Why longevity in your specialisation delivers results

As one of a small group of recruiters who have achieved a million dollar billing year I’m often asked the secret to consistently high billings. There are many factors that effect a consultant’s ability to drive high financial performance, but the two things I think which most add significant value are becoming a true specialist in your field and having longevity in that specialisation.

Recruitment is a competitive game

Across many industries internal recruitment teams are now better than ever; they are talented, tech-savvy, hardworking and increasingly more specialised. When you first start out in recruitment, competitors in other recruitment agencies are often more established and have long-lasting relationships.

Today’s candidates are more astute and aware of who the key recruiters are in their industry so in an industry where there is little barrier to entry and fierce competition, the best way to set yourself up for success is to become a specialist in your field.

Invest in building your specialist skills

Becoming a true specialist requires commitment and hard work. Year one is tough. You are learning the basics of your new specialisation, identifying the right companies to represent, trying hard to secure terms of business with your client, understanding new terminology, getting company structures, understanding requirements of multiple new roles.

Once you start to get all of this you need to build candidate relationships, understanding the drivers of why candidates will move, what are genuine salary levels in the market, what are the great company brands where people want to work (and just as importantly where they don’t want to work) and then you have to build credibility with your candidates. After all, they don’t know you.

There is so much to do and the backdrop of this is that you are trying to make placements while probably facing some financial and KPI pressure.

What you do in the first year of your new specialisation is going to be critical to your future success. Hard work is essential and finding a way to grow your knowledge, credibility and stature in the industry with your clients will pay off in future years.

The good news is that in each subsequent year things should become easier. So why does it get easier?

Your industry knowledge grows every year to the point that when engaging with a client or a candidate your opinion becomes more trusted. As you can share more insights about the industry with your stakeholders they too should share more with you, helping further develop your knowledge base and talent pools.

Looking at the numbers

Think for a minute about how many candidates you engage with each week. I aim to speak to 10 quality candidates per week, formally interview five and place a minimum of one.

That works out to be 480 quality conversations per year, 240 qualified candidates and over 100 placements each year. Multiply this by 10 years (as in my case) and that’s an incredible 4,800 candidate relationships, 2,400 registered candidates you know exceptionally well and more than 1,000 placements.

Add in referrals from candidates to their peers and colleagues and I would anticipate my network has reached 10,000- 15,000 candidates in my specialist areas. Not bad when you think that my network started at zero when I first began in recruiting.

It’s rare now that I take a job brief and don’t have two to three candidates already in mind that I can discuss with the client. That makes my briefing process even tighter as we can discuss actual candidate backgrounds as opposed to the ‘theory’ of what the client is looking for.

Longevity in your specialisation is also important

Of my 1,000 placements a good number have progressed into leadership roles and are now hiring managers who I recruit for. Subsequently, much of their business often comes to me.

From a client perspective a specialist recruiter becomes a genuine source of unique talent. Yes, my clients have access to LinkedIn and can certainly identify prospective talent but they don’t have a relationship with the candidate, understand their career drivers and motivations and what their next opportunity looks like in their goals.

I know all of this from my relationships with them. I also have greater success in securing candidates as they are really open to my calls about roles that genuinely match what they are after.

Taking on the hard roles for a client, providing them with insights from an external perspective and having access to great talent sets you apart from your competition. This is done by having longevity in your specialisation and building your industry knowledge, talent communities and being the go-to recruiter in your space.

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