About 15 years ago, I was an Account Executive (sales rep) for Nextel Communications with 3.5 years of tenure marketing their wireless solutions to small businesses in Los Angeles and Seattle. I was ready for the next step in my career, though I wasn’t exactly sure what that would be (I knew it would be something sales-related).
As luck would have it, my father was busy running a successful temporary staffing firm in the Seattle area with 4 branches. He offered me the opportunity to join his team in one of the branches, selling staffing solutions to companies that would benefit from such services. Seeing no other reasonable prospects, I took him up on his offer and joined what was at the time a franchise of Remedy Intelligent Staffing.
Fast forward to one year later, I was running the downtown Seattle branch which I’d converted into a direct-hire placement division with a distinct focus on the Finance and Accounting sector. This made sense; only a few months earlier I’d attended an intensive training session with a former district leader from Robert Half who had modified the “Half” model into a digestible and easy-to-implement plan for anyone interested in direct-hire placement. He taught us everything we needed to know about how to secure direct-hire job orders from hiring managers, how to prep candidates for interviews, negotiate offers and make placements.
For those of you reading this who are new to the recruiting field, on the agency side, you’ve got the sales people who go out and find “job orders” and the internal recruiting team who find the candidates to place in those job orders. Direct-hire recruiters, sometimes called Executive Recruiters or even headhunters, focus on doing both sides, or running a “full desk”. They find the job orders AND the candidates and make their own placements, generating a commission on a successful placement based on a % of the candidate they place first year salary.
I hired and trained a group of 3 additional executive recruiters and together they really started cooking, often swapping and sharing each other’s job orders and candidates. We had a good run for about a year, after which time they decided to go off and do it themselves, and formed their own company, which still exists to this day.
What I learned from this experience is that anyone with the willingness to take the time to learn, and some degree of financial motivation, can find success working as an independent recruiter. Sure, it helps if you’re a people person and have some sales experience, but there are plenty of people who make a great living in recruiting without having a sales background.
If you are thinking about starting your own business but are unsure of what kind of business you want to run, recruiting might be a great option for you. There’s very little overhead: you need only a computer, phone and some web-based tools to help you do your job. That’s it – no license or certifications required.
Once you get your first few placements under your belt, you’ll start to expand your network and generate more job orders, which will require more recruiting effort. Some of those job orders may even be for contract labor, a great way to augment your income from direct hire placement (assuming you have the resources to cover payroll). You may even decide to expand your business by hiring a junior recruiter to help you with the load. Really the sky is the limit.
I can speak from experience when I say that owning a recruiting firm has many benefits, not least of which is having the opportunity to meet and work with a huge number of people each day. Unlike working with a fixed good, people are dynamic, ever-changing, so you’ll rarely find yourself bored in a way that you might be if you’re slinging sandwiches out of a Subway franchise every day.
Whatever path you decide to take, congratulations on making the decision to pursue self-employment, and best of luck out there!