picked up some great experience along the way.

Become a future entrepreneur

I think this may be a surprising one to recruiters or founders reading this article. Recruitment is an industry with low barriers to entry and some entrepreneurial consultants desire to form their own startup. What better way can there be to prepare by joining one yourself?

For me, I have always been realistic about the fact that some recruiters will leave you to form their own businesses. I think only an insecure owner is worried about this, simply for the fact it’s going to happen anyway, whether you like it or not.

I can promise you one thing from my experience. Startups are not always what you expect. Running a desk, recruiting, is just one part of it. A vital one for sure, but there are so many challenges to running a new business. It’s a long list of things not many people think about. It includes everything from software selection, accounting, cash flow management, HR, internal recruitment, admin etc. It’s a very long list!

Focus on building your desk but observe all the other factors that will be going on around you. Most of these functions will be fully visible in a small startup.

Flexible environment

This is relevant in the aftermath of COVID-19. So much has changed in the past 15 months and I doubt anyone could have predicted just what was coming and how it has changed the way we work.

Recruiters have had a taste of working from home, relaxed dress codes, greater freedoms, family lifestyle flexibility and an increased reliance on remote technology.

Startups more often than not can offer some of these flexible benefits that may be attractive to recruiters.

What this all means

Taking into account that the startup founder is someone who has demonstrable experience, whilst acknowledging there is a level of risk, there can be very tangible benefits to joining a startup for the right people.

There are of course many challenges to joining a startup, which I will cover in another article.

Whether it’s right for you or not depends on you personally: what motivates you, your approach to recruitment and what you’re aspiring to achieve in the future of your career.

Please do not hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn for some advice and career opportunities within the recruitment industry.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe for next week’s or follow us on LinkedIn to keep in the loop.

Moving jobs Recruitment

How to find the right recruitment agency for you

If you’ve been recruiting for a few years and you’ve started to experience early signs that indicate it’s time to explore the next step in your career, you might be wondering how you can shortlist agencies that would be the right fit for you.

As a recruitment to recruitment consultant at Tiger Partners and now Co-Founder at Vocay, I have spent 4 years of my career speaking to recruiters every day to understand their motivations behind a move to a new agency. From these conversations, I would suggest a list of agencies which I felt were a good fit for the recruiter.

What should you think about when choosing your next recruitment agency and where will you find these agencies? In this guide, I will share my advice about how you can determine what agencies are a good fit for you and where you can get started with your search.

Choosing a practice

As a recruiter, you will have developed a network within your practice whether you are a generalist or specialist. The first consideration to think about is whether you want to continue specialising in your practice or whether you want to move into a new one.

If you’re a specialist, the advantages of staying in your niche are obvious. You have spent months or even years building a network and trust with clients. By staying in your specialist area, you’ll be able to build upon your existing network in your new agency and hit the ground running.

If you’re a specialist but you just don’t find your market interesting, it might be time to consider changing your practice. Being successful in recruitment is all about being fully motivated. If you’re not enjoying recruiting in your practice then your motivation and performance will suffer as a result of it. If you change practice, there is no doubt it will present a steep learning curve but if you’re motivated and you have a long-term outlook, it might be time to take the plunge.

If you’re a generalist, you’ll have to decide if you want to continue being a generalist or if you want to become a specialist. Most agencies in the recruitment industry are specialists or are becoming specialists as it allows consultants to become experts in their field and well-networked.

Start by choosing a function

Getting into the nitty gritty, you should think about your functional specialism. Are you a Tech recruiter specialising in Software Engineering or are you a Tech recruiter specialising in Sales? Both functions involve working with very different candidate profiles although they’re both in Tech.

Be self aware about your personality when choosing a function. For example, one question you could ask yourself is: do you work better with reserved, more introverted candidates or would you prefer to work with extroverted personality types?

Choose an industry

In addition to thinking about your functional specialism, you should think about the client base you would like to work with. Some recruitment desks may specialise in the same function, but two consultants could be covering a totally different client base. Do you want to place Marketing professionals into Banks & FS institutions or would you prefer to place Marketing professionals into E-Commerce businesses?

Choose a perm or contracting desk

Perm and contracting recruitment is so different but which one should you consider?

Perm recruitment involves a lengthy or slow-paced process, between 1 – 3 months of developing a relationship with a candidate with a chunky fee at the end of the process. The fee is a one off and you’re on to the next one after that.

Naturally, permanent recruitment can involve developing more in-depth relationships with candidates over a long period of time as positions take longer to fill and finding the right candidate can be very complex.

On the contrary, contracting recruitment involves a very short and rapid process, quick turnarounds between 1 – 14 days and high volume. The fee is a margin on the candidate’s monthly salary and is often paid in monthly instalments. It’s a smaller amount of revenue at first compared to perm, but there is huge potential to build up a book of recurring revenue.

Contracting is a fast growing business in Asia. During COVID-19, the solution has become handy for many organisations taking a cautious approach to expansion. Professionals are also becoming more familiar and open to the concept of moving from a permanent role to a contract position.

Contracting recruiters are adaptable, nimble and quick on their toes.

Choosing an agency model

Understanding your own personal approach to recruitment will be vital when exploring new agencies to ensure that you align with their models.

Are you a consultative recruiter that enjoys developing long-term relationships or are you a recruiter that likes to move quick and focus on hitting ambitious KPIs?

Most agencies will incorporate a combination of both, but some will emphasise one more than the other.

Self-driven or structured environments

Small to mid size agencies (headcount of 1 – 250) commonly operate flat hierarchies with self-driven or independent recruiters. This environment is good for recruiters who prefer to have an influence on the way they recruit, tailored KPI’s or targets for their desk and a level of autonomy.

Mid to large size agencies commonly operate models that are very structured with recruiters who are able to hit ambitious pre-set KPIs or targets. This environment is good for recruiters who prefer to work with proven structures where there is no ambiguity in the recruitment process.

Seniority level

Another consideration you should think about is the seniority level of the candidates you want to place and whether the agency covers or has access to those levels.

Junior to mid level models, which involve small fees and high volume are becoming more common as agencies have found a niche where there are less competitors (most agencies compete in the mid – senior level space). Firms like Michael Page and Robert Walters have built specialised brands such as Page Personnel and Walters People to focus on these areas.

Mid to senior level models, which involve larger fees and lower volume, is a space where most recruitment agencies are competing and one that can be lucrative for the recruiter.

When choosing between the two, think about how comfortable you are working with junior or senior candidates and how keen you are to do high or low volume recruitment.

Senior or C-level placements are only covered by a handful of agencies and if you want to explore the C-suite space, you might want to consider transitioning into retained executive search.

Your future manager

Your manager is the person you will develop the closest relationship with during your tenure at your next agency, and the most influential person when it comes to being successful.

Finding a manager that you can both work and click well with is a must. Sometimes you might be interviewing with two very similar agencies and it is the manager that sets them apart.

Common characteristics that recruiters look for in a manager include mentors, people developers, transparency and high emotional intelligence levels.

You can even go a step further and reference-check your manager by speaking to recruiters who have worked with them in the past to make sure there are no red flags.

The only time, however, that you can really determine whether you’ll click with a manager is when you actually meet them.

Career path

Are you thinking about becoming a manager? Do you want to be a manager from day 1 or would you prefer to be an individual contributor (IC)?

Some agencies operate a very flat structure where nearly all recruiters are IC’s. If you’re looking to become a manager, this type of agency is probably not going to be the right fit for you unless they have a particular role to manage a large team or plans to become more hierarchical.

Other agencies are very hierarchical where there are layers upon layers of management, and managerial roles often come up now and again as a result.

Most agencies, regardless of the size or hierarchy, offer access to an IC path if someone would just prefer to bill.

Your career path may be dependent on the role itself rather than the agency.

Long-term vision of the company

In addition to your personal career path, another important factor to consider is the agency’s long-term vision.

To ensure a successful and long tenure, it’s crucial that you buy in to the long-term vision of that agency. After all, you’re not just coming in to a be a recruiter, you’re coming in to help and play an important part in the success of the business.

Company culture

Recruitment is a hard job that requires a lot of time and effort to become successful. Working alongside like-minded people makes the journey enjoyable and is crucial to maintaining motivation levels.

Company culture can sometimes be related to the size of the agency.

Large agencies might have an entire floor dedicated to the sales room with high energy where you can bounce ideas off each other, listen to consultants around you to observe recruitments styles and meet people from many different backgrounds and cultures. Find out more about the culture and benefits of joining a larger agency here.

Small to mid size agencies will have a sales floor where everyone knows each other’s name, where there is a sense of unity and collaboration. Find out more about the culture and benefits of joining a boutique agency here.

Think about where you’re at in your career, what you’re looking to get out of the business and what you enjoy outside of work. Are you a junior recruiter looking to experience the buzz of a global brand or are you an experienced recruiter looking for a self-driven environment? Do you enjoy after work drinks? Do you prefer taking days off to support local charities?

Earning potential

Most recruiters are driven by money and if it’s not number one priority, it will probably be number two or number three.

Earning potential is a hard one to decipher before meeting an agency in person. Commission schemes are often kept confidential until meeting face to face or speaking to a rec2rec agency.

When it comes down to it, a majority of commission schemes in the market, although varied in structure, end up returning a similar percentage return on your billings.

The percentage return of your billings, including base salary and commission, is considered to be competitive around 32%.

If you’re earning less than 32%, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad commission scheme. You may be working with a large global player who offers access to established relationships with clients, allowing you to maintain a strong pipeline without the pressure of business development. Although your percentage return is lower, you could be earning more money than a recruiter who’s yielding 35%, but taking home less. If that’s not the case, you might not be billing enough to hit higher percentage tiers.

If you’re earning more than 32%, you’re earning a competitive amount in the market.

In the early stages of your career, finding a platform with established relationships that has a good percentage return is the sweet spot. When you become more experienced and you’re ready to step into a new environment where the risk of starting or building a desk is higher, you’ll have the opportunity to reap the rewards with higher percentages.

If you’d like to know more about how commission schemes work or if you’re not making enough money with your scheme, read our ultimate guide to commission here.

Start your search

If this guide has helped to determine what type of opportunity or agency would be the right fit for you, get started by connecting with me on LinkedIn or email at

If you’re not actively looking out, follow our company page on LinkedIn or subscribe to our free newsletter to keep in the loop on the latest opportunities.

Moving jobs Recruitment

5 signs it’s time to move to another recruitment agency

Some recruiters move to other agencies because they want to, some move because they have to. These two reasons are commonly referred to as pull and push factors.

Sometimes it can be tough to pin down the key motivations behind why you’re thinking about making a move, but it’s crucial to flesh these out so you can make sure that the next agency you join is the right fit for you.

In this article, we explore the 5 common signs that it’s your time to make the move.

You’ve hit a glass ceiling 

A glass ceiling occurs when a recruiter hits a point in their role or agency where they feel that growth or development is stagnant or has stalled. There are a few different reasons why a recruiter might start feeling this way.

They could be part of an agency that doesn’t have the platform, reputation or experience working at a very senior level or on the other end of the scale, a colleague may have the remit to focus on senior roles whilst you’re focussing on junior to middle. They may identify that they would prefer to focus on lower volume but senior roles in the long-term.

They may be part of a team that has grown exceptionally, which is of course a positive, but when the desk grows too big, some recruiters may feel limited to a niche area that they previously covered, whether it’s restricted by the practice itself or the geographical coverage.

Another common one is where a manager has been in their position for a while and that prevents the recruiter from advancing further in the hierarchy.

Often there are no qualms when it comes to the business itself and the recruiter might be happy in their current environment, but they have recognised that change is necessary in order to progress their careers. Sometimes this is one of the hardest decisions to make, but it’s a sign.

An issue with your manager

A recruiter’s relationship with their manager is arguably the most crucial factor influencing happiness and performance at work. A manager can play a huge part in the recruiter’s motivation levels and career development.

The interview process is the point where recruiters meet their managers and assess their suitability as a role model, mentor and leader. Can this person provide you with the knowledge, tools, motivation and direction that you need to be successful?

90 – 120 minutes of interviews with a future boss should give a good indication of this, but unfortunately it’s a limited amount of time considering that this is someone you’ll be working with for the next 2 – 5 years, or even longer. You have to take the plunge. Make that decision and analyse how things are tracking a few months or years down the line.

A good manager will lead from the front, provide direction, training and promote a healthy internal culture within the team. Recruitment can be an emotional business at times, so having a manager with a high EQ is also crucial.

Potential issues that might crop up in the future are a straightforward clash of personalities or style of recruitment, subtle favouritism within the team, a feeling that a manager has been promoted too quickly (a tricky one as everyone has to start somewhere), feeling overlooked or under promoted and lastly a specific incident that has soured the relationship.

Change is inevitable within every agency and, unfortunately, this means that managers will come and go. Recruiters who have a strong relationship with their departing manager sometimes move with them.

The first port of call to any management issues, of course, is to try and resolve the issue with the manager. Transparency and honesty are the pillars of any relationship, and this is no exception in a professional capacity. If you feel like you have exhausted all avenues trying to repair the relationship and it hasn’t worked out, then it’s time to look at either transferring desks or moving to a new agency.

Misalignment in recruitment styles

Similar to the above, hopefully the recruiter will have obtained an accurate and truthful insight into the way that their agency practices recruitment during the interview process. Most of the time recruiters can suss it out, but in a few unfortunate cases, there can be a misalignment.

Examples of misalignment in recruitment style could be a disagreement in the targets and KPIs set, if a manager has a different vision or if business is conducted in a way that is deemed to be morally questionable or unethical.

If the agency doesn’t deliver on their core values or expectations, or if any major changes are made, this may be a sign that it’s time to move on.

Shift in company culture and structure

It goes without saying that recruitment is no easy game, so company culture helps to keep motivation levels high. If there is a shift in company culture, this can drastically affect a recruiters’ drive.

Structural changes that cause a drastic shift in day-to-day operations, such as a change in reporting line or a change in hiring strategy, can count as some of the factors that shift company culture. Another one could be a change in leadership, such as the departure of an MD and the entrance of a new one that brings a new style of recruitment. Sometimes the shift can be gradual and can happen over the period of 2 to 3 years rather than immediately.

On the flip side, a change in the recruiters’ lifestyle or a life event may also create a preference for a different type of culture.


Money talks. It’s rarely the sole reason driving a move, but it’s still an important factor to consider.

A common sign is when there is an adverse change in commission structure or word going around in the market that your commission structure is not as attractive as others. The maturing of a recruiter and the realisation that they can make more money in other agencies may happen after 1 – 2 years in their first recruitment role.

Recognising these signs

There are a number of clues which indicate that it’s time to seek new opportunities, whether it’s for career development reasons or misalignments with your current agency. 

Some of these signs may arise immediately, but some may arise over years of tenure and the agency you once joined is no longer the same.

Whatever sign it is, it’s crucial to identify them when they start happening. You can look at the reasons and determine if the problem can be solved, which obviously saves the hassle of resigning, or if the move is needed to advance your career.

Recognising the signs will help you answer the crucial question around your reasons for leaving your current firm in interviews, as well as helping you to determine if you’re the right fit for the new agency.

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Moving jobs Recruitment

How to change your specialism in recruitment

After spending a number of years recruiting in your specialist industry, the economy is bound to have shifted along with your personal interests. Every recruitment agency is talking about a lucrative, up and coming market and you have a passion for that sector. You’re considering changing your specialism.

Changing specialism is a common driving force behind a recruiter’s decision to seek a new opportunity. It can offer a fresh new perspective, career advancement and it might be a desk you’re personally passionate about. Hands down, the most sought-after market that recruiters want to recruit in today and over the past few years, is Technology.

A majority of recruitment agencies are open to hiring a recruiter who wants to change practice if they understand their motivations and spot their drive.

In this article, we explore how a recruiter can approach changing practice with the end goal of landing an offer.

Evaluate your current specialism

Your new market might sound exciting. A tech startup has just raised $4 million in funding and you want to be the recruiter that fills those new technical roles. Before jumping ship, it’s important to evaluate your current position by considering the implications of changing practice.

Walking away from your practice means walking away from a network you have spent time and effort building. We can sometimes take our position for granted, losing sight of the challenges along the way and forgetting how long it took to build client relationships.

Evaluate what’s driving you to change practice. It could be that you’re burnt out, that you don’t see much growth in your market or that you’re extremely passionate about the new sector.

If you have the drive to join a new desk and you accept the implications, you’re ready to move practice.

Research markets and choose a new specialism

Once you’ve evaluated your current practice, research your new practice to finalise which industry you’d like to specialise in.

If you have your heart set on one practice, start researching it by using online resources. A quick google search can give you a macro overview of your market. Researching live jobs, who is hiring and client contacts can give you a micro overview.

Seek advice by talking to your peers and business colleagues. There is no better place to research a market than by talking to the people who are already recruiting in it. If you’ve worked at one or two agencies, you’ll likely know a couple of recruiters who are covering your desired sector. Try to meet them in person, be open and honest with them so that you can pick their brain without being too intrusive. Make sure to buy them a coffee or a drink!

If you’re not sure which practice you want to join next, identify if you’re being pushed or pulled into a new sector. If you’re being pushed due to bad market conditions, consider covering the same function but in a different industry. For example, if you’re an Accounting & Finance recruiter specialising in Retail & FMCG, consider staying in your function but switching to another industry, such as Healthcare or E-Commerce.

Think about the short to long-term implications on moving to a particular practice. During COVID-19, a number of industries have been hit so hard, such as Travel, that it may take years to recover. Other markets such as E-Payments are thriving during the pandemic and growth is expected to continue post-COVID.

Take action

Once you’ve completed your preliminary research and chosen a new practice, you’re ready to take action. You have three options.

If your current recruitment agency is covering your chosen practice, the first option is to stay at your current company but request a desk transfer. The benefits of this option are that it’s a quicker process, you’ve already built a reputation as a consultant and it could be a comfortable transition.

If your current recruitment agency is not covering your chosen practice, the second option is to launch a new practice from scratch for your current company. This may be a more challenging route to consider with a lot of self-learning involved, but you’ll already be comfortable with the environment and the people you have around you.

Finally, the last option is to consider external opportunities and research new companies that cover your practice. The benefits of this option are the beauty of choice and that the new company may have a more established desk or Learning & Development team to help support the transition.

How to prepare for interviews

Whether you’re moving internally or externally, you’ll have to complete a number of interviews to secure the role. This is your opportunity to convey your thought process behind the move, your research and knowledge of the new market.

Be prepared to explain your thought process from start to end. It’s important that the interviewer understands your drivers, motivations and decision making process. Talk them through the implications of leaving your current desk and the opportunity that the new desk presents, coupled with your passion for the sector. This will help you convince the interviewer that it’s a well-thought out and calculated move.

Roll your sleeves up with your market research. You’ve already completed some research to determine whether your desired practice is right for you, but you need to go deeper. Find out who’s hiring by taking a look at LinkedIn jobs. Create a spreadsheet and include employer names, job titles and locations. Make a second spreadsheet to list up to 25 potential clients in this space. An easier way to approach this could be constructing a business plan for your new practice, printing it out and taking it with you to the interview.

To really impress your interviewer, debunk the jargon. Go back to the job descriptions, read through the roles and understand what clients look for in a candidate.

Identify competing recruiters and share additional market intel; this indicates, not only that you know your market inside out, but that you know your competition as well. If you’re entering into a highly competitive market such as Technology, you need to talk about how you’re going to position yourself and what value you will add to your clients over competing recruiters.

It’s also worth noting that changing practice may compromise any incrementation in your base salary. Every situation is different, but in most cases, it will take more time to become profitable and recruitment agencies have to budget accordingly.


Changing practice can be an emotional decision as you walk away from a market you have spent years building, but it might just offer the career advancement you need to take a step forward in your long-term ambitions.

To summarise, here is how you can change practice:

  • Evaluate your current practice; consider the implications of walking away from it
  • Research new practices and choose a practice that is right for you
  • Take action and research companies that specialise in your desired practice
  • Prepare accordingly for interviews

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Moving jobs Recruitment

3 reasons why you should join a boutique recruitment agency

If you’re about to make a decision to change jobs, you might be wondering what type of recruitment agency is going to fit you best.

This will depend on a couple of factors: what stage are you at in your career? What company culture are you looking to be a part of? What are you looking to achieve there?

A boutique can be defined as a recruitment agency that has a headcount of anywhere from 1 to 200 employees or less than 20 employees in each office. Whilst the range is vast, you can separate boutiques into local and global players. Some boutiques may have a smaller headcount and focus on a specialist practice purely on the local market, whilst others have a larger headcount and operate a number of international offices.

In this article, we explore 3 reasons why you should join a boutique recruitment agency to help determine whether it’s the right choice for you at this stage in your career. 

1. Career progression 

There are a plethora of career development opportunities available to you by joining a boutique recruitment agency.

Flat organisational structure

Boutique recruitment agencies can offer a flat, dynamic organisational structure. Due to a lower total headcount, there are often fewer layers of management hierarchy, which means there’s a great opportunity to climb the ladder quickly if you put the work in. You will be given autonomy to make your own decisions and be fully accountable for your successes.

Another huge benefit of working amongst a flat structure is getting more one-on-one time with senior leaders in the business. This can be an invaluable learning experience, especially as a junior consultant. As you climb the ladder and earn the trust of senior figures in the business, you will naturally be exposed to, and perhaps be actively involved with, strategic and business-critical decision making.

Tailored training approach

Training and development is often tailored to each individual, based on their current strengths and areas for improvement. I was fortunate enough to experience this firsthand, when I accepted my first entry-level role as a Consultant at a boutique agency in Bangkok. I received hands-on, one-on-one training from the founder of the business. My manager had single handedly built the business himself and he was 100% invested in both my success and the performance of the business overall. I took away crucial learnings from my time in that business which I still put into practice today.


Many boutiques choose to specialise in one or two particular areas within recruitment, as opposed to offering recruitment services across multiple industries.

Some of the larger global boutiques who can support a bigger headcount, opt to operate multiple specialist agencies under their ‘umbrella’. Take the SR Group for example, which consists of Brewer Morris (Accounting & Finance), Carter Murray (Sales & Marketing), Frazer Jones (Human Resources), Taylor Root (Legal) and SR Search (executive search arm).

What does this mean for you as a recruiter? Joining a niche, specialised business will give you the platform to become a true expert in your chosen desk. Many boutiques have long standing and exclusive relationships with clients who are hiring specifically in your space. You will be surrounded by a team of professionals who specialise in your niche, and have been doing so for years. They will be able to share the knowledge you will need to instill complete confidence in both existing and new clients.

2. Culture 

The culture of a business is so important when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. It’s a crucial element to the success and longevity of a business, but also one of the hardest things to get right.

Boutiques are able to exert a level of control over the culture they implement across their business. Achieving a consistent, healthy internal culture across a small business is easier to sustain, simply because the team headcount is lower.

Working for a smaller boutique can mean stepping into a self-driven work environment. Many of the boutique firms – especially owner-operator businesses – are less likely to have internal L&D teams, so they prefer to hire experienced consultants.

The culture that suits you best will very much depend on the stage you’re at in your career, and what you’re looking to get out of your time with a particular business.

3. High earning potential 

Money can be one of the major drivers behind working in recruitment. Similar to any sales-driven role, recruiters are paid their base salary alongside commission. Put simply, the more revenue you generate, the bigger your paycheck becomes. 

Boutique recruitment agencies tend to offer transparent and highly competitive commission structures. They are able to do so because their business costs are low, which means they can be generous with how much commission they allocate to their consultants.

For a boutique recruitment agency, offering an attractive commission scheme can be a strong pull factor for a recruiter and can help to retain consultants in the long-term.

Find out if you’re on a competitive scheme in our guide to commission schemes in recruitment.

Key takeaways

If you’re moving jobs, you might be wondering if a boutique recruitment agency is the right fit for you. Consider these factors when weighing up your options: 

  • Organisational structures in boutique agencies tend to be more flexible and dynamic, which can be a huge advantage when it comes to climbing the career ladder e.g. more accessible, fast path to promotion
  • Fewer layers also gives you more access to senior leaders and figureheads in the business, which can be an invaluable learning experience
  • Boutique agencies often specialise in niche functions and industries. This serves as a great platform, providing you with the tools you need to become a true specialist and expert in your chosen patch
  • Smaller firms can often sustain a consistent, healthy internal culture due to a lower number of heads 
  • Boutiques offer competitive and definitive commission structures, with high earning potential

On the flip side, look out for my next post where I’ll be exploring 3 reasons why you should join a global recruitment agency. Subscribe to have it delivered directly to your inbox.

Moving jobs Recruitment Template Training

How to write a business plan for recruitment in 2024 (template included)

Writing a business plan in recruitment has always played a crucial part in the interview process for a number of recruitment agencies around the world.

A comprehensive business plan can demonstrate a recruiter’s commitment, knowledge and commercial acumen. During economic uncertainties in 2023, these qualities are more important than ever.

Arriving at an interview armed with a comprehensive business plan before you’re even asked will no doubt set yourself apart from other recruiters.

During economic uncertainties, managers will need to present a business case to leadership for budget approval in order to make a hire. Your business plan will be an important element of this business case. An impressive business plan could be the difference between landing an offer today, or falling into a pipeline of other candidates.

In this article, we share a step-by-step guide outlining how to create a comprehensive business plan. We walk through the key components and include examples.

At the end of the article, you can download a free recruitment business plan template which is tailored towards the key components mentioned in this article.


A business plan should be packed full of relevant information but should be compressed and to the point. Avoid verbiage, stay specific and keep to 4 – 6 pages.


Start with a title. Include your name and the company you’re writing the business plan for. A little personalisation will go a long way.

Underneath your title, outline the objective of your business plan and again personalise it towards the agency you’re interviewing with. While you have the hiring manager’s attention, this paragraph is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how comprehensive your business plan is. The aim is to capture the hiring manager’s interest so they continue to read each component:

“The objective of this business plan is to outline the value I can add to employer’s name.

In this business plan, I have highlighted my specialism, hiring activity in my market, my candidate and client strategies, my methodology, how I plan to recruit through economic uncertainties in 2023, my competition and my personal revenue projections over 12 months.”

You can use this paragraph as a way to introduce your business plan verbally if you’ve called up a hiring manager. You can also use this extract in a cold email.

Your specialisation

This is a crucial positioning statement for your value-add. It sets out precisely where your network and experience lies and what you intend to bring to the table in your new role.

Your specialisation can be described clearly by outlining what roles you will specialise in, what industries you will target, what level of seniority you will focus on and what geographies you will cover.

For ease of reading, you can use each component as a title and use bullet points to expand upon your answers.

Taking a Technology recruiter as an example:

What roles I will specialise in:

  • Product Management permanent roles
  • UX/UI Design permanent roles

What industries I will target:

  • E-Commerce
  • Series A – C funded technology startups (high investment, high growth and high volume of roles)

What level of seniority I will focus on:

  • Mid to senior (120 – 180k salary range for Product Managers, 140 – 200k salary range for Designers)

What geographies I will cover:

  • Based in Singapore, the local market will be my core market
  • Secondary markets include Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur due to less competition from recruiters and high volume of roles

Hiring activity trends

The hiring activity trends section provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate and portray your knowledge of the market.

The 3 important components of this section are: hiring activity over the past 3 years, hiring activity for next year and how you predict hiring activity to shift beyond that.

Utilise your own knowledge of the market but back it up with research gained from reputable sources related to your market e.g. Tech in Asia, Tech Crunch, Channel News Asia, The Straits Times or The Financial Times.

You’ll want to cover how hiring activity has increased or decreased, what the drivers of growth are in your industry and what the threats and challenges are within your sector.

Candidate strategies

Moving on from market trends, this section indicates how you will acquire candidates for your desk. It offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate the experience you’ve learnt in candidate management from your previous firm, but also an opportunity for the employer to ensure that your approach aligns with theirs.

3 key components of this section include: how you will generate candidate leads, what challenges you expect to face and how you will overcome these challenges.

Taking a Front Office Banking & Financial Services recruiter as an example:

How do I plan to generate candidate leads:

  • Direct headhunting using a LinkedIn Recruiter account, this costs approximately $X amount, the key benefits being access to a high volume of InMails and enhanced search capability. This has been the sourcing tool for 60% of my previous placements

Challenges I expect to face:

  • In light of economic uncertainties in 2023, highly sought-after candidates may be risk-averse and may not see this as a good time to move jobs

How I will overcome these challenges:

  • I will develop relationships with these candidates for the future but I will adjust my sourcing strategy accordingly by increasing volume of direct approaches

Client strategies

A similar section to candidate strategies but geared towards clients. Arguably more important than candidate strategies during a recession as the market could be job-short – even in the good times, strong business development capabilities in recruiters are harder to find.

This section includes 6 key components including how you plan to onboard new clients, how you plan to sustain relationships with clients for repeat business, what industries your clients are in, the challenges you expect to face and how you will overcome these challenges.

Take these bullet points as a basic example:

How I plan to onboard new clients:

  • During a recession, I plan to cultivate relationships by helping and consulting clients on non-recruitment related issues, such as advising clients on the current state of the market
  • I plan to generate leads by making 25 cold calls per day during the ramp-up period, to again offer support and advice where needed, and to leverage any open roles
  • A soft approach of connecting with hiring managers, HR contact and C-Level candidates on LinkedIn, to establish working relationships and eventually convert into clients

How I plan to sustain relationships with current clients and win repeat roles:

  • The most important way to sustain relationships is by offering a service that is superior to competitors. That is by being transparent, sticking to deadlines and delivering results
  • Regularly catch up with clients on a monthly basis to see how they’re doing and see if you can generate new roles
  • Keep yourself updated on company news and congratulate clients on milestones e.g. if they generate a Series C round of funding

What industries I will target clients in:

  • E-Commerce
  • Series A – B funded technology startups

Challenges I expect to face:

  • During a recession there is less of an appetite to use agencies due to an unprecedented volume of great candidates available in the market

How I will overcome these challenges:

  • Offer free support to companies currently not using agencies, provide an impressive service and convert into paying client post-recovery

The 6th component is “examples of target clients” and this is where you can really demonstrate tangible market knowledge. Use company names, find the potential contact in each company and add your comments, such as the volume of roles you expect from that client. 5 examples should be enough to peak your hiring manager’s interest.

You can use a table to display this information with ease:

The company namePotential client contactMy comments
Company nameContact nameThis hiring manager is at the senior end so I pick up mid-senior roles for their team. Given they’re working for a Series B, I expect to pull in about 6 roles per year from this contact

It goes without saying that you should never be tempted to use information that is proprietary to your previous employer. This information can be openly found with some basic LinkedIn research.

My methodology

Are you a recruiter that is focussed on crunching numbers? Are you a recruiter who is focussed on cultivating long-term relationships? In this section, you can include a few quick bullet points to explain how you approach recruitment. This information gives your hiring manager an indication about whether you hold similar values and whether you have similar working styles.

How you can adapt to recruiting during a possible economic downturn

This section is a new one in response to market conditions in 2023 but can demonstrate how you are prepared to deal with current and upcoming challenges.

You can use this section as the title and include bullet points to outline how you will adapt to these market conditions.

My key competitors

Which recruiters and agencies offer the greatest competition? Demonstrating your knowledge in this area highlights that you are commercially aware outside of your core market.

Include about 5 different competitors who are directly competing in your patch. You can use the table below to display this information:

The company nameThe name of the recruiter in your fieldMy comments
Company nameRecruiter nameThis recruiter has a well-established presence in this market, however they have less of a presence in UX/UI roles, which is a market I feel I can pick up

Personal revenue and target projections

In many business plans, financial projections are of utmost importance and can demonstrate your commercial acumen. If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den, you’ll know what happens when you don’t know your numbers!

Project your personal revenue for 4 quarters. You can start your calculations by predicting the average annual salary of a candidate in your patch. You can project your average percentage fee agreed with clients and from there you can calculate your average fee. Once you have this, you can predict the amount of placements you’ll be making per month.

Make sure your revenue projections are realistic and achievable. Avoid the temptation to predict vastly optimistic revenues, especially during a possible recession. You must allow time to ramp-up and there must be a logical relationship between your historical and predicted revenues.

The plan only includes project revenue. Your historical revenue should be on your CV.

Take the below as an example:

My predicted average annual salary of candidates:

  • $140,000

My predicted average percentage fee agreed with the client:

  • 22%

My predicted average fee:

  • $30,800

My predicted average placements per month

  • 1

My projected revenue over 12 months

Personal revenue ($SGD)$061,60092,40092,400
Number of placements0233

Underneath, you can also include the KPIs you will set yourself to guide you in achieving these numbers. For example, you can set yourself a guideline for how many CVs you need to send, how many candidate meetings you need to arrange, how many client meetings you need to arrange and so on.

The template

We’ve constructed a free template built around the components mentioned above, so you can create your own for when you reach out to hiring managers.

To download this template, please add your email below and you’ll be redirected to the template.


This step-by-step guide should give your hiring manager a clear idea of your plan. If executed successfully, you’ve already demonstrated your commitment, knowledge and commercial acumen before even attending an interview.

The way you’ve structured your plan will give your hiring manager a very clear indication of your methodology and whether you’d fit their structure. Keep in mind that if your methodology is focused on high volume recruitment, it’s not going to work well with an executive recruitment agency.

As a next step, learn this plan inside and out. Be prepared to pitch your plan to your hiring manager and answer detailed questions surrounding each component.

Leave your interviewer with no room for concern and secure that role! Lastly, if you enjoyed the article, please consider subscribing or following us on LinkedIn to have new articles for recruiters like this delivered directly to your inbox.