Finding good staff can be frustrating and time-consuming, which is why many businesses turn to a recruitment agency to help them in their search.

With unemployment rates declining and London’s vibrant and diverse talent pool bigger than ever, recruitment agencies must step up and do their bit to grow the economy.

Running your own recruitment agency can be an incredibly rewarding business venture: you’ll get to pick up a greater percentage of commission when you find that perfect candidate. However, there are several risks you’ll need to mitigate and overcome in order to establish your agency within an increasingly popular marketplace.

Starting a new recruitment agency

So let’s give you the most important aspects to get right when setting up your very own recruitment agency from scratch:

Start-up costs

The cost of setting up your own recruitment business will ultimately depend on how much you are willing to commit; whether it’s using long-term savings, bank loans or working to a tight budget, one of the first things you need to do is detail the base line costs of starting up.

One of the most important start-up costs will be a website, giving you the capability to publish jobs on a dashboard or database for professionals to view. Depending on your own digital skills, you may be able to use a budget-level content management system (CMS), but should you have more bespoke requirements then this may cost significantly more for an agency or freelancer to prepare – we’re talking four-figure sums here at the very least.

You’ll also have to make an important decision about CV databases. Agencies can pay web-based job boards for access to CVs submitted to these sites, which tends to cost anything from £500 to £5,000 a month. A recruitment agency has very little to offer if it does not have a database of potential recruits to fall back on for every vacancy, so this should be regarded as a key operating cost.

If you’re not precious about operating under your own umbrella, there’s also the franchise option. Larger recruitment firms will offer franchise packages which will give you an all-in-one opportunity to get the agency off the ground – including marketing collateral, databases, software and access to existing client relationships. Understandably this comes at quite a cost – but if you have a five-figure sum sat in the bank it may be prudent to go down this route to get some immediate traction. The trade-off going down this route is that you’re unlikely to have much of a say in terms of your brand and identity.

Operating online or on the High Street

Start-up recruitment agents must also decide whether to have a physical presence on the High Street or to simply operate online – working from home. Both agency models are still workable, but it may just depend on the type of industry you’re looking to recruit for.

Ultimately, the real appeal of operating online is for lower-budget start-up recruitment agents. The internet broadens their horizons, evolving from a regional agency to a national or even international one overnight.

If you opt for a shop front for your agency, you should ensure your chosen premises has the necessary amenities to help your business grow. From open-plan office space that enables owners to keep track of recruitment activities to discrete meeting space for candidate interviews.

Industry membership

If you’re serious about adding extra layers of confidence and integrity in your agency, you should consider signing up to the industry body, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

The main criteria of securing REC membership is:

  • UK-based
  • Trading in the UK for at least one year
  • Owned or operated by one or more individuals with 1+ years of experience within the recruitment industry
  • All new members must agree to the REC Code of Professional Practice, enforced via the complaints and disciplinary procedure

Expanding an existing recruitment agency

For New and Growing Companies already working within the recruitment industry and looking to improve their offering, exposure and reputation, there’s plenty you can do to improve your bottom line:

Don't be afraid to 'go niche'

Industry research shows that more specialist recruitment agencies i.e. those with undeniable expertise and connections within a particular industry or niche tend to perform better over the long term.

As a newcomer to the recruitment industry, there may be a temptation to attempt to spread the net too wide and cater for vacancies of all shapes and sizes. However, common sense would suggest that as a recruiter you should look to work in the industry you worked in longest before forming your agency. By going down this path you should have a solid level of expertise and a bulging contacts book brimming with great professionals.

You’ll often find that clients prefer to work with those who understand their particular needs, so having a detailed understanding of their profession goes a long way to winning their trust and confidence.

Additionally, you may prefer to specialise in vacancies within a specific geographic region; making it easier to meet clients and candidates in person and build closer working relationships.

Advertising your recruitment agency

Marketing is a key component of any successful New and Growing Company, regardless of industry. However, it’s common for recruitment agencies not to have specific marketing strategies beyond their job boards. Many recruitment agencies struggle to give themselves the headspace to prepare and deliver effective marketing campaigns simply because they are driven by their next vacancy to fill.

Today, marketing your recruitment agency is an essential method to increase inbound leads and build crucial brand awareness.

The most important thing to remember when engaging with your target demographic is that they’re unlikely to remember your brand after their first interaction with your business. In fact, it tends to require multiple touchpoints for a consumer to truly take notice of your brand and what you can offer them.

So, if you’re not already doing everything you can to market and advertise your recruitment agency, here are a few pointers to get help get you started:

  • Online advertising
    Recruitment agencies can get a more tangible return on investment of their marketing through online advertising. The ability to deliver highly-targeted, cross-platform advertising campaigns can help increase your brand voice, encourage CV submissions and contact from employers, getting the best results from your spend and simultaneously meeting your business objectives.
     
  • Blogging
    An instant way to demonstrate credibility and authority among your industry peers is to create and maintain a busy blog on-site. It will not only improve your website rankings within search engines – helping you to rank for more relevant terms to the recruitment industry – it can also act as an additional source of enquiries, allowing you to promote your services and new job vacancies.
     
  • Social media
    It doesn’t cost a penny to be active on the main social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are various social tools available that enable marketers to engage directly with their target demographic, dipping into conversations with potential candidates, employers and other businesses and adding value. Social media is also a free platform for sharing your online content such as your blog posts and latest vacancies, driving further engagement with your brand.
     
  • Nurture contacts and candidates via newsletters
    Reach out to your database of contacts and candidates on a regular basis. When we say regular, we don’t mean daily, but a clean, engaging monthly newsletter is a great way of keeping people up-to-date with your business, any vacancies and informative online content.

A solid marketing and advertising strategy for your recruitment agency can make it easier to win new clients and retain them over the long-term. The three buzzwords to take away from this should be: Attention, Conversion and Retention.