I am a solo recruiter and how do I ensure my success?

executive search consultant recruitment

In the broad recruiting landscape, the important role of solo recruiters is often forgotten. Not only do they work on projects and take on entire recruiting mandates, but they also step in as interim recruiters, either take on individual recruiting tasks, are deployed as fire brigades and also train and coach the client’s team. They are often a special form of 360-degree recruiter. In this blog article we want to summarize which requirements a solo recruiter business must have in order to be successful.

What is a successful solo recruiter?

Successful solo executive recruiters have a clear specialization and position themselves either in a niche and with a particularly successful service such as telephone research or active sourcing services.

  • They are mostly personalities who work alone.
  • They are usually paid on an hourly basis in order to find and check candidates for your company.
  • Your recruiting skills are focused on hiring when you work with and for corporates.
  • If you work as a researcher for personnel consultancies, your assignment will be fulfilled if you propose good candidates.
  • You have limited access to recruitment resources such as your own job exchanges, candidate tracking systems and screening or sourcing tools, but you have much more expertise in doing so, such as a professional digital mindset.
  • Although they can hardly scale their services by limiting them to weekly hours, they are working very systematically on increasing their efficiency.
  • They ensure constant learning and know-how improvement.
  • They maintain a huge network (online and offline) to facilitate their sales work: they are recommended and inquired about.

The advantages of being a solo recruiter

Being a solo recruiter has a lot of attractive benefits. Little effort, much freedom, the opportunity to choose where they work, no problems, no dress code, no boss and full fee. These and many other advantages lure a considerable number of people into our business. There are a large number of coaches who additionally recruit, even experts in management consulting or personnel diagnostics, taking on more and more recruiting assignments. The number of self-employed recruiters is constantly increasing. I know a large number of successful solo recruiters who have often talked about how easy and less stressful the job is for them.

They feel good and see it as an advantage to be left to their own devices. They talk about advantages such as: You don’t have to deal with staff and colleague problems or follow strange organizational rules. For them, the free allocation of working hours is a much happier way and most also say that their work-life balance has improved considerably since they became self-employed. In many ways this is true, but unfortunately it is only true for a small group of very independent loners who have personalities who tend to be happy on their own and who manage with great discipline to cleverly combine sales tasks, expert knowledge, administration and doing.

The Solo-Recruiter Pitfalls

My experience is that most people who work alone divide into two groups. Unfortunately, the largest group of people who try to do so fail within about 12 months. The main reason seems to be that they feel isolated and not self-motivated and disciplined enough to consistently address the critical aspects of their work. One of the biggest challenges is to carry out multitasking in a balanced and sustainable way. Even though there are many advantages, there are just as many pitfalls: no steady salary payment with clear fixed costs, unlimited distractions, possible isolation, tax payments, administrative tasks, high start-up costs, lack of feedback and support.

The Biggest Solo Recruiter Error

Many self-employed, recruiting individual entrepreneurs foolishly believe that they can work alone and have the same workload, but can only enjoy the advantage of retaining 100% of the fees. This is only partially true. The fact is that in addition to their normal working day as recruiters, researchers, coaches or consultants, they not only have to do the recruiting tasks, but also many other tasks. Accounting, purchasing, technical support, billing, administrative tasks, even emptying the bin are now in your hands.

Today, however, one of the biggest enemies of solo recruiters is digitization nobody can master it alone, that’s impossible. It is too fast, too complex and too disruptive. Most of the solo recruiters remain standing in their know-how. However, professional social recruiting and active sourcing are extremely digitalized skills that no one can simply read on the Internet or in a book. Even expensive tools are no longer a substitute for know-how, because you have to learn how to use them, because they are not helpful. Today’s successful solo recruiters have all managed to combine expert knowledge with a digital mindset.

Success tips for solo recruiters

1. Strategy against tactics

As a recruiting solo entrepreneur, you have two important functions: the down-to-earth Hands-on MoneyMaker and the future-oriented CEO. The hands-on part is the tactic of what you do (recruiting, marketing calls, follow-up etc.). The strategic work of your company is the comprehensive planning and development (mission statement development, exploring new markets, tax planning, marketing strategy etc.) that is crucial if you want to have a solid business. This balance is not easy to achieve and disciplined scheduling for both is probably the best approach. Working with other solo entrepreneurs with appropriate focus is also a solution such as outsourcing telephone research or hiring an admin assistant to do many routine tasks for you.

2. Solo recruiters need a plan

Working from home allows flexibility and freedom that work for an employer may not have. But you won’t have the same structure or policies your processes will be different. So your success is a question of effective time management and self-control. It is important to achieve goals such as contact with a certain number of potential customers per day and working hours per day. Make sure you always stay in touch with candidates they can be your referrers and future clients! You must always keep in mind that you do not have the resources of a complete company. That’s why it’s good to keep in touch with other executive recruiters or join a network.

3. Solo recruiters must pay particular attention to their settings

You may have heard of the book “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought”. This sentence is doubly important if you work alone. When I was a solo executive recruiter, I noticed that I often felt guilty about not being able to do things and stressed about how much I couldn’t do every day. These feelings have a paralyzing effect on a personality and eventually lead to postponing or even avoiding important tasks.

When you start hitting your head against the wall, make sure you take a break. If you notice that you don’t know something, talk to like-minded people, let them help you and coach you or go to training. But do something to interrupt the negative spiral. And work disciplined on your Achilles heels like administration or own learning. Never stop these efforts, but introduce a schedule that you can reach.

4. Solo recruiters need a strong network

Isolation is a big obstacle when you work alone, so you have to figure out how to overcome it. An obvious idea is to connect with other recruitment companies or individual entrepreneurs who want to do split business. You can also meet regularly with some local or national executive recruiters in a network to get support and feedback from your colleagues. Meet with your customers or potential customers – online is important, but not everything! If you’re not in an office where you can meet candidates, take half a day to meet some of them in a 30-minute mini interview in a local cafe. Also make sure they keep pace with digitization and attend training sessions and events.

5. Solo recruiters must become experts

A powerful way to create a thriving solo trade is to become the expert in a narrow niche that you passionately like. Confucius once said, “Choose a profession you love, and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” It may not be that way, but you can be sure of success. Because you are moving away from the excessive demands of a “one-man-band generalist” to a “competitive boutique niche specialist”. The 360-degree recruiter is not a good idea for individual recruiting entrepreneurs. Experts are in a better position to negotiate higher fees and they are recommended and asked for, so they have significantly lower sales costs. You can choose a niche based on an industry or specific position title, but it must be really narrow for you to become the expert.

Unfortunately, e.g. “IT” is much too broad a category, “software developers” already narrower, but e.g. “Java Developers” very narrow, almost too narrow. The most important point is to choose something that has a promising future and you are actually excited about. This expresses who you are as a personality and as a professional, and this congruence is perceived when it is authentic. You will make more placements and definitely have more fun. Mark Twain said, “The law of labor seems extremely unfair, but it’s there, and no one can change it: The more you enjoy your work, the better it gets paid.”

6. Solo recruiters must remain out and visible

Email, phone calls and Skype or other online meeting tools are great, make work easier and more efficient, but there’s nothing to replace meeting someone face-to-face. This point is extremely important and there are many good ways to do it. It’s a better way to get to eye level and create a big company presence and aura at the same time. So socialize with experts and big companies by going to events – that’s how you stay on the ball. There are however some hygiene factors, which is condition for your expert position and their professionalism: With a first-class Website and well maintained Social Media presences your customers and candidates find the correct information about you in Google. Here you invest in your reputation and credibility.


It’s like driving a car if you constantly look at others or are backwards oriented, you can’t move forward. That’s why you make a plan for yourself and then start to implement it in a disciplined and consistent manner. Think about the scalability of your service: Can you easily increase or decrease your service when the market changes? Don’t save on reputation, marketing or necessary technology, do your homework. And expect changes and disruption for which you are preparing nothing is linear today. Digitization affects everyone in recruiting. Solo executive recruiters should counter these in three ways: With lifelong learning, intensive networking and a consistent increase in efficiency. So be proactive and think of financial reserves for lean times.

Published by Dave John

Decade of work experience in leadership consulting with strong focus on talent acquisition & assessment across different industries and geographies.

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