Is it really important to develop a niche in recruitment?


You’ll often hear people talking about the importance of developing a niche when working in recruitment and may question whether this is really necessary. Why restrict yourself to one small market segment when there are so many other roles and candidates out there? At APS we specialise in management consulting but the consulting market is huge, there are around 60,000 consultants in the UK and 700,000 in the US. As we cover both markets this is certainly not niche!

It took me a few years of my recruitment career to develop my niche in life-sciences and it’s my biggest regret that I didn’t do so earlier. I learned that it’s important to pick something that you have an interest in and stick with it, I spent way too long chopping and changing without ever committing, which results in half-hearted efforts and ultimately lack of success.

Here are a few reasons why developing your niche is important:

You become an expert in your market

How many times have you been in a BD meeting and blagged your way through it, or even worse come away having clearly demonstrated that you know nothing about the market the potential client works in? Headhunters talk a lot about being a trusted advisor to clients and it’s impossible to develop that sort of relationship unless the client has faith that you truly understand what they do and who they are looking for. If you can provide interesting insight into their competitors, salary benchmarking and the like then they will come out of that meeting keen to work with you. This leads to…

Higher fees

If you are going to provide a transactional service then your clients will only be willing to pay transactional fees. If you can provide genuine and accurate advice and knowledge, as well as deliver, then clients should be willing to pay higher fees. If they are not then walk away, others will appreciate the value you will add.

Greater efficiency

How often have you landed a new role and sat there thinking ‘where do I start?’ If you land a role in your niche then you will already have strong knowledge of which companies to headhunt from, what salaries and benefits competitors offer, which companies have super happy, loyal staff and which are more tumultuous. You will also have candidates that you can pick up the phone to who may be interested or be able to provide referrals. You will also not fall into the trap of wasting time on a near impossible search; you can be honest with a client that they will not be able to find the person they want for the conditions they are offering and pass on the role, rather than finding out after a number of weeks of fruitless work that the ‘purple unicorn’ they are looking for doesn’t exist.

People will come to you

How much time do you spend hunting for roles and candidates? If you are known as a true expert in your field and deliver for clients and candidates then over time you will find people will come to you, resulting in you being able to be more selective over who you work with.

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