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Niche vs. Generalist Recruitment

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    Niche vs. Generalist Recruitment


    The world of recruitment has changed in the last 10-15 years. Fifteen years ago most major towns and cities had local recruitment agencies that supported their community and local economy.

    They were generally situated on the high street and were the main source locally for employers seeking staff and workers seeking employment. They have fulfilled a key role in the development of our regional economies.

    Often, they supplied:

    • Admin & Clerical
    • Accounting & Payroll
    • Customer Service and Contact Centre people
    • Distribution staff (FLT Drivers, drivers, pickers & packers)
    • Construction Workers
    • Legal
    • Sales & Marketing
    • IT
    • Education workers

    The list is actually endless and certainly not exhaustive. Their key differentiator was they were local and knew all the local employers and attracted local workers.

    The rise of the Internet has seen this world change and the squeeze on margins and the introduction of in-house recruiters by larger employers has seen the commercial viability of many of these businesses traditional core markets have become almost unsustainable.

    The need for recruitment agencies to recycle the unemployed/displaced workers and support individuals make informed career moves has not diminished increasingly this role has been fulfilled by Niche/Specialist Recruiters.

    So successful have they become that they dominate most industry lists of high growth recruiters and those with the highest profitability.

    Niche or specialist recruiters know the gaps in the markets, know which skills carry the highest premiums and are now the ones that achieve the higher margins. In fact it is fair to say they dominate most sectors.

    So successful has this niche business model been that, those achieving the highest growth and margin figures are now often working in Ultra-Niches. No longer focusing on IT, Accounting or Engineering but specific skills within a sector such as Cyber Security, Avionics Systems Engineering or Cost & Management Accounting.

    This is a trend you cannot ignore and in our support of clients we don’t.

    Choosing their ultra-niche or niches is critical. Knowing which are growing, which have the best margins and accessibility is key. Migrating from a ‘generalist’ regional recruiter model even one in a specific sector like construction or engineering to a ultra-niche model is not easy or without its pitfalls and challenges. Not everyone manages it successfully and without losing staff and clients.

    One of our oldest clients however made the move to a niche recruitment desk model eighteen months to two years ago and are now achieving 300% growth rates in revenue and profitability. This performance is not unique and replicable with the right training and coaching support. Done in the right way it can have other benefits in increasing consultant productivity, speed of development of trainees and brand and market penetration.

    A critical consideration is do you know where the ‘skill-gaps’ are in your markets. Niche Recruiters leverage the ‘supply/demand’ equation to maximum benefit. They justify their higher fees by finding the rare/premium skills that other suppliers struggle to attract. Your knowledge of where these ‘gaps’ in the market exist and for how long they are likely to remain is therefore crucial. A good experienced recruitment growth coach will have some of this knowledge and help you find what is best for your business.

    Before embarking on this journey factors for consideration will include:

    • Which niches/ sectors are growing?
    • What knowledge/experience do you have in these niches?
    • What existing client relationships and commercial agreements do you have in or outside these sectors?
    • What 360 recruitment practices are consultants skilled in?
    • What capacity and appetite do they have for niche recruitment?
    • How flexible are they to changing their working practices?
    • How keen are they to learn and acquire new skills?
    • Are you permanent or temp/contract/interim focused business?
    • What are your core businesses ‘service values’?

    In your quest for the lucrative sectors that are growing, you might be interested to know we publish a blog every year on the Top Recruitment Sectors for Growth you might find this a useful place to start. There are many other sources of information on skills gaps and market trends. The KPMG/REC monthly Jobs Report is another good place to keep tabs on.

    Many of the premium skills-gaps exist in IT, Technology and Engineering sectors but these may not be areas you have any knowledge or expertise in.

    Equally healthcare and education also have huge skill shortages but there are barriers to entry unless you have access to government framework contracts and a whole regime of compliance to understand and learn.

    Again there is not ‘one-size that fits all’. The journey to niche recruiter is not easy or right for every business and the advice and support of a good recruitment growth coach with experience of doing this successfully with other recruiters is therefore essential.

    For more information please visit Selling Success or contact Ian Knowlson on 0370 879 0105 or email