You may be familiar with the phrase “an inch wide and a mile deep” but have you applied that to a recruitment specialty? Basically, it means you develop a specific expertise (“an inch wide“) but then dig so deep that you have more market knowledge than your competitors (“a mile deep”). While it may take more time to build a niche or micro-niche, you may find there are more opportunities for sustained growth when compared to a business philosophy that tries to be everything to everyone.
When developing a recruitment specialty, options include focusing on an occupation, focusing on an industry, or focusing on a geography. For a micro-niche, combine two or more options. From a marketing standpoint, having a defined niche makes it easier for you to target clients and candidates. You’ll know precisely which clients you can help — and more importantly, those which fall outside your wheelhouse. From a client or candidate standpoint, how do you think they begin searching for a recruitment partner? For a chemical plant client in need of an engineering manager, what sounds like a better match: “we recruit engineers for all facets of the chemical industry” or “we connect employers with the best top-quality candidates in a variety of industries?” While the second phrase *might* include deep knowledge of engineering roles in the chemical industry, it’s going to take the client a lot more time and effort to figure that out. Today I saw a recruitment website that said “actuarial recruitment services for life insurance.” Wow! That is a niche-within-a-niche.
Once you’ve defined your recruitment specialty, you can get to work building a list of all the potential clients within that space. Now you can target based on size – revenue, number of employees, locations, whatever. Or maybe you just want to deal with agricultural chemicals. Since we know most clients aren’t paying fees for entry-level candidates, you can start building your pipeline of candidates with ___ years of experience. Maybe you want to build a community for young professionals so that when they reach the desired level of experience, you already know each other and have a relationship. You may even find you are able to command higher fees from your clients if you are “the” known specialist in a particular niche.
While it’s tempting for many recruiters to say yes to a wide range of search capabilities, it’s likely somewhat difficult to fulfill those commitments. If the last time you placed an accountant was five years ago, there is a whole lot of industry information that has changed since then – new laws, new job skills (and titles), new technology. Your pipeline of old candidates is probably not current, and there are five more years worth of candidates to uncover and recruit. I believe most clients would prefer someone who is actively recruiting in the area where they need help as opposed to someone who occasionally dabbles there.
Once you have a client onboard, they may approach you with occasional roles that fall outside your niche. You may decide to work on these, you may decline them, or you may work cooperatively with a recruitment partner. Working with a trusted partner can help you solidify your client relationship so they feel less compelled to work with multiple recruitment firms. You can continue to offer the service your client has come to expect, while your recruitment partner can provide candidates so that you aren’t spending time trying to learn a new specialty in a short amount of time.
While there are many successful generalist recruitment firms, I believe moving forward the most successful recruiters will be those who have a narrowly defined specialty, with deep knowledge of both the candidate pool and the clients within that niche.