Top 5 Tips for Headhunters & Recruiters on the Agency-side

As a headhunter and proud agency recruiter, I have been blessed with an incredible career and now I’m in a privileged position to help other headhunters and recruiters maximize their careers on the agency side at my own recruitment firm, DG Recruit, that helps headhunters make career moves.

Here are the top 5 tips we’ve gathered that helps recruiters maximize their career and billing potential:

#1. Understand what your primary motivators are.

In the world of agency recruitment, there is nothing that will sustain us if not for the promise of money. Anyone who disagrees with that is either already really rich or simply not cut out for this job. If you’re considering a job in headhunting but dislikes the idea of sales and commission and views sales jobs as “unstable”, then please do not for a moment, entertain nor join this industry.

One of the most important attitudes you must adopt if you are to survive and thrive in this job is understand this fundamental truth. Staffing, recruiting, headhunting, agency recruiting, whatever you want to call it, is a SALES job. If you think for a moment it is anything else other than that, then you will be disappointed. Please do yourself a huge favor and make sure your personal and financial goals are actually aligned with a career in sales to save yourself, your company, and your boss the pain of having things not work out.

DGR tip: Don’t do agency recruitment just to get your foot in the door with HR as the end game. Chances are you’ll hate it so much, you’d probably have been better off just applying directly to corporate recruiting or HR jobs in the first place. Don’t take a miserable detour, it’s just not worth it.

#2. Once you determine why you’ve chosen this career (money), ask yourself to what lengths are you ready to go to achieve it.

Wanting money is one thing; actually doing the work required to get there to earn it through commissions is a totally different ball game. It goes without saying that a career in sales requires intense investment into yourself. Your communication skills, your mindset, the time you need to spend to actually learn the sales cycle and techniques in terms of putting into practice, all of that takes significant time away from your lifestyle.

Are you seriously committed to working the hours you need to (most days it is 8-6pm and MORE)? Are you willing to say the things that are hard to say? To tell you that you’ll never have to say something you’re not 100% comfortable with is a lie. You’ll need to say things and do things you otherwise wouldn’t need to do in a technical job that is very black and white. Sales operates in the gray – are you ok with that?

DGR Tip: Please don’t be naive. Be clear on who you are, your code of ethics. As salespeople, we can absolutely operate ethically. As an employee and now as the owner of a staffing firm, I have and always operated by a strict code of ethics. I have a defined set of activities I’d never engage in to get ahead that may compromise my clients’ and candidates’ lives. However, absolutely you’ll need to bend, exaggerate, and stretch the truth – FOR THE GREATER GOOD of all parties.

#3. Master the candidate side and get on to clients asap.

I was lucky my first job in staffing was the only job I needed to become a master headhunter. A large part of that was my past employer’s prowess at training strong business development and full-desk recruiters. When you operate a full desk, that means you’re pulling your own accounts, hiring managers, and job reqs, and you’re also filling those yourself on what usually is a niche market vertical. Now, DG Recruit is able to highlight these firms and help headhunters we represent find these awesome firms that teach you both sides of the business (and pays you in commission for doing both sides of the deal).

By age 25, I was making over $215k in this manner because I brought my firm over $740k in revenue that year by really mastering the market dynamics and labor movement patterns since I spoke to both candidates and clients on a daily basis. It was easy to beat out my competition because I was so specialized and understood all the parties in my market. When a candidate asked me about the hiring manager, I knew them and was able to sell that relationship, goodwill, and close personal relationships, which made all the difference.

DGR Tip: Especially for perm, you really need intimate knowledge of both client and candidate to do the job right. However, whether you’re running temp or direct hire, you MUST be able to drive NEW client engagement and understand the modern process for how that works. In most cases, you’ll need to find an employer who can teach you that if you don’t know it already.


Many junior recruiters mistakenly think that it’s somehow a market advantage to recruit for everything under the sun. That simply isn’t the right way to scale and see higher returns on your work. Your recruitment billing should be exponential due to the economies of scale you reach by investing into a very focused niche that you’ll have a market advantage in by knowing it a lot better than your competition.

Clients increasingly trust market experts, NOT generalists because the quality and volume of candidates through a true market expert should always be higher than a generalist. Business-wise, such is the case. Every commercial entity thrives off of focus and dedication. Especially in staffing, where the brand and referral business is crucial to success, dedication and market specialization is required to enhance speed to placement.

DGR Tip: Join a firm that allows you to have ownership, control, and dedication to a specific field. Don’t be scared of a limited market. Recruitment businesses reach high profitability through specialization. A jack of all trades is a master of none.

#5. Look when you don’t need to.

Once you get the hang of this job and understand how this business works, get going on expanding your external network. The common trappings of a great salesperson is they tend to be largely insular, sure of themselves, without ever having seen what else is possibly out there. Being one of the few successful people makes top-billers feel indebted, loyal, and irrationally stubborn that their firm is the “best”.

Sadly, many top-billers are pegged for leadership roles that ultimately puts them in a less than desirable financial situation, simply because they trust their leadership too much to realize that, at the end of the day, the firm needs to do what the firms needs, not what youwant. Many promising top-billers never make the big money they want because they take a job that benefits the company’s growth, not their own.

What inevitably happens is that business dynamics change, cultures grow, top managers leave, and soon, those who have failed to take action are now in a reactionary mode, most susceptible to making a wrong career move off of the constant barrage of promises made by other companies who are lucky enough to snag them in a moment of weakness. Instead, align yourselves with strong recruiters in our field earlier rather than later.

DGR Tip: Of course, I’ll always recommend you to speak with me and my team first! However, you should definitely interview a slew of #Rec2Rec firms (as they call us). Do your own diligence and choose who you want to rep you and what they’re offering.

In Conclusion

If done right, your career will land you into the $100ks, $200ks, $300ks+, pretty much within the first 5 years of you on the job. If you can’t see that happening or if even your top-billers are not earning that type of money, you REALLY need to be wary of what is being promised to you. Any great firm in the USA today in today’s economic environment should be able to yield these opportunities.

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