The ultimate guide to commission schemes in recruitment

How does a commission scheme work? As a recruiter, are you making enough money with your scheme? As an agency, how competitive is your commission scheme in the market? You’re a recruitment entrepreneur starting a new business, what scheme should you use?

In this complete guide to commission schemes in recruitment, we answer these questions and much more.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  1. Two common types of commission schemes
    1. Non-discretionary
    2. Discretionary
  2. Understanding the components
    1. Qualification period
    2. Threshold
    3. Percentage tiers
    4. Deficit
    5. Payment
    6. Retaining commission
  3. What is a competitive return

1. Types of commission schemes

Non-discretionary

A non-discretionary commission scheme is black and white. The components are transparent and laid out before you join. You’ll know exactly what you’ll be earning depending on the revenue you generate for the organisation. Non-discretionary commission schemes are more common than discretionary in the recruitment market.

Discretionary

A discretionary commission scheme is when your commission is paid at the company’s discretion. Whether you’ll get paid or not depends on a number of factors; a majority of these factors are related to your own performance and perceived contribution.

More often than not, you will be paid if you perform to or above agreed targets. However, if the company as a whole is not performing, other consultants’ performances may be taken into account and this may reduce the amount of commission you receive.

A discretionary commission scheme may also be built around your perceived contribution towards a particular placement. For example, if you were involved in the process flow management and closing of a placement, but the successful candidate was identified by one of your colleagues, then the proportion of commission allocated to you could be decided by your manager, at their discretion. In this case, commission would probably be distributed between yourself and your colleague involved in the identification of the candidate. 

Discretionary schemes are less common in the recruitment market.

2. Understanding the components and how competitive they are

Qualification period

The qualification period is the time in which a recruiter’s commission is assessed.

The most common qualification period is a quarter, although some companies have a monthly or annual qualification period.

A qualification period is not related to the period that you’re paid, which is covered later in this article.

Threshold

The threshold is the amount of revenue a recruiter must generate before commission becomes payable.

A threshold is commonly calculated as a percentage multiplier of your base salary. The standard multiplier in the market is 9 x your monthly base salary for the quarter (the qualification period). For example, if you’re on 5k per month, the calculation would be 5k * 9, which equals a threshold of 45k for the quarter. Some firms offer lower thresholds, such as 7.5 x your base salary per quarter, or if you’re very lucky, 6 x your base salary per quarter.

The advantage of this calculation is that when you’re on a lower base salary, your threshold is lower and on the flip side, as your base salary increases, so does your threshold.

A threshold can also simply be a flat revenue figure rather than the percentage multiplier structure above. The standard revenue figure for this type of threshold is between SGD 30 – 60k.

The advantage of this calculation is that, as your base salary increases, your threshold remains the same. The disadvantage is that when you’re on a lower base salary, your threshold is more challenging to surpass.

A handful of firms offer a no-threshold scheme, although there is a trade off as percentage tiers (discussed next) are often lower.

Less common variations of a threshold include calculating commissionable income from your total revenue for the qualification period first, and then subtracting base salary. Whilst this still yields competitive returns, it shouldn’t be confused with a scheme that offers a threshold of simply just your base salary, as the calculation is different.

Percentage tiers

When you surpass your threshold, you’ll be eligible to collect commission on the amount above your threshold (total revenue – threshold). How much depends on the percentage pay-out of the scheme.

A majority of firms operate a tiered percentage structure. In this structure, percentages will start at a specific amount and increase in tiers as you generate more revenue. Percentages commonly start at 20 – 35% and increase in tiers until 40 to 45, and even 50% in some companies. Some firms offer above 50% but it may be extremely challenging to generate enough revenue to earn that yield.

Some firms operate a simple flat percentage structure. In this structure, you’ll earn the same percentage on any revenue you generate above your threshold.

In some rare cases, some firms offer a tiered percentage structure, but rather than the percentage being based on the revenue you generate, it may be based on other factors at the discretion of the company, such as how many clients you’ve brought in or how you’re performing in comparison to your expectations.

Deficit

Some firms have a deficit. If your firm has a deficit and you don’t achieve your sales target, you will go into a deficit. The amount by which you missed the sales target in the previous qualification period will roll over to the next qualification period. This means that you’ll have to make up for the revenue that you fell short of in the previous qualification period before earning commission.

Whilst deficits are less common these days and unfavourable for obvious reasons, there’s a reason why companies still use them and it’s important not to overlook this. Schemes with deficits offer a high risk, high reward option. You’ll find that with these schemes the threshold may be lower and percentage yields may be higher. As the firm is taking a risk in losing money based on a highly lucrative scheme, they need to protect themselves if sales targets are not met.

Certain firms wipe the deficit clean from time to time if non-revenue related performance has been strong.

Payment

Different firms write revenue on the board at different times. Revenue is commonly recognised on the start date of a candidate or when the invoice is settled by the client.

Once revenue is recognised, your commission becomes payable. Commonly the payment will be made at the start of the upcoming qualification period. For example, if you’re due $30k for placements in Q1, you’ll be paid the 30k at the start of Q2.

There are some firms who don’t relate the qualification period to the payment period. For instance, take the example of a firm who has a qualification period of a year but pays monthly. If you’ve earned 10k in Feb Q1 under the scheme, that will be payable in March, even though the qualification period concludes at the end of December.

In the market, firms often pay on a quarterly basis, a handful of firms pay on a monthly basis and some firms also pay on an annual basis.

Retaining commission

Some firms in the market retain a percentage of your commission over a qualification period or over a year. The average amount retained can range anywhere from 5 – 20% and upwards to 50%. To collect that commission, the firm will often set additional targets, the most common being to surpass your threshold for three out of four quarters of the year.

If you hit the target and collect the commission back, some firms return the same amount and others will offer interest on top of the collectable amount as a reward. If you don’t hit your target, the company retains the commission.

This mechanism is strong for retaining employees and encouraging consistent performance, however it receives mixed opinions from recruiters.

Retaining commission is a newer addition to schemes and has become more common in recent years.

3. What is a good commission scheme?

Now that we’ve looked through the various standard components of a commission scheme, what’s a good one and are you being paid enough?

When it comes down to it, a majority of commission schemes in the market, although varied in structure, end up returning a similar percentage return on your billings.

The percentage return of your billings, including base salary and commission, is considered to be competitive around 32%.

If you’re earning less than 32%, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad commission scheme. You may be working with a large global player who offers access to established relationships with clients, allowing you to maintain a strong pipeline without the pressure of business development. Although your percentage return is lower, you could be earning more money than a recruiter who’s yielding 35%, but taking home less. If that’s not the case, you might not be billing enough to hit higher percentage tiers.

If you’re earning more than 32%, you’re earning a competitive amount in the market.

In the early stages of your career, finding a platform with established relationships that has a good percentage return is the sweet spot. When you become more experienced and you’re ready to step into a new environment where the risk of starting or building a desk is higher, you’ll have the opportunity to reap the rewards with higher percentages.

How much do recruiters in Singapore bill?

The recruitment industry in Singapore has grown exponentially in recent years and, despite increased market saturation, it’s easy to see why when there’s so much opportunity coupled with limited barriers to entry.

But how much do recruiters in Singapore actually bill?

In this article, we share our findings on what recruiters bill on a permanent desk within an executive recruitment consultancy (mid to senior level recruitment and a mid volume model) during normal market conditions.

The numbers in this article have been gathered after working in the recruitment to recruitment industry for over 4 years. The numbers reflect the successful and positive trajectory of a recruiter as they develop their recruitment career. Naturally, recruiters develop at different speeds and certain factors such as the practice a recruiter is covering, how many people a recruiter is managing or the type of agency they work for, create diverse results and a large range. We try to explain the variation in each section.

We also talk about how COVID-19 has affected individual revenue at the end of the article.

Entry level recruitment consultant with 0 – 1 years of experience

SGD $100,000 – 200,000

Being a fresh recruiter is all about learning the recruitment process, your niche market and building a network within it. The first year is crucial to building a solid foundation and platform that you can leverage to increase your revenue in the years to come.

Learning the ropes is arguably one of the most challenging periods of being a recruiter. If you’ve achieved the numbers above, you’re in a good position to build a positive trajectory for the future.

Entry to mid level recruitment consultant with 1 – 3 years of experience

SGD $150,000 – 300,000

Now that you have a good understanding of recruitment, a growing foundation and a brief track record of success, you can now leverage on your relationships and referrals to increase the quality and volume of your leads.

Mid level senior consultant with 2 – 4 years of experience

SGD $200,000 – 400,000

You’ve been in the industry for a few years now and you’ve developed strong relationships with clients who come back to you for repeat business. Your candidates have had a similar experience and are referring their colleagues or friends to you. You’re getting better at matching candidates and clients and conversion rates are increasing.

Mid level principal or manager with 3 – 6 years of experience

SGD $300,000 – 600,000

A few of the clients that come back to you for repeat business are now very impressed with your consistency. They release more senior roles and some even on an exclusive or retained basis. Your access to senior level positions and the elimination of competition puts you in a good position to continue improving your numbers.

You’re also at a stage in your career where you have proven yourself as a highly capable individual contributor (IC). It’s now your decision if you want to continue your path as an IC, increasing your billings year on year, or move into a manager position.

By choosing the IC route, every day is dedicated to billing and you can get up to the higher end of the range, achieving numbers between $400,000 – 600,000.

Taking up the manager route requires more time for training and management, but by using the foundation you’ve built over the past few years, you can continue to bill between $300,000 to 400,000 whilst managing a small team of 1 – 3 recruiters.

Senior level associate director or director with 5 – 10 + years of experience

SGD $200,000 – 800,000

As an individual contributor, provided you’re continuing to build relationships and deliver a superior service, your billings will grow. You are however getting to the point where you are operating at absolute efficiency; you have no more minutes in the day and your revenue will eventually start to plateau. You’re one of the most well-known recruiters in your niche and everyone knows your name. These numbers can be between $400,000 to 800,000.

As a people manager, you’re taking on more responsibilities and your team could be up to 5 to 10 consultants, or more. Your focus may shift from closing deals to bringing on board new clients and delegating roles to your team. You’re so busy ensuring the profitability of your team that you have much less time to close roles yourself. You could be billing between $200,000 to $400,000. Of course, the more consultants you’re managing, the less time you’ll have to bill.

The next step in your career could see you even moving away from billing completely and into pure people management.

Outliers

The numbers above reflect the successful and positive trajectory of a recruiter as they develop their recruitment career. There will certainly be outliers on both sides of the range for one reason or another.

Some recruiters develop at lightning speed and have the ability to bill up to SGD $1.5 million in certain years and in good market conditions. Other recruiters may be working on a slower desk, market conditions might be adverse and the agency may not have a strong enough platform to achieve desired numbers.

Market conditions

There are certain times where market conditions are adverse and revenue will no doubt be negatively impacted.

Last year, the US-China trade war had an adverse effect on the Singapore recruitment market. It didn’t necessarily cause a decrease or any decrease in recruiter billings at all, but there certainly wasn’t a significant increase either.

This year, COVID-19, the biggest health crisis in recent years and arguably the biggest economic crisis of all time, has majorly affected and decreased recruiter billings, to the point where billings are down by 20 to 70%. Technology is doing well in relative terms, whilst the worst affected industries such as Retail saw recruiter billings decline by up to 70% during the lockdown.

It’s near impossible to provide an accurate figure of how much recruiters’ billings have declined during COVID-19 given how different practices are affected more than others and certain lockdown restrictions cause immediate changes to this figure, but we believe it’s somewhere around 30 – 50%.

Your agency

Whilst a major contributor to the success of a recruiter is down to their motivation and drive to be successful, your numbers can be affected by the agency you’re working with. If your agency operates a model with lower fees and higher volume, you may not be able to hit the revenue figures that a recruiter is achieving in a higher fee, middle volume model. A recruiter that has accumulated a number of years of experience will learn this along the way and will then make a decision if they need to join a new agency to get to where they want to be.

Make sure you subscribe below to receive the latest recruitment articles direct to your inbox because we’ll be releasing Hong Kong’s billing statistics next week.

How much do recruiters in Hong Kong bill?

Last week, I wrote an article about how much recruiters in Singapore bill. This week, I’ll be sharing our findings on how much recruiters in Hong Kong bill.

The numbers reflect the successful and positive trajectory of a recruiter as they develop their recruitment career in an executive recruitment consultancy (mid to senior level recruitment) during normal market conditions. They were gathered after working in the recruitment to recruitment industry in Hong Kong for over 4 years.

Naturally, recruiters develop at different speeds and certain factors such as the practice a recruiter is covering, how many people a recruiter is managing or the type of agency they work for, create diverse results and a large range. We try to explain the variation in each section.

We also talk about how the 2019/2020 Hong Kong protests and COVID-19 has affected individual revenue at the end of the article.

Recruitment consultant with 0 – 1 years of experience

HKD $800,000 – 1,400,000

The first year in recruitment is focussed on learning the job, your niche market and building a network within it. This is arguably the make-or-break period; building a solid foundation that you can leverage to increase your revenue in the years to come is crucial.

If you’ve achieved the numbers above, you’re in a good position to build a positive trajectory for the future.

Recruitment consultant with 1 – 3 years of experience

HKD $1,200,000 – 1,800,000

Now that you have a good understanding of agency recruitment, a growing network and a track record of success, you can leverage your relationships and referrals to increase the quality and volume of your leads.

Senior recruitment consultant with 2 – 4 years of experience

HKD $1,400,000 – 2,400,000

You’ve been in the industry for a few years now and you’ve developed strong relationships with clients who come back to you for repeat business. Your candidates have had a positive experience and are referring their colleagues or friends to you. You’re getting better at matching candidates and clients and conversion rates are increasing.

Principal recruitment consultant or manager with 3 – 6 years of experience

HKD $1,800,000 – 3,600,000

A few of the clients that come back to you for repeat business are now impressed with your consistency. They release senior roles and some on an exclusive or retained basis. Your access to senior roles and the elimination of competition puts you in a good position to continue improving your numbers.

You’re also at a stage in your career where you have proven yourself as a highly capable individual contributor (IC). It’s now your decision if you want to continue your path as an IC, increasing your billings year on year, or move into a manager position.

By choosing the IC route, every day is dedicated to billing and you can get up to the higher end of the range, achieving numbers between $2,200,000 – 3,600,000.

Taking up the manager route requires more time for training and management, but by using the foundation you’ve built over the past few years, you can continue to bill between $1,800,000 to 3,000,000 whilst managing a small team of 1 – 3 recruiters.

Associate director or director with 5 – 10 + years of experience

HKD $1,200,000 – 5,000,000

As an individual contributor, provided you’re continuing to build relationships and deliver a superior service, your billings will grow. You are however getting to the point where you are operating at absolute efficiency; you have no more minutes in the day and your revenue will eventually start to plateau. You’re one of the most well-known recruiters in your niche and everyone knows your name. These numbers can be between $3,200,000 to 5,000,000.

As a people manager, you’re taking on more responsibilities and your team could be up to 5 to 10 consultants, or more. Your focus may shift from closing deals to bringing on board new clients and delegating roles to your team. You’re so busy ensuring the profitability of your team that you have much less time to close roles yourself. You could be billing between $1,200,000 to $3,200,000. Of course, the more consultants you’re managing, the less time you’ll have to bill.

The next step in your career could see you moving away from billing completely and into pure people management, although these roles are becoming less common as firms become more lean.

Outliers

The numbers above reflect the successful and positive trajectory of a recruiter as they develop their recruitment career. There will certainly be outliers on both sides of the range for one reason or another.

Some recruiters develop extremely quickly. The highest annual billing figure we know of in the contingent agency recruitment market in Hong Kong is HKD $10 million.

Other recruiters may be working on a slower desk, market conditions might be adverse and the agency may not have a strong enough platform to achieve desired numbers.

Market conditions

The last two years have been challenging for the recruitment industry in Hong Kong to say the least.

We observed a 10 to 20% decrease in billings throughout 2019 compared to the previous year. 2019 H2 was more challenging than H1, and Q4 saw the biggest hit of all quarters in the year.

2020 started positively compared to the end of 2019, until COVID-19 started. Recruiters in Hong Kong were hit twice in the period of a year. Markets such as Technology and Insurance remain stable whilst Retail, hit twice from the 19/20 HK protests and COVID-19, have been majorly affected to the point where some Retail recruitment specialists have gone out of business.

It’s near impossible to provide an accurate figure of how much billings have declined during COVID-19 compared to 2018 given how different practices are affected more than others and the effects of the third wave have yet to be recorded, but we believe it’s somewhere between 20 – 60%.

Hong Kong vs Singapore results

One thing we noticed in the Hong Kong market is that the range tends to be more diverse than the Singapore market. We also noticed that billings tend to be slightly higher than Singapore, perhaps due to higher salary ranges or the fact that Singapore is a more saturated recruitment market.

Your agency

Whilst a major contributor to the success of a recruiter is down to their motivation and drive to be successful, your numbers can be affected by the agency you’re working with. If your agency operates a model with lower fees and higher volume, you may not be able to hit the revenue figures that a recruiter is achieving in a higher fee, middle volume model.

A recruiter that has accumulated a number of years of experience will learn this along the way and will then make a decision if they need to join a new agency to get to where they want to be.

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How to start a recruitment agency in Singapore

Back in May, I wrote an article about whether now – during COVID-19 – was a good time to start your own recruitment agency. Since then, a number of startups have sprouted up across the Hong Kong and Singapore markets. The volatility in the market has stabilised as we head towards a long road to recovery and arguably there is no better time to start an agency than today.

In this guide, we explore the considerations and steps that you, a budding recruitment entrepreneur, need to take if you’re ready to launch a new firm from scratch. We cover the journey from both a planning and operational perspective, so you can take necessary action to get things moving.

In the past and in the present day, I’ve launched recruitment agencies in both Hong Kong and Singapore. I’ll be talking about my experience starting with Singapore first and Hong Kong next week.

Step 1: Business plan, financial and cash flow projections

Before getting ahead of yourself, writing up a comprehensive business plan is key to keeping your thoughts and ideas structured. With the amount of information you need to consider before you start to trade, there’s no doubt it will be overwhelming at times. Having a plan keeps you accountable and organised within a specific time frame.

Within your business plan, you should have your financial projections ready to go, including your cash flow document which I think is one of the most important documents of all. Cash is king when running a business, and when you’re battling time, keeping yourself honest with this document will help you sleep at night in the early days.

It’s highly likely you will produce less revenue than you project and spend more money than you forecast. My rule of thumb when it comes to cash flow is writing a 20% variance above your projected figures.

Whilst planning is essential, it’s important to avoid getting carried away by writing pages and pages of documents that you won’t read. Keep it short and sweet. Place emphasis on action to stop falling into the trap of over-planning. 

Step 2: Secure your funding

Once you have your plan ready to go, securing your funding is the next step to recruitment entrepreneurship. If you’re not completely self-funded or if you haven’t secured funding yet, then kick this off now.

You may be relying on a chunk of investment, a facility from a bank, crowdfunding or perhaps you and a partner have invested equal amounts into the business. There are lots of creative ways you can start to raise capital, but one thing is for sure: more often than not, it will take longer than anticipated to secure.

Keep in mind when planning your funding that a significant deposit of paid up capital in the bank account will certainly assist in any EP applications you may make.

When it comes to compliance with company formation and opening a bank account, you’ll need to provide back-up documentation. It takes time and will distract you from the important task of kicking off revenue generation. 

Step 3: Company formation

Singapore is renowned for its transparent company registration and formation process. You will need the services of a law firm or a company formation agency.

There are lots of options in Singapore at different price points. My advice is to shop around, but ideally you want to obtain references – preferably from individuals involved in the recruitment industry. 

The good news is that the cost is not astronomical. Forecasting the cost should also be very predictable thanks to the high level of transparency throughout the process. I know of a service that costs around SGD $4,000 for the basic company formation, and returned a successful EP application. I would happily recommend the firm I used if you want to contact me directly. You could pay a lot more, but you don’t need to in my opinion.

Step 4: Open a bank account

Opening a bank account is easy; the formation company is highly likely to include assistance in this step if you paid for it, as per your package. Formation agents will arrange everything for you and the bank representative will come to see you in their office. A formation agent I’ve worked with in the past recommended OCBC, and the process was speedy, simple and painless.

Step 5: Obtain a recruitment licence

You need to obtain a recruitment licence from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) before you begin to operate as a recruiter. This is where things get a little more complicated as you need to appoint a Key Appointment Holder and determine whether you need a Comprehensive (all, local or non-FWD) or Select licence.

A Comprehensive (all) licence allows you to perform recruitment with no restrictions on the size of placements you make. On a Select licence, you can only place candidates who are earning more than SGD $4,500 a month.

Choosing a licence will determine if you need to take a CEI exam (if you haven’t already) and how much investment you need to make for the licence. A Comprehensive licence requires a SGD $60,000 security deposit, whilst a Select licence requires a Banker’s Guarantee of SGD $20,000.

In most cases, to keep costs low, you can start on a Select licence and see if you need to upgrade in the future.

This can seem quite daunting initially and if you dont research this properly, you won’t fully understand the differences between the licence types. The good news is that everything you need to know can be found on the MoM website which I would recommend investing some significant time into reading.

Step 6: Employment pass (if applicable)

This step only applies to non-Singaporeans or non-PRs. This is one of the trickier steps in the process because obtaining an EP, even if you’re the founder or the first employee of the business, is not guaranteed.

I would strongly recommend consulting with a company formation agent or lawyer, who will advise on the documentation that you need to provide to give you the highest chance of getting an EP approved. They do this for a living and will be able to guide you through the pitfalls and challenges of the approval process. 

To set the expectation, the application process will probably take longer than anticipated, especially taking into account the current economic climate. Consider the possible outcome of a rejection along with an appeal. Often you will be asked to provide additional information to support your application.

Preparation and research is the key.

Step 7: Find an office

You’ll find that almost every startup opts for a serviced office. In Singapore, there is a massive choice and you, as the consumer, have many options to look at including coworking and private office solutions.

Firstly, decide where you want to locate your business. Consider the needs of your future staff as well as the convenience factor for visiting clients and candidates. Both are vitally important, especially as we start heading back to the office over the next few months.

Flexibility and negotiation. Negotiate hard (especially now), retain flexibility and avoid longer term fixed commitments. If you are setting up on your own, consider coworking access at a WeWork or Spaces solution to keep costs low. You can even consider Compass Serviced Offices, founded by a former recruitment entrepreneur, Andrew Chung.

Step 8: Start billing!

Your company is formed, you have obtained your bank account, recruitment licence, your employment pass and you finally have an office. This is only the beginning. You’re now ready to get on with the important stuff and start your journey as a recruitment entrepreneur.

If you’re a recruiter, please subscribe below for future guides and how-to’s that will be sent direct to your inbox every Thursday.

Disclaimer: This article is written with an intention to provide basic advice, but we stress we are not legal professionals, so please seek advice from a formation agent or qualified lawyer.

What’s the average base salary of an agency recruiter in Singapore?

When recruiters change agencies, the driving motivations behind a move are rarely solely due to a base salary. A combination of other factors, such as hitting a glass ceiling, an issue with a line manager or misalignment in recruitment methodology are more common.

Some would argue that as agency recruitment is a performance-driven role, there should be a bigger focus on potential commissionable earnings over the base salary itself.

Whilst many recruiters have this mindset, a competitive base salary still plays an important part when changing jobs and can sometimes be the key to the final piece of the puzzle. 

Are you being paid in line with the market average in Singapore? What is a competitive base salary in Singapore? What factors influence what base salary you’re offered? In this article, we answer these questions.

The salary ranges in this guide were gathered after working in the recruitment to recruitment industry in Singapore between 2016 to 2019. COVID-19 has created a shift in salaries. This shift has not been accounted for in this guide, but we have commented on the pandemic’s impact at the end of this article.

Associate Recruitment Consultant (0 – 1 years of experience)

SGD $2,500 – 3,500 per month

Fresh grads are paid a salary between 2.5 – 3.3k whilst professionals with 0 – 1 years of experience in another industry transferring into recruitment can leverage a higher salary between 3.3 to 3.5k.

Recruitment Consultant (1 – 3 years of experience)

SGD $3,500 – 5,000 per month

Newly promoted recruitment consultants are paid between 3.5 – 4k whilst recruiters with a few additional years are paid between 4 – 4.5k. Recruiters with niche market experience and a good track record can leverage a salary in the higher end of the range between 4.5 – 5k.

Senior Recruitment Consultant (2 – 5 years of experience)

SGD $5,000 – 6,000 per month

Newly promoted senior recruitment consultants are paid a salary between 5 – 5.5k whilst recruiters with a few additional years of experience or highly specialised niche market experience can expect between 5.5 – 6k.

Managing / Principal Recruitment Consultant (3 – 7 years of experience)

SGD $6,000 – 8,000 per month

Newly promoted managing/principal recruitment consultants are paid a salary between 6 – 7k whilst recruiters with a few additional years of experience or highly specialised niche market experience can expect between 7 – 8k.

Manager (5 – 10 years)

SGD $7,000 – 9,000 per month

Newly promoted managers are paid a salary between 7 – 8k whilst managers with a few additional years of experience or managers who are managing larger teams can expect between 8 – 9k.

Associate Director (7 – 13 years)

SGD $9,000 – 12,000 per month

Newly promoted associate directors are paid a salary between 9 – 10k whilst associate directors with a few additional years of experience, associate directors who are managing larger teams or associate directors with more P&L responsibility can expect between 10 – 12k.

Director (10 – 15 years)

SGD $11,000 – 15,000 per month

Newly promoted directors are paid a salary between 11 – 13k whilst directors with a few additional years of experience, directors who are managing substantially larger teams or directors with more P&L responsibility can expect between 13 – 15k.

Managing Director (12 + years)

SGD $14,000 – 19,000+ per month

Newly promoted managing directors are paid a salary between 14 – 17k whilst managing directors with a few additional years of experience, managing directors who are managing entire or regional offices or managing directors with regional P&L responsibility can expect 19k and upwards.

Factors influencing salary ranges

The salary ranges above should provide a rough guide of the general market rate. There are certain factors that may affect your salary or cause outliers:

  • Billings can highly affect salary ranges. For example, if you start developing and billing ahead of others, you will be promoted faster where you could be earning a much higher base salary than someone with an equivalent amount of experience
  • All agencies have a commission or bonus scheme that return earnings which vary vastly. If you have a lucrative scheme, as a trade-off, your base salary may be lower than the market rate
  • Management responsibilities can increase salary. For example, the more recruiters a manager is managing, the more likely it is they will have a salary at the higher end of the range
  • P&L responsibilities can increase a recruiters salary. For example, if a recruiter is at Associate Director level but managing a team as well as the entire office P&L, they could expect the higher end of the range
  • Some agencies use different titles for the same level of experience. In this case, you can refer to the brackets containing the years of experience for each salary range

Typical salary increments

Typical increments we see when changing jobs in the market are between 10 to 15%.

Achieving an increment above 15% is possible but can only be leveraged in a few select situations. Hypothetically: 

  • You have a solid track record of billing success in the same practice you will be transitioning into with your new employer
  • You have a rare skill set in a candidate-short market such as a contracting recruitment manager

Matching your base salary also happens in the market in certain situations:

  • You have changed your practice to a market you’re passionate about, your new employer is happy to make an investment in you but you require a longer runway to become profitable
  • You have relocated internationally, your new employer is happy to make an investment in you but you require a longer runway to become profitable
  • You have only recently joined your current firm (< 6 months) and have not managed to achieve your strive yet
  • Your billings are not outstanding in your current firm but you have good potential in your new firm
  • You’re moving jobs in adverse market conditions, your employer wants to make the hire but can only get budget approval for a matching or lower base

COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 has impacted salaries across the Singapore market. During the circuit breaker, there were a number of firms who cut employee salaries by 10 – 20% to adjust to the decline in revenue.

For recruiters changing jobs, the salary increments mentioned above were challenging to secure, especially during the circuit breaker. During this period, we saw offers being made that matched the candidate’s last drawn salary or in some cases offering a lower salary (with a custom commission scheme to adjust for lost fixed income).

Post-circuit breaker, there is still a level of caution when it comes to hiring but we have certainly seen an improvement. Salaries that are offered in today’s market are determined on a case-by-case basis. Firms that are performing well in less affected markets are able to offer salary increments to attract great talent in a cautious market.

All in all, a recruiter can always increase their earnings through commission but having an attractive base salary is not something they would turn their head away from.

Interested to know what the average billings of a recruiter is? Find out what they are in Hong Kong here and in Singapore here.

Next week, we’ll be publishing Hong Kong’s base salary ranges. If you find these recruitment insights useful, please consider subscribing for exclusive articles like this one direct to your inbox every Thursday.

Salary guide for recruitment consultants in Hong Kong

Are you on a competitive base salary in Hong Kong? What factors influence your base salary? How much of an increment should you expect when moving to a new agency?

In this article, we answer these questions with our salary guide for agency recruiters in Hong Kong.

The salary ranges in this guide were gathered after working in the recruitment to recruitment industry in Hong Kong between 2016 to 2019. 2020 has seen a shift in salaries due to COVID-19 so we have decided not to account for this year in this guide, but we have commented on the pandemic’s impact at the end of this article.

Associate Recruitment Consultant (0 – 1 years of experience)

HKD $15,000 – 20,000 per month

Fresh grads are paid a salary between 15 – 18k whilst professionals with 0 – 1 years of experience in another industry transferring into recruitment can leverage a higher salary between 18 to 20k.

Recruitment Consultant (1 – 3 years of experience)

HKD $22,000 – 27,000 per month

Newly promoted recruitment consultants are paid between 22 – 25k whilst recruiters with a few additional years of experience are paid between 25 – 27k. Overall, the standard go-to salary for most agencies at this level of experience is 25k.

Senior Recruitment Consultant (2 – 5 years of experience)

HKD $27,000 – 33,000 per month

Newly promoted senior recruitment consultants are paid between 27 – 30k whilst recruiters with a few additional years of experience are paid between 30 – 33k. Overall, the standard go-to salary for most agencies at this level of experience is 30k.

Managing / Principal Recruitment Consultant (3 – 7 years of experience)

HKD $35,000 – 40,000 per month

Newly promoted managing/principal recruitment consultants are paid a salary around 35k whilst recruiters with a few additional years of experience are paid slightly higher at 40k.

Manager (5 – 10 years)

HKD $40,000 – 55,000 per month

Newly promoted managers are paid a salary between 40 to 45k whilst managers with a few additional years of experience or managers who are managing larger teams are paid between 50 to 55k.

Associate Director (7 – 13 years)

HKD $50,000 – 70,000 per month

Newly promoted associate directors are paid a salary between 50 – 60k whilst associate directors with a few additional years of experience, associate directors who are managing larger teams or associate directors with more P&L responsibility are paid between 60 – 70k.

Director (10 – 15 years)

HKD $60,000 – 85,000 per month

Newly promoted directors are paid a salary between 60 – 70k whilst directors with a few additional years of experience, directors who are managing substantially larger teams or directors with more P&L responsibility are paid between 70 – 85k.

Managing Director (12 + years)

HKD $80,000 – 125,000 + per month

Newly promoted managing directors are paid a salary between 80 – 90k whilst managing directors with a few additional years of experience, managing directors who are managing entire or regional offices or managing directors with regional P&L responsibility are paid between 100k – 125k and upwards.

Factors influencing salary ranges

The salary ranges above should provide a rough guide of the general market rate. There are certain factors that may affect your salary or cause outliers:

  • Billings can highly affect salary ranges. For example, if you start developing and billing ahead of others, you will be promoted faster where you could be earning a much higher salary than someone with an equivalent amount of experience
  • All agencies have a commission or bonus scheme that return earnings which vary vastly. If you have a lucrative scheme, as a trade-off, your base salary may be lower than the market rate
  • Management responsibilities can increase salary. For example, the more recruiters a manager is managing, the more likely it is they will have a salary at the higher end of the range
  • P&L responsibilities can increase a recruiter’s salary. For example, if a recruiter is at Associate Director level but managing a team as well as the entire office P&L, they could expect the higher end of the range
  • Some agencies use different titles for the same level of experience. In this case, you can refer to the brackets containing the years of experience for each salary range

Typical salary increments

Typical salary increments we see when moving to a new agency are between 10 to 16%.

Achieving an increment above 16% is possible but can only be leveraged in a few select situations. Hypothetically:

  • You have a solid track record of billing success in the same practice you will be joining with your new employer and you play a crucial part in the long-term vision of the business
  • You have a rare skill set in a candidate-short market such as an experienced technology director of a contracting recruitment manager

Increments are not always guaranteed and matching your current salary does happen in these situations:

  • You have changed your specialisation to a market you’re passionate about, your new employer is happy to make an investment in you but you require more time to become profitable
  • You have relocated internationally, your new employer is happy to make an investment in you but you require more time to become profitable
  • You have only recently joined your current firm (< 6 months) and have not managed to achieve your strive yet
  • Your billings are not outstanding in your current firm but you have good potential in your new firm with your drive and motivation
  • You’re moving jobs in adverse market conditions, your employer wants to make the hire but can only get budget approval for a matching or lower base

COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 has impacted salaries across the Hong Kong market. During the circuit breaker, there were a number of firms who cut employee salaries by 10 – 20% to adjust to the decline in revenue.

For recruiters changing jobs, the salary increments mentioned above were challenging to secure. Between April to July, the limited offers that were made matched the candidate’s last drawn salary or in some cases offered a lower salary (with a custom commission scheme to adjust for lost income).

Today, there is still a level of caution when it comes to hiring but we have certainly seen an improvement. Salaries that are offered in today’s market are determined on a case-by-case basis. Firms that are performing well in less affected markets are able to offer salary increments to attract great talent in a cautious market.

All in all, a recruiter can always increase their earnings through commission but having an attractive base salary still plays an important part when it comes to securing great talent.

If you feel that you’re being underpaid, please feel free to reach out to me by connecting on LinkedIn or email at cameron@vocay.io.

Interested to know what the average billings of a recruiter in Hong Kong is? Find out here.

If you find these recruitment articles insightful, please consider subscribing for exclusive articles like this one direct to your inbox every Thursday.

What salary increment should you ask for when moving to a new recruitment agency?

When it comes to moving to a new agency, although salary isn’t commonly a primary driving factor, it still plays a critical role in enticing a recruiter to make the final decision and accept an offer. Let’s face it: no one wants to move for the same or less money whatever the opportunity.

How much of an increment you get when you move to a new agency depends on countless factors and every situation is different, but these are often the three most important factors: your billing track record, desk experience and current salary.

Unless you are majorly over or underpaid (find out in our salary guide for Singapore and Hong Kong), the average salary increment when moving to a new agency is between 10 to 16% but what exactly should you ask for in your situation?

In this guide, I will share some of the ways you can determine whether you should be looking for more or less than the typical 10 – 16% increment.

*Junior recruiters will receive higher percentage increments even if their salary increment is the same as more senior recruiters. See the end of this article for a disclaimer on the percentage increase calculation.

Your billing track record

Your billing track record is the first thing an agency will look at when it comes to figuring out whether they’re going to offer you your desired salary and it’s one of the best ways you can determine whether your offer is fair or not.

The golden rule to running a profitable recruitment business is ensuring your recruiters are billing over 3x their base salary, also known as the third rule. A third of your revenue is used to pay you (we recently calculated the exact figure was 32% on average including commission), a third is allocated to operating cost and the final third goes into a pre-tax profit.

As a recruiter, that means if you’re billing above 3x your base salary, which is typically when commission starts to become payable, hypothetically you’re earning a profit for the company.

If you’re billing above 4x your base salary, you’re a strong performer and it’s very likely you should be aiming for an increment in the 10 – 16% range.

If you’re billing over 5x your base, you’re an exceptional performer and you may be able to leverage a salary increment above 16%.

If you’re billing less than 3x your salary, whether it’s because you’re new to your agency, the environment just isn’t for you or you feel you don’t have a strong enough platform, it will be challenging to secure an increment based on the third / third / third rule. This is quite common.

There are many recruiters working for agencies where they are unable to release their potential for one reason or another. Your next agency will hire you if they believe in your drive and ambition but you will need to prove yourself before you secure a decent pay rise.

There will be exceptions to the above. Some agencies explicitly offer an option to take a below market rate base salary but with an improved commission scheme and in this scenario the above would not be applicable.

The practice you’re joining

If you’re moving to specialise within the same practice you already have experience or a network in, in theory, you will be able to make a placement faster than someone who doesn’t have that, leaving you in a stronger position to secure a higher salary increment.

Additionally, if you’re recruiting in a practice where recruiters are scarce, you will also be in a stronger position to leverage an even higher increment. Examples of these practices are specialised Data Science Technology recruiters, Finance Insurance recruiters, Private Practice Legal recruiters, SAP Contracting recruiters and so on.

If you’re in a fortunate position to have earned the experience as well as specialising in a niche practice, combined with a strong billing track record, then you have more bargaining power and there’s a good chance you can negotiate an above average increment (above 16%).

If you’re changing practice to a market you’re passionate about, your new agency might be happy to make an investment in you, but naturally you will need more time to become profitable. In this case, if your billings are between 3 to 4x your base salary, there’s a chance the agency may not want to offer an increment above 10% or at all. If your billings are 4 to 5x your base salary, you should still be able to secure an increment.

Your position in the new agency

If your new role in the agency plays a crucial part in the long-term vision of the business, you’ll be in a stronger position to secure an increment above 16%. Most of the time, this position will be in management where you are leading a team of recruiters or if you have some level of P&L responsibility.

It’s harder to find specialised managers than it is individual contributors (IC) because of the number of candidates available in the market, so if you are an IC, you may find it more difficult to secure an increment above 16%.

With that being said, going back to the earlier point about having experience in a scarce practice – as an IC – although you’re not managing, your network is such a rarity that agencies would go head to head to compete. Secondly, as more agencies become more lean, ICs are in higher demand. Some agencies even overpay to secure the best in the war for recruitment talent.

Your current salary

This is a controversial topic. Some people believe that employers should not look at a candidate’s current salary when drawing up an offer. Instead, it should be determined by their track record and experience.

In reality, the above is not practiced by many companies and the agency will 9 times out of 10 ask what the current salary is of a candidate so they can get a better understanding of what they will put forward as an offer.

In a situation where you are underpaid in your current role, by say 30%, most agencies will recognise this and they will offer you a salary that is more in line with your experience.

Additional situations where an increment is typically not offered

There are some additional situations where an increment is not offered or perhaps a reduction in base salary is offered.

International relocations, for example. It’s similar to when you change practice – you’ll need more time to build a network to generate revenue to justify your salary. Unless your track record is very strong, matching your base salary when moving internationally is common.

Short tenure in your current role (<6 months) is another example. An employer will not want to offer an increment if you’ve been in your current role for less than 6 months and you haven’t had a chance yet to showcase your potential.

Lastly, adverse market conditions is another common situation. Your new agency wants to make the hire but they can only get budget approval for a matching or lower base.

Combine two or more of the above, such as an international relocation during a recession, and there’s a good chance you’ll have to take a salary cut for the time being.

Make sure your demands are ‘morally’ appropriate

Whilst it is a good thing to aim for slightly above what you’re worth for negotiation purposes, there is nothing worse for an employer when receiving a highly unrealistic salary expectation demand from a candidate.

Of course, there will be some rare situations where a 30% increment is highly justified. For example, if you were billing 6 – 7x your base salary or if you are massively underpaid. If you’re billing less than 3x your salary and you’re looking for a 30% increment – sure, it’s very likely you have the potential, but the employer will need to invest time and money into developing you as a recruiter. Your expectation may come across as uncommercial.

On the contrary, the same goes for agencies when they lowball a recruiter. An unretractable sour taste is left in the recruiter’s mouth and more often than not the process is unrecoverable.

All in all though, you should be transparent and realistic about the figure that you share. The best way to approach this, whatever the situation, is to pick a figure that you’d be quietly surprised about getting if you were offered it, but realistically you’d expect that figure to get knocked back once. Be slightly ambitious but not outrageous.

This way, the figure you end up with is going to be fair to both parties and either way, you’ll be happy with the outcome.

Knowing what is right in your situation

There are so many factors to take into consideration when it comes to determining what you’re worth. Every situation is different and must be analysed separately but by looking at your billing track record as the number one factor, your experience as the second and current salary as the third in that order of importance, you should be able to come up with a figure that is fair on both parties.

It’s a tricky one to get right. My parting advice would be to be slightly ambitious but not outrageous. Never sell yourself too low!

Are you unhappy with your current salary? Please do not hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn for some advice and career opportunities.

Next, it’s time to figure out if your commission scheme is competitive enough!

Disclaimer

It’s important to note that the more junior you are, the higher the percentage increment may be, even if you receive the same increment as someone who is a Manager.

For example, an increment from Consultant to Senior Consultant in Hong Kong could be from HKD $25 to 30k per month which equals a 20% increment, whilst a Manager going into Senior Manager could be from 50 to 55k per month which equals 10%. The amount has increased by 5k in both situations, but the percentages are quite different.

For the sake of this article, we calculated the average increment for all seniority levels, from Associate Consultant to Managing Director.

The percentage increases discussed are also relative to normal market conditions.

3 reasons why you should join a boutique recruitment agency

If you’re about to make a decision to change jobs, you might be wondering what type of recruitment agency is going to fit you best.

This will depend on a couple of factors: what stage are you at in your career? What company culture are you looking to be a part of? What are you looking to achieve there?

A boutique can be defined as a recruitment agency that has a headcount of anywhere from 1 to 200 employees or less than 20 employees in each office. Whilst the range is vast, you can separate boutiques into local and global players. Some boutiques may have a smaller headcount and focus on a specialist practice purely on the local market, whilst others have a larger headcount and operate a number of international offices.

In this article, we explore 3 reasons why you should join a boutique recruitment agency to help determine whether it’s the right choice for you at this stage in your career. 

1. Career progression 

There are a plethora of career development opportunities available to you by joining a boutique recruitment agency.

Flat organisational structure

Boutique recruitment agencies can offer a flat, dynamic organisational structure. Due to a lower total headcount, there are often fewer layers of management hierarchy, which means there’s a great opportunity to climb the ladder quickly if you put the work in. You will be given autonomy to make your own decisions and be fully accountable for your successes.

Another huge benefit of working amongst a flat structure is getting more one-on-one time with senior leaders in the business. This can be an invaluable learning experience, especially as a junior consultant. As you climb the ladder and earn the trust of senior figures in the business, you will naturally be exposed to, and perhaps be actively involved with, strategic and business-critical decision making.

Tailored training approach

Training and development is often tailored to each individual, based on their current strengths and areas for improvement. I was fortunate enough to experience this firsthand, when I accepted my first entry-level role as a Consultant at a boutique agency in Bangkok. I received hands-on, one-on-one training from the founder of the business. My manager had single handedly built the business himself and he was 100% invested in both my success and the performance of the business overall. I took away crucial learnings from my time in that business which I still put into practice today.

Specialisation

Many boutiques choose to specialise in one or two particular areas within recruitment, as opposed to offering recruitment services across multiple industries.

Some of the larger global boutiques who can support a bigger headcount, opt to operate multiple specialist agencies under their ‘umbrella’. Take the SR Group for example, which consists of Brewer Morris (Accounting & Finance), Carter Murray (Sales & Marketing), Frazer Jones (Human Resources), Taylor Root (Legal) and SR Search (executive search arm).

What does this mean for you as a recruiter? Joining a niche, specialised business will give you the platform to become a true expert in your chosen desk. Many boutiques have long standing and exclusive relationships with clients who are hiring specifically in your space. You will be surrounded by a team of professionals who specialise in your niche, and have been doing so for years. They will be able to share the knowledge you will need to instill complete confidence in both existing and new clients.

2. Culture 

The culture of a business is so important when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. It’s a crucial element to the success and longevity of a business, but also one of the hardest things to get right.

Boutiques are able to exert a level of control over the culture they implement across their business. Achieving a consistent, healthy internal culture across a small business is easier to sustain, simply because the team headcount is lower.

Working for a smaller boutique can mean stepping into a self-driven work environment. Many of the boutique firms – especially owner-operator businesses – are less likely to have internal L&D teams, so they prefer to hire experienced consultants.

The culture that suits you best will very much depend on the stage you’re at in your career, and what you’re looking to get out of your time with a particular business.

3. High earning potential 

Money can be one of the major drivers behind working in recruitment. Similar to any sales-driven role, recruiters are paid their base salary alongside commission. Put simply, the more revenue you generate, the bigger your paycheck becomes. 

Boutique recruitment agencies tend to offer transparent and highly competitive commission structures. They are able to do so because their business costs are low, which means they can be generous with how much commission they allocate to their consultants.

For a boutique recruitment agency, offering an attractive commission scheme can be a strong pull factor for a recruiter and can help to retain consultants in the long-term.

Find out if you’re on a competitive scheme in our guide to commission schemes in recruitment.

Key takeaways

If you’re moving jobs, you might be wondering if a boutique recruitment agency is the right fit for you. Consider these factors when weighing up your options: 

  • Organisational structures in boutique agencies tend to be more flexible and dynamic, which can be a huge advantage when it comes to climbing the career ladder e.g. more accessible, fast path to promotion
  • Fewer layers also gives you more access to senior leaders and figureheads in the business, which can be an invaluable learning experience
  • Boutique agencies often specialise in niche functions and industries. This serves as a great platform, providing you with the tools you need to become a true specialist and expert in your chosen patch
  • Smaller firms can often sustain a consistent, healthy internal culture due to a lower number of heads 
  • Boutiques offer competitive and definitive commission structures, with high earning potential

On the flip side, look out for my next post where I’ll be exploring 3 reasons why you should join a global recruitment agency. Subscribe below to have it delivered directly to your inbox.

How to change your specialism in recruitment

After spending a number of years recruiting in your specialist industry, the economy is bound to have shifted along with your personal interests. Every recruitment agency is talking about a lucrative, up and coming market and you have a passion for that sector. You’re considering changing your specialism.

Changing specialism is a common driving force behind a recruiter’s decision to seek a new opportunity. It can offer a fresh new perspective, career advancement and it might be a desk you’re personally passionate about. Hands down, the most sought-after market that recruiters want to recruit in today and over the past few years, is Technology.

A majority of recruitment agencies are open to hiring a recruiter who wants to change practice if they understand their motivations and spot their drive.

In this article, we explore how a recruiter can approach changing practice with the end goal of landing an offer.

Evaluate your current specialism

Your new market might sound exciting. A tech startup has just raised $4 million in funding and you want to be the recruiter that fills those new technical roles. Before jumping ship, it’s important to evaluate your current position by considering the implications of changing practice.

Walking away from your practice means walking away from a network you have spent time and effort building. We can sometimes take our position for granted, losing sight of the challenges along the way and forgetting how long it took to build client relationships.

Evaluate what’s driving you to change practice. It could be that you’re burnt out, that you don’t see much growth in your market or that you’re extremely passionate about the new sector.

If you have the drive to join a new desk and you accept the implications, you’re ready to move practice.

Research markets and choose a new specialism

Once you’ve evaluated your current practice, research your new practice to finalise which industry you’d like to specialise in.

If you have your heart set on one practice, start researching it by using online resources. A quick google search can give you a macro overview of your market. Researching live jobs, who is hiring and client contacts can give you a micro overview.

Seek advice by talking to your peers and business colleagues. There is no better place to research a market than by talking to the people who are already recruiting in it. If you’ve worked at one or two agencies, you’ll likely know a couple of recruiters who are covering your desired sector. Try to meet them in person, be open and honest with them so that you can pick their brain without being too intrusive. Make sure to buy them a coffee or a drink!

If you’re not sure which practice you want to join next, identify if you’re being pushed or pulled into a new sector. If you’re being pushed due to bad market conditions, consider covering the same function but in a different industry. For example, if you’re an Accounting & Finance recruiter specialising in Retail & FMCG, consider staying in your function but switching to another industry, such as Healthcare or E-Commerce.

Think about the short to long-term implications on moving to a particular practice. During COVID-19, a number of industries have been hit so hard, such as Travel, that it may take years to recover. Other markets such as E-Payments are thriving during the pandemic and growth is expected to continue post-COVID.

Take action

Once you’ve completed your preliminary research and chosen a new practice, you’re ready to take action. You have three options.

If your current recruitment agency is covering your chosen practice, the first option is to stay at your current company but request a desk transfer. The benefits of this option are that it’s a quicker process, you’ve already built a reputation as a consultant and it could be a comfortable transition.

If your current recruitment agency is not covering your chosen practice, the second option is to launch a new practice from scratch for your current company. This may be a more challenging route to consider with a lot of self-learning involved, but you’ll already be comfortable with the environment and the people you have around you.

Finally, the last option is to consider external opportunities and research new companies that cover your practice. The benefits of this option are the beauty of choice and that the new company may have a more established desk or Learning & Development team to help support the transition.

How to prepare for interviews

Whether you’re moving internally or externally, you’ll have to complete a number of interviews to secure the role. This is your opportunity to convey your thought process behind the move, your research and knowledge of the new market.

Be prepared to explain your thought process from start to end. It’s important that the interviewer understands your drivers, motivations and decision making process. Talk them through the implications of leaving your current desk and the opportunity that the new desk presents, coupled with your passion for the sector. This will help you convince the interviewer that it’s a well-thought out and calculated move.

Roll your sleeves up with your market research. You’ve already completed some research to determine whether your desired practice is right for you, but you need to go deeper. Find out who’s hiring by taking a look at LinkedIn jobs. Create a spreadsheet and include employer names, job titles and locations. Make a second spreadsheet to list up to 25 potential clients in this space. An easier way to approach this could be constructing a business plan for your new practice, printing it out and taking it with you to the interview.

To really impress your interviewer, debunk the jargon. Go back to the job descriptions, read through the roles and understand what clients look for in a candidate.

Identify competing recruiters and share additional market intel; this indicates, not only that you know your market inside out, but that you know your competition as well. If you’re entering into a highly competitive market such as Technology, you need to talk about how you’re going to position yourself and what value you will add to your clients over competing recruiters.

It’s also worth noting that changing practice may compromise any incrementation in your base salary. Every situation is different, but in most cases, it will take more time to become profitable and recruitment agencies have to budget accordingly.

Summary

Changing practice can be an emotional decision as you walk away from a market you have spent years building, but it might just offer the career advancement you need to take a step forward in your long-term ambitions.

To summarise, here is how you can change practice:

  • Evaluate your current practice; consider the implications of walking away from it
  • Research new practices and choose a practice that is right for you
  • Take action and research companies that specialise in your desired practice
  • Prepare accordingly for interviews

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How to build a personal brand as a recruiter that generates more business

As recruiters, we have 101 things to do. Whether it’s sourcing, meeting candidates or clients, working on active deals or negotiating (the list goes on!), it may feel near impossible to fit another task into your week.

The recruitment industry was built on traditional headhunting methods but as the world becomes increasingly digital, building a personal online brand as a recruiter, which goes further than just posting job ads, has become more important than ever.

This guide shares how a recruiter can build a personal brand and use it to generate more business for their desk by investing less than 3 hours per week.

What is a personal recruiting brand?

A personal brand embodies your reputation as a recruiter. It’s everything that builds your credibility and trust in the market from your experience, to your personality and success stories.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider investing in yours:

Rise above the noise

Although recruitment is a new industry compared to others, the industry has grown exponentially in recent years. Hundreds of new recruiters enter the market each month and compete for the same business. This has only accelerated with COVID-19, with many entrepreneurial recruiters taking this as an opportunity to start their own businesses. A personal brand allows you to communicate what you can offer up and above your competitors with your target audience.

Create touch points

Your clients and candidates are browsing LinkedIn when they’re ready to hire talent or when they’re looking for new opportunities. By promoting your personal brand, you can create touch points so that your target audience becomes familiar with your name as a trusted resource in your industry, before you’re even introduced. This will increase your chance of generating a positive outcome when it comes to headhunting and business development.

Generate leads

If your personal brand is strong enough, qualified candidates and clients will reach out to you for business. People you’ve worked with in the past will also see your activity and will come back to you if they had a positive experience.

Define your brand

Start by defining how you want to be portrayed online as a recruiter. Are you an expert in your practice? Do you specialise in permanent or contracting recruitment? Are you more focused on long-term relationships over quick wins? What has your experience in recruitment taught you?

Generate a social media presence and optimise your profiles

Choose social media outlets that are appropriate to your practice. LinkedIn is one of the best options to manage your personal brand and we’ll be focussing on it a lot in this guide, but think about other outlets too. For example, if you’re working in Digital or Product Management recruitment, consider more visual platforms to build your personal brand, such as Instagram.

Optimise each profile and take advantage of the features they offer. LinkedIn has a great tool where you can feature your most impressive content, such as an update, article or podcast.

Ask your candidates and clients for recommendations on LinkedIn too. Recommendations are a powerful tool that confirm that you are who you say you are and give your audience an example of some of the success stories you’ve had on your desk. You’ll be surprised by how many people go to this section to check your credibility.

Start creating informative content

Write articles about your market

As a recruiter, you are constantly speaking to candidates and clients. There aren’t many people out there who have more knowledge about hiring activity than you. You have an opportunity to share this knowledge at scale with your candidates and clients.

Think about publishing market outlooks, career guidance or how-to’s for changing jobs, targeted at your industry. Not only does this add value, it makes you look extremely knowledgeable. With a few engagements, there is no doubt it will create leads.

Consider platforms such as LinkedIn or Medium.

In addition to writing content, you can also share industry news from other respected publications. This demonstrates to your connections that you are constantly in the loop across your industry and your name will often be front of mind.

Start a podcast

Podcasts are trending for both listeners and creators. You can start a podcast by interviewing people in your market – candidates or clients. Think about trending topics within your industry, or topics focused around career development. A podcast enables you to associate yourself with credible individuals in the industry, building engagement and trust with your audience.

An example of some recruiters who have started podcasts are Eifion Jones’ Cyber Security Unlocked podcast, James Abraham’s A New World In Commerce podcast and of course, Andrea Ross’ Talent Talk Asia podcast.

To get started with podcasts, there are many free tools out there that you can use to record your own podcasts such as using Zoom (which we all have downloaded this year!) to record the conversation. From there, you can use platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud or iTunes to publish the audio. You can even go a step further by recording the podcasts in a video format and uploading them to YouTube, too.

Start a vlog

Videos are trending in marketing and even more so in recruitment. They create a much higher engagement rate than written social media updates and can accelerate the reach of your content in the feed. People are curious to know how you come across and what you sound like. Creating a video can help people feel more comfortable with you as they get to know you behind the photo and text.

Start a monthly vlog updating your audience about the activity in your market, the roles you’re hiring for and share updates from your company.

Spice up your job ads

“Hi All, I’m currently recruiting for this position. Please click on the job title below to view the Job Description and apply to it!” – we’ve all been guilty of using this before!

Start creating descriptions that entice and create curiosity with experienced candidates. Talk about what’s great about the role, how the candidate can develop their career and an impressive highlight of the company. Enticing visuals attract attention too.

Take it a step further and use videos in similar fashion to vlogs but for job updates. Create a short 1 minute video talking though the role, company and opportunity for the candidate.

Plan and execute

Create a content calendar and use schedulers

Organising content can become messy when planning around the 101 other tasks you need to get done in the day. Allocate 30 minutes on Fridays or the weekend to get the creative juices flowing and plan out what content you’ll be publishing for the upcoming months. Allocate another 2 hours in the week or weekend to produce the content. Create a buffer of 2 – 4 weeks so you are not always under pressure to meet deadlines if something comes up – which it often does in recruitment!

Use tools like Hootsuite, which is free, to schedule your content in the 30 minutes that you allocate so it’s all done at one time and you don’t have to worry about it throughout the week when you’re headhunting.

Learn the LinkedIn algorithm

It’s not as simple as posting content on LinkedIn and expecting results. You have to learn the LinkedIn algorithm to get your updates and articles to reach all of your network in the feed, rather than just a handful.

The key is engagement. The more engagement you get on your posts, the further they’ll go in the feed. The simple way to get more exposure on your updates is by writing or publishing high quality content rather than writing up rushed articles.

The LinkedIn algorithm also reduces your reach if you include external links. Updates without any links get the most exposure (provided they get engagement in the form of likes or reactions). Most of the time, however, you’ll want to direct people to a blog or podcast. The sweet spot is including one link to your content, rather than multiple. Sharing updates posted by your company also gains limited exposure in the feed.

Get involved on LinkedIn

Start engaging with professionals and crediting others who have posted great content or insightful updates. Get involved in discussion, start meaningful conversations and shine a light on others achievements or promotions. The more active you are on social media, the more others will engage in your content.

Analyse your results

With all of this effort, it’s important that you are getting return on your investment. A measurement can be as simple as counting how many candidates or clients reach out to you as a result of your content production, or looking at the amount of engagement you get on each article or post. You can also monitor your LinkedIn profile views to make sure the graph is increasing.

Be consistent or don’t start at all

Building a personal brand and creating content is a long-term game; you won’t see the results after publishing one or two articles. If you’re consistent, you will develop a reputation for yourself in your area of expertise. People will genuinely look forward to your content and you will start to generate more leads that convert into business because of it!

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