I woke up today with a tragic case of Dunning-Kruger. I mean, hell, I started one successful recruiting firm, and half-joked about recruiting for executive assistants, so why can’t I be qualified to opine on recruiting as a whole.
Putting those very valid concerns aside, as an amusing intellectual exercise, this morning I wrote down 50 things that I’d do and think about if I were to start a recruiting firm today.
This is the exact order that ideas came to me, but not at all the order that I’d do them in. These aren’t all necessarily things I’ve done already, these are just the things I’d do now, being older, wiser and far more dunning-krugeresque:
1 LINKEDIN: Buy a LinkedIn Recruiter seat.
2 NICHE: Pick your niche, singular, to go after. Make some handwritten charts on how that niche works so that it makes sense to you.
3 CANDIDATES: Draw up some employee charts from data from LinkedIn Recruiter to get a better understanding of who works where and for whom.
4 COMPETITORS: Look around at what other recruiters are in the space.
5 GOOGLE: Go to Google. For each of the recruiters in the space, search for linksin:recruitingfirm.com and rank those recruiting firms. Also get a sense of who is known for what by paging through some of the search results
6 QUANTCAST: Buy a Quantcast account and see how those firms are doing.
7 INTERESTING: The niche that you target has to strongly interest you or else you will lose interest when things are tough and you will fail.
8 SOCIETIES: Look up whether there are professional societies associated with that niche and investigate what information those societies can offer to supplement the LinkedIn data.
9 DATABASE: Decide whether you want a 3rd party SaaS database or whether you want to build your own.
10 ORGANIC: Grow organically, don’t force the business before you’re ready (in knowledge, time, confidence) to grow.
11 ADVISORS: Get advisors (paid or unpaid) who know more than you do, either about the niche, or about recruiting in general, or about business in general, or operations, or at least something that you don’t already know all the answers.
12 INCREMENTAL: Focus on quarterly incremental growth.
13 HIRING: Figure out what you like to do. Eventually hire for what you don’t want to do or aren’t good at. As you grow, the same person(s) shouldn’t be doing big picture plus operations plus database plus recruiting plus generating business.
14 STRUCTURE: Decide on your business structure: LLC, S Corp, C Corp, etc., when consulting with a trusted lawyer or accountant.
15 GLOBAL: International recruiting is a pain in the ass, focus solely on your home country to start.
16 PREMIUM: Avoid markets which are a commodity (supply = demand), instead you want to build premium knowledge and loyal clients where demand outstrips supply.
17 EXPERIENCE: Don’t start a recruiting firm unless you have already worked as a recruiter somewhere, even if it just an internship or something. Recruiting isn’t what people think it is.
18 RECRUITING: Recruiting is a mix of psychology, business sense, persistence, optimism, knowledge, empathy and intelligence.
19 BEST PRACTICES: Your searches don’t have to be hard to be successful. Make your information the best practices, and your processes the best practices as well.
20 FAST: Speed is king.
21 BE OLD: Don’t chase big sponsorships, grow at the base level in the old-fashioned ways.
22 SPEAK: Talk to people.
23 C-LEVEL: Go to the top, you don’t generate business with middle mgmt. Go high or go low.
24 READ: Read everything you can get your hands on. Become an expert in that field in some of the same ways the experts in that field are experts in that field.
25 MARKETING: Ignore professional marketing techniques, focus on common sense.
26 SOCIAL MEDIA: Build your LinkedIn and Twitter.
27 SEARCHES: Figure out whether you are Contingent or Retained or both. Each require different skill sets and rules.
28 TRENDS: Always look at macro and micro trends for clues about where your business is going.
29 INFO: Develop niche info for your chosen industry. For example, there are sorts of surveys and summary charts that can be derived from public SEC documents.
30 VALUES: Think deeply about your values. When times are tough or a string of bad luck comes, you will be able to lean on those core values and trust your process and yourself.
31 NON-LINEAR: Nothing takes the place of old-fashioned conversations, that is how you learn nonlinear things, not by constantly emailing.
32 WAKE UP: If you’re not waking up happy and aggressive, you’re doing it wrong.
33 LISTEN: Hire before you have to, and listen to their ideas.
34 ATTENTION: Pay attention to trends that you notice, you will see things before the industry does or the press does.
35 PIVOT: Don’t be afraid to pivot.
36 TRUST: Trust yourself.
37 GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: I can’t stress enough: talk to people, all kinds of people. A 10-minute conversation can be worth more than weeks of study.
38 BE THE BEST: Your aim is to be the best in your chosen field. If you instead aim to be a me-too firm, it won’t work, recruiting eats up half-assed efforts.
39 MEDIOCRITY: I once had a boss who said if you take your foot off of the accelerator just a little bit, and give it 80% effort, you will lose 100% of your business. That is how recruiting works.
40 QUALITY: In your business, aim to place quality niche hires. If you instead aim for quantity, it will drag you down mentally.
41 STUDY YOUR DATA: Once you have enough data of your own as you operate, focus on metrics to figure out what a call is worth, a resume, an interview, etc. But don’t be so wrapped up in them that you are always number-focused, but instead use them as a tool.
42 WEBSITE: Make your website simple and easy to find. Half of your visits will be on cell phones — design for cell phones and ideally use WordPress.
43 INQUIRIES: Respond to inquiries ASAP.
44 GO AWAY: Ignore noise and time wasters.
45 NO REALLY, I SAID GO AWAY: Don’t be afraid to cut potential clients or candidates in favor of having more time to pursue quality clients and candidates. It is a failure of human nature to spend time on things that require our time, instead of the things that deserve our time.
46 YOUR DATA: Hire data entry to get all of that great LinkedIn data into database format. Use API’s when possible. Talk to data people who are more imaginative than yourself.
47 PATIENCE: Give yourself at least 1 year to judge the business, don’t give up easily or pivot too soon.
48 BE LOCAL: Ideally hire locally and see each other weekly to keep your optimism up.
49 SPECIAL: Recruiting isn’t who you already know, because you will constantly have to build new contacts, it is about putting processes and habits in place that are sustainable.
50 GRIND: People start recruiting firms all the time while thinking that their existing contacts will take them through. But they get discouraged when they realize that they have to make it up and grind every day, like every other successful venture.
So there’s my Halloween brain dump!