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.
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.
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.