Recruitment business development: how to get more leads

No matter your role in recruitment, there's one thing that's constantly on your mind ... "How can I get more leads?"

You could be the best consultant in the world, but without job vacancies to fill, you're nothing. We all dream of placing nothing but wonder jobs - making big commission from a delighted client - but finding clients to recruit for is an art in itself.

Lead sourcing is especially crucial if you've recently started your own recruitment agency - because you're responsible for everything. Generating leads, finding candidates, matching those candidates to the right employers - it all rests on you. 

While established recruitment agencies often find that leads come to them, this won't be the case before you have made a name for yourself and / or got yourself onto some preferred supplier lists (PSLs).

That's why we've put together a list of recruitment lead generation strategies for you to try - as well as some things you might want to avoid ... 


Ways to generate more leads in recruitment


Build relationships with firms and get on PSLs

If you want to generate quality leads in the future, it's vital that you build strong relationships with firms you want to recruit for. This can also help you to achieve the title of preferred supplier - opening the door to you getting on PSLs.

Actually doing this can be quite difficult, because most firms and HR departments are contacted by an almost never-ending stream of recruiters on a daily basis. You may find yourself getting fobbed off with the typical 'we use a PSL' response - especially from larger firms.

The first thing to understand here is why employers actually use PSLs

A PSL allows a firm to standardise its recruitment process - which is especially useful when you're talking about a bigger operation with multiple departments. Often, in doing this, organisations find that they can reduce and standardise the fees they pay to recruiters.

If a company finds itself quickly in need of new staff on a regular basis, then it makes sense for them to draw up a list of recruiters that can consistently source candidates of the right calibre. Often, this also allows the company to employ relatively inexperienced HR staff - which is much cheaper than trying to hire in experts. 

So how do agencies on PSLs actually get there? 

Actually getting onto a PSL can be tricky. In order to become a preferred supplier, you first have to demonstrate to a firm that you can find and recruit the people they need, in the right timeframe. 

Assuming that you can actually engage someone with the authority to put you on a PSL into conversation, you then face the challenge of showing them how you are better than the suppliers they have been using for the past few years.

This need not be as tricky as it sounds, but be warned - it's often a long process.

The first thing to do is to find an angle. As creepy as it sounds, you need to research your contact and find out what makes them tick. Think outside of LinkedIn too - very few people say what they really think on there. What about Facebook? Have they posted much on Twitter? As a thinking salesperson, social media is your goldmine.

The point of all this research is that it will allow you to understand the person concerned. Once you know what makes them tick, you can engage them in conversation about things that actually matter to them. It should be a pretty natural process.

At this point, you're ready to show them your unique selling point - and crucially how that unique selling point will help them. What are they struggling with? What are you going to do for them that's going to make them look good at work and get that raise they think they deserve?

If they don't go for it first time, don't worry. The key here is to be persistent without being pushy. They need to know you're around, so that when the time comes that they need a recruiter, you're the one they immediately think of.




Advertise your recruitment agency online

Generating leads for a small recruitment business can be tricky at the start, but fortunately there are a number of ways you can advertise a local business online. Agency Central is one such method.

Our online directory of recruitment agencies is a service that is free for employers to use - and means that recruitment leads will come to you. Employers can search for recruitment agencies by locality, specialism, or type (e.g. contingency / retained) and our site is used by hundreds of employers every day to find agencies to provide them with staff. 

Think of us as a recruitment lead generation website.


Google My Business listing, SEO, and PPC

Assuming you have a bricks and mortar location, another important method of online advertising for your recruitment agency is to ensure that your firm has a Google 'My Business' account - and that it's setup correctly. 

Google My Business is a free service that allows you to improve your business's visibility in Google - showing searchers information such as your physical location (via Google Maps), logo, opening hours, and address. You can see an example of this below:



A Google My Business listing is a great way to improve your recruitment agency's online visibility.

Once your business has a Google presence set up, you can then go about leveraging this to manage and enhance your reputation. This means that the next time you do a really good job for a client or candidate, you can ask them to leave you a Google review - which potential customers are likely to see when they search for your company. Depending on your market, it may also be worth leveraging Facebook reviews in a similar manner.

If your recruitment agency has a website (and if not, then why not?), then SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay-per-click advertising) are two areas you may want to explore. While both of these approaches require a degree of specialist knowledge, the rewards that they return can be substantial.

SEO involves making changes to your website that will drive organic (free) traffic to it from search engines - specifically Google. An SEO professional will typically make many, many small changes to a company's website in order to ensure that it ranks well in Google - but one crucial factor is content.

If you want your recruitment agency's website to rank well in Google, then if you do nothing else, you should have a blog and use it often. Ensuring that your site produces good content, on a regular basis, is the single most important factor in determining where it ranks on Google.

PPC is a type of paid advertising run by search engines, and includes services like Google AdWords and Bing Ads. As you may have guessed from the name, pay-per-click advertising involves paying only when someone clicks on your ad. 

You can recognise PPC ads on Google very easily - because of the little green 'ad' box next to them. In the case of Google's AdWords system, a number of factors can determine when and where your ad is seen - and it's important to constantly research the keywords you are bidding for, in order to keep quality high and cost low. 

Recruitment marketplace websites


There are a number of websites that aim to match recruiters with vacancies by means of a marketplace approach. The details vary, but here the basic idea is the same. Employers post jobs, which are then distributed throughout a variety of recruitment agencies - often by means of an algorithm or bidding mechanism.

While these websites are unlikely to generate an exclusive contract, given the number of agencies working through them, they do represent another option for generating recruitment leads that you may wish to have in your arsenal. 

A potential problem with this approach is that it takes away the personal relationship that we describe earlier in this article - removing much of your bargaining capacity with the client. With this being the case, it's important to monitor your activity with such services - to ensure that it doesn't become a race to the bottom.



Make effective use of social media

Social media is a great tool for recruitment agencies trying to work out how to generate more leads. By using social media effectively, you can build lasting relationships with employers that go far beyond simply filling the odd vacancy.

The key to effective social media use is to know your audience and know what it is that they are talking about. This information will allow you to become an influencer in your field - answering questions and solving problems.

By becoming a trusted source of information in this way, you start to become an authority figure within the sectors that you recruit for.

When an engaged employer needs to hire staff, they will think of you first - because you have already built up a strong relationship with them.

Of course pinning down exactly where your audience are located in the varied world of social media is an art in itself, but once you have determined this, then you can begin to make a focussed effort on engaging with them.

If your audience mostly hangs out on Linkedin for example, then it's little use targeting 90% of your social media effort at Instagram - and vice versa.

In the recruitment industry, social media is all about helping people - and generally it's not something that will have a direct return attributable to it. The firms who do this well tend to be the ones that understand this - because it's all about investing in your brand.

Many recruitment agencies are unsuccessful on social media. This is often because they are reluctant to commit fully to using it - or simply post bland content that doesn't engage with their audience. The key is to be creative and to give your audience what they are looking for.

If you would like a benchmark that allows you to compare your social media success against other recruitment agencies, then we offer free Social Recruiter Leaderboards that fulfill exactly this purpose.

Join a recruitment agency network


When you start a new recruitment agency, you will be at a major disadvantage compared to established firms who have been around for years. As a new firm, you're unlikely to have the same number of contacts as a more established agency.

One way to redress this balance is to join a network of recruitment agencies such as TEAM. TEAM members benefit from a support network spanning over 700 locations - enabling local agencies to offer their clients and candidates a total recruitment service while sharing in split fee opportunities.

TEAM offers its members a range of additional benefits, including discounts from major job boards and many other service providers, along with access to over 70 networking events. This makes TEAM membership a very effective way for a recruitment agency to develop their business.



Lead building techniques to avoid in recruitment

Yes that's right - there are techniques for getting recruitment leads that we'd advise you to avoid. No, we haven't taken leave of our senses, either.

Blanket cold calling

Anyone who's ever run a business is all too familiar with the recruitment cold call. It's so well known that there's a tendency in recruitment to assume that being top biller is synonymous with being on the phone 24/7. 

We're here to tell you that while being on the phone is important (actually it's invaluable), you shouldn't be bothering people at work without good reason. There's a reason it's called 'hustling' for business you know ...

Doing a lot of cold calling without proper reason is actually a really bad idea.

99% of the time, all recruiters are doing by ringing someone who's already been called 10 times that day is annoying them. This type of consultant needs to drop the Jordan Belfort act, because no one's impressed. They are the reason the Telephone Preference Service exists.

There's a reason that many successful recruitment agencies advertise the fact that they don't do any cold calling. It's because they've built a good name for themselves - and business comes to them.

Cold calling can be useful in recruitment, but only in a few very limited circumstances. If you do genuinely have some great candidates that you think an employer could benefit from meeting, then by all means give them a targeted call. We would emphasise the word targeted however, as this will work in everyone's favour - including yours.

Underlining this situation, we spoke to Alan Astin - director at Intro Recruitment, who are based in Wigan. Alan recalls when he started out in recruitment, being forced to spend four hours every day making cold calls - as well as how inefficient this was. 

This is why Intro don't do any cold calling - they've realised that it's not what their clients want. This allows their consultants to spend 100% of their time working on filling vacancies for clients. As Alan puts it, this means that they don't have to do any cold calling in the first place - because clients come to them, rather than the other way round.

This isn't to say that there's never a reason to call a firm on spec - and if you genuinely feel you have a great candidate that would fit right in at a certain company, then certainly give them a call to let them know. But scattergun canvassing for new business is not doing anyone anyone any favours.



'Lead genning'

Lead genning refers to a very specific type of cold contact, where a recruiter pre-qualifies targets through the use of some seriously underhand tactics.

It all starts with a fake job posting.

The recruiter writes up a job that sounds great - which candidates then apply for in droves. 

Once the recruiter has a candidate's details, they contact them and get them into conversation. The details the recruiter is looking for here concern other companies the candidate has recently had interviews at, and even the name of the interviewers they spoke to when they were there. 

These details really aren't that hard for an unscrupulous recruiter to get out of someone who doesn't work in the industry and isn't wise to their tricks ...

Can you see where it's going yet?

That's right - the recruiter does this to build up a picture of which firms are hiring locally, and for what job roles. They then call the firms 'out of the blue', claiming to be a specialist recruiter who has some great candidates for role X, and asking if the employer would be interested in meeting them.

The firm, assuming that this is all some big coincidence, will often then agree to interview the recruiter's candidates.

Of course this leaves the candidates who wasted their time applying for the fake job out in the rain - without an interview even a chance of one.

Clearly this practice does no one's reputation any favours and can only be a bad thing for the recruitment industry as a whole. It's therefore best avoided at all costs.

In summary: the most important customer

While this article has been about how to get more recruitment leads (which is something that most of us would like), it's worth underlining the fact that the most important customer is the one you already have. 

It's a harsh reality that if you don't treat your existing customers well, then another agency will gladly take them off your hands. As a recruiter, you walk a fine line between fulfilling the requirements of customers who are already with your agency and finding new ones to work with.

Remember that your customers' success is you success - so your job is to do everything you can to help them achieve their goals. 

Don't forget, either, that success breeds success - and by delighting your customers you will help to ensure they do a share of your marketing effort for you by telling their friends and peers about you. These people won't always be external to the client's organisation either, so - especially in large companies - you may well find yourself contacted by hiring managers from other departments.

All this brings to mind a great story we heard a few years back - where an agency received an enquiry, but did not succeed in making a placement. However, the client felt the agency had done such a good job that they returned to them with many vacancies in the future - which resulted in the agency making over £40k worth of fees from them over the course of the following 12 months. 

The moral of this story is that doing a good job is always in your best interest - even if you don't succeed at the first attempt. This is not just a great way to win new business - it is the foundation on which the best agencies are built.

Written by Matt Atkinson