How to Start a Recruitment Agency (Complete Guide 2023)

Wondering how to start a recruitment agency? I know I did when I realized just how transformative they can be.

For my husband and me, it was right out of college when a local recruitment agency became our saving grace. As fresh graduates, we were overwhelmed and unsure about where to start our career journeys. But this agency, with their warmth and expertise, not only helped us find our first jobs but also sparked an entrepreneurial passion in me to help others in the same way.

So, how about we embark on this journey together? I’ll guide you through each step needed to start your very own recruitment agency. It’s an opportunity to change lives, one job placement at a time.

But before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand what a recruitment agency really is.

Starting a recruitment agency

What a Recruiting Agency Does

Alright, before we delve into the nitty-gritty of starting your own recruitment agency, let’s have a quick heart-to-heart about what exactly a recruitment agency does. In the simplest terms, a recruitment agency is like a best friend matchmaking you with your dream job.

They work closely with companies looking to fill vacancies and job seekers trying to find their perfect fit. The magic lies in connecting the right people to the right jobs – like making a match in career heaven!

Types of Recruitment Services

Recruitment agencies can specialize in a variety of fields.

General & Specific Sector Recruiting Agencies

Some, like the one that helped my husband and me, are generalist agencies that cover jobs in a wide array of industries.

Then, you have other recruitment agencies that focus on specific sectors, like IT, healthcare, or finance. These are known as specialist or niche agencies. They have in-depth knowledge of their specific industry, which can be a real asset for job-seekers and employers in those fields.

Executive search or headhunting agencies

Then, there’s the executive search or a headhunting agency. These folks are like the elite matchmakers of the business world, finding top-level executives for high-ranking executive positions.

They usually operate on a retained basis, which means they work exclusively for the hiring company until the position is filled.

Staffing agencies

Lastly, there are staffing agencies. These are the superheroes of the temporary, seasonal, or contract basis work world. They help companies needing short-term workers and individuals looking for temporary or contract jobs.

Knowing the types of recruitment agencies out there can help you decide which model suits your aspirations and expertise best.

Starting a recruitment agency

How do recruiting firms make money?

Ah, the million-dollar question! Or perhaps, for your future recruitment agency, the multi-million-dollar question. Recruiting agencies primarily make their money through fees paid by the companies they work for. These fees can be structured in a few different ways:

1. Contingency Fees:

These are typically a percentage of the candidate’s first-year salary and are paid by the company only when the agency successfully places a candidate in a position. This is the most common way most recruitment agencies make money. The percentage can range widely depending on the industry and level of the position, typically falling anywhere between 15-25%.

2. Retained Fees:

Executive search or headhunting agencies often operate on a retained basis, meaning the company pays them upfront to perform the search, and they work exclusively for the company until the position is filled.

This fee usually consists of a percentage of the estimated first-year compensation of the position they’re hiring for and is often paid in thirds: one-third upfront, one-third midway through the process, and one-third when a candidate accepts the job.

3. Hourly Fees:

Some agencies, particularly those in the temporary or contract staffing business, make money by charging a markup on the hourly rate the company pays the worker. For example, if the agency pays the worker $15 per hour but charges the company $20 per hour, the agency makes $5 per hour for each hour the worker puts in.

4. Flat Fees:

In some cases, especially for lower-level positions, agencies may charge a flat fee for each placement.

By understanding how the money flows in a recruitment agency, you’ll be one step closer to making your agency a thriving success. Next, let’s look at how you can get your recruitment agency off the ground!

Starting a recruitment agency

How to start a recruiting business

1. Come up with a business plan

When starting a recruitment agency, your business plan is like your road map. It outlines where you want to go and how you plan to get there. It’s not just a document, but a living, breathing guide that can help you navigate the thrilling journey of starting your recruitment business.

First off, you’ll want to detail your business structure, services, and target market. You’ll also want to outline your marketing and financial planning strategies. Consider what types of businesses you’ll be serving, what industries you’ll specialize in, and what types of roles you’ll be filling.

Next up is setting clear, achievable goals. This can range from your first-year revenue target to the number of clients or placements you aim to achieve. Remember, these should be SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Finally, don’t forget to revisit and revise your business plan regularly. As you grow and learn more about your recruitment business, you’ll want to update your plan to reflect your newfound insights and experiences.

Before diving into the world of recruitment services, it’s important to understand the various legal structures available for your business entity and choose the one that’s the best fit for your recruitment agency. Let’s take a look at some common business structures:

Sole Proprietorship:

This is the simplest structure, where you own the recruitment agency as an individual. It has the least amount of paperwork, but it also means you are personally liable for any debts or legal issues your business may face.


If you’re planning to start your recruitment agency with a partner, a partnership structure might be the way to go. You’ll share the profits, losses, and responsibilities of running the agency with your partner(s).

Limited Liability Company (LLC):

An LLC provides limited liability protection, meaning your personal assets are separate from your business assets. This structure is quite popular among small businesses, including recruitment agencies, because it combines the benefits of a corporation with the simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership.


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners and offers the most protection in terms of liability. However, it involves more paperwork, regulations, and tax requirements compared to other structures.

Additionally, you’ll need to research your state’s requirements for a business license. Ensuring your business is legal and above board is critical when starting a recruitment agency.

Once you’ve chosen the legal structure for your recruitment agency, it’s time to decide on a business model.

Starting a recruitment agency

Choosing a business model

Permanent Placements:

Focus on helping clients find relevant candidates for full-time, permanent positions. This model is suitable if you’re looking to build long-term relationships with clients and candidates.

Contract Placements:

In this model, your recruitment agency would concentrate on placing candidates in temporary or contract positions. This can be especially beneficial if you’re targeting industries with fluctuating demand for talent or if you want to provide flexible solutions to your clients.

Hybrid Model:

You can also choose to offer both permanent and contract placements. This approach allows you to cater to a broader range of clients and candidates, as well as adapt to market changes more effectively.

By carefully considering the legal structure and business model for your successful recruitment agency, you’ll lay a strong foundation for success.

Selecting Your Recruiting Agency’s Location

Choosing where to establish your recruiting agency is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The location can influence your ability to attract both clients and talent.

Whether you’re going with a brick-and-mortar office or opting for a virtual setup, the geographical location can impact your business in terms of taxes, legal requirements, and access to your target industries.

If you’re going for a physical office, consider an office location that’s easily accessible and situated near the industries you plan to serve. For instance, if you’re focusing on tech recruitment, it might be beneficial to set up shop in or near a tech hub.

On the other hand, starting a virtual recruiting agency gives you the flexibility to work from anywhere while expanding your reach to candidates and clients across different locations. Plus, it can save you a pretty penny on overhead costs.

How to start a recruiting agency

Protect Your Agency with Business Insurance

Just like you wouldn’t drive a car without insurance, you shouldn’t run a business without it either. Business insurance is a safety net for your recruiting business, protecting you from potential risks and liabilities.

Check out the Hartford for small business insurance quote. It can typically run anywhere from $30-$100 per month. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

Getting Your Tax Ducks in a Row

Before you start celebrating your first placement, there’s one more thing you need to get sorted – taxes. I know, it’s not the most exciting part of starting a recruiting agency, but it’s a necessary one. The good news is, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Register for Taxes

Apply for an EIN: This is a must-do when starting a recruiting agency. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a social security number for your business. It’s used by the IRS for tax purposes. The process is quite simple, and you can apply online through the IRS website. And guess what? It’s free!

Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card

1. Business Bank Account:

Once you’ve got your EIN, the next step is to open a business bank account. This is an essential part of keeping your personal and business finances separate. It not only makes tax time a lot easier, but it also gives your recruiting agency a more professional appearance.

2. Business Credit Card:

A business credit card can be a useful tool for managing your recruiting agency’s expenses. It allows you to build a credit history for your own business, which can be beneficial if you need to apply for business loans or credit lines in the future. Plus, many business credit cards offer rewards and perks that can help offset business costs.

Starting a recruitment agency

Dive into the Recruiting Industry & Competitor Analysis

1. Understanding the Industry:

The first step in creating a successful recruiting business is getting a grip on the industry. Look out for the latest recruiting industry trends and see where your agency might fit best.

Do you want to be a generalist, or does vertical/niche recruiting appeal more? Remember, finding a niche can sometimes be more profitable as you get to become an expert in a specific field.

2. Know Your Competitors:

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, in the business world, your competitors are your best learning tool. What are they doing well? What could you do better? Use this knowledge to set your own recruiting business apart.

Identify Your Target Market & Define Your Buyer Persona

1. Who’s Your Crowd?

Before you start your own recruitment business, you need to know who you’re serving. Are you helping fresh graduates land their first job, or are you assisting experienced professionals transition careers? Knowing your target market helps guide your strategies and tailor your services.

2. Craft Your Buyer Persona:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. What type of companies will you be helping to find employees? Startups? Corporate giants? Non-profits? Defining your buyer persona will give your recruitment business a clearer vision and focus your marketing and sales efforts.

Remember, your recruiting business isn’t just about filling job vacancies; it’s about making the right match between candidate and company. That’s where the magic happens!

How to start a recruiting agency

Invest in Essential Tech Tools

Alright, let’s take a closer look at tech tools. In this digital era, staying updated with technology is akin to keeping your business on a fast-moving conveyor belt. Here are some of the key digital tools that can be a game changer when starting a recruitment agency.

1. Applicant Tracking System (ATS):

An Applicant Tracking System is like the backbone of a recruiting agency. It helps you manage job postings, track applicants, and even automate parts of the recruitment process – from prospect to hired candidate. Examples of popular ATS software are Bullhorn, Zoho Recruit, and Workable. Each has its own set of features, so choose one that aligns best with your needs.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software:

When it comes to managing relationships with both clients and candidates, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is your best friend. It helps you keep track of all your interactions and ensures no lead or opportunity gets lost in the shuffle. Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, and Zoho CRM are among the top contenders in this field.

3. LinkedIn Recruiter:

LinkedIn Recruiter is a platform specifically designed for recruiting agencies. It allows you to search, connect, and manage potential candidates all in one place. It’s like a treasure trove of professional information waiting to be discovered!

4. Other Recruitment Tools:

There are a host of other tools that can boost your whole recruitment process. For instance, a Boolean search tool can help you find candidate profiles across the internet. Tools like Hiretual and SeekOut are quite popular for this. Job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor can be used to post job openings and attract qualified candidates.

5. Video Conferencing Tools:

With remote work becoming increasingly common, video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are essential for conducting interviews or meetings online.

6. Scheduling Tools:

Lastly, scheduling tools like Calendly can help you streamline your appointment scheduling process with candidates and clients, saving you from the back-and-forth emails.

Investing in the right tech tools can significantly streamline your recruiting process, leaving you with more time to focus on what truly matters – building relationships and placing candidates in their dream jobs!

Starting a recruitment agency

Creating a Winning Marketing Strategy for Your New Recruitment Agency

Are you ready to level up your marketing strategy and reel in those corporate clients for your recruiting business? Let’s jump right in!

1. Identify Your B2B Niche:

Before anything else, it’s essential to identify the specific B2B niche you’re targeting. Maybe it’s tech startups, healthcare facilities, or non-profit organizations. Whatever it is, your niche will guide your marketing efforts and messaging. Remember, if you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody!

2. Understand Your Clients’ Needs:

Once you’ve identified your recruiting business niche, you need to understand their needs. What kind of talent are they looking for? What hiring challenges are they facing? Dig into these details to be able to provide solutions that they truly value.

3. Build a Strong Online Presence:

A professional website, LinkedIn profile, and presence on social media platforms are non-negotiable. Show off your expertise, share success stories on your social media accounts and blogs, and regularly post useful content optimized for search engines that resonates with your target clients.

4. Network, Network, Network:

Networking is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing strategy toolbox. Attend specific industry events, join local business organizations, or even participate in online forums and groups related to your niche. Here are some examples:

  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce to connect with local businesses.

  • Attend industry-specific conferences or trade shows. For example, if your recruiting business is targeting tech companies, the TechCrunch Disrupt conference might be a great place to mingle with potential customers.

  • Participate in relevant LinkedIn groups or industry-specific online forums. These can be goldmines for making personal connections and sharing your expertise.

5. Offer a Free Consultation or Audit:

To attract corporate clients, you can offer a free talent acquisition audit or consultation. This gives you an opportunity to show off your expertise and provide value upfront.

6. Tailor Your Pitch:

When reaching out to potential corporate clients, customize your pitch to their specific needs. Show them that you understand their challenges and can provide the solution.

7. Leverage Client Testimonials:

Nothing beats word-of-mouth recommendations. Use testimonials from your satisfied clients to build trust and credibility.

8. Outbound Prospecting and Cold Outreach:

While inbound marketing can bring potential clients to you, don’t underestimate the power of outbound prospecting. This involves identifying potential clients and reaching out to them directly.

  • Cold Emails: Craft a compelling cold email that clearly communicates the value you can offer. Remember, this isn’t about selling your services, but rather about offering a solution to their hiring challenges.

  • Cold Calls: Yes, they can be daunting, but they can also be incredibly effective. The key to successful cold calling is preparation. Know who you’re calling, what their potential needs are, and how your recruitment agency can address those needs.

  • LinkedIn Outreach: LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for connecting with potential customers. Send personalized connection requests to key decision-makers in the businesses you’re targeting.

9. Build Partnership Agreements:

When you start a recruitment agency, consider establishing partnership agreements with corporate clients. You could offer discounted rates for a long-term commitment or for a certain volume of placements. This not only secures a client but also fosters a long-term relationship in your business.

By incorporating these strategies into your marketing plan, you’re bound to see a rise in your recruitment agency’s visibility and success. Happy networking and prospecting!

10. Use Email Marketing:

Build an email list and regularly share valuable content, industry insights, and updates about your services. These are your digital promotional materials that keep you at the top of their mind when they need recruitment services.

11. Monitor and Adjust:

Marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Regularly review your strategies and adjust as needed based on what’s working and what’s not.

By following these steps, you’re well on your way to crafting a marketing strategy that not only attracts corporate clients but also builds long-lasting relationships. Now go get ’em!

Starting a recruitment agency

Spend Quality Time with Your Top Candidates

Finally, remember to invest time in building strong relationships with your top candidates. This is like cultivating a garden – the more time and care you give, the better the flowers (or in this case, successful placement and happy clients) you’ll get.

Understanding their career goals, aspirations, and skills can help you match them with the perfect job opportunity. Your candidates are not just a number; they are the heart of your recruitment business.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, my friends! You’ve just walked through the ins and outs of how to start a recruitment agency. From identifying your niche and understanding the legalities to setting up your business goals and investing in tech tools, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to take on the recruitment world.

And remember, marketing is your secret weapon. Whether it’s through networking, outbound prospecting, or building long-lasting partnerships, your efforts will pave the way to your business success.

Just like my husband and I found our path with the help of a recruitment agency, you’re now ready to help countless others find theirs. So, roll up your sleeves and let’s get started. The recruitment industry is ready for you to make your mark!


Let’s dive into some of those frequently asked questions about starting a recruitment agency.

Is owning a staffing agency profitable?

Definitely! The staffing industry can be quite profitable if managed well. The profitability will largely depend on your ability to build strong relationships with companies looking for employees and job seekers looking for work.

Remember, your agency’s income will primarily come from the fees you charge companies for placing job seekers in their open positions.

How do recruiters get money?

Recruiters typically earn money by charging a fee to the companies they’re helping to find employees. This fee is usually a percentage of the first year’s salary of the job seeker they place in a company. For temp positions, recruiters may charge a markup on the hourly rate.

What is the average commission per placement?

The commission per placement can vary widely depending on the business industry, the level of the position, and the terms agreed upon with the client company. Generally, it can range from 15% to 25% of the candidate’s first annual salary. So for a $50,000 placement, you can pocket $7500 – $12,500 (before taxes). Not bad!

I hope this gives you a clearer picture of the recruitment agency landscape. It’s an industry with great potential if you’re up for the challenge!

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