go niche or go home

Everyone tells you to be niche. Not everyone takes the time to explain what this means or how far you should go in practice. Having strict discipline about your markets is imperative if you want to grow fast, especially as the recruitment sector becomes even more saturated and squeezed.

But while it’s too broad to call yourself a ‘tech recruiter’, you won’t get very far pushing left-handed .net developers in Southport. So where do you strike the balance? It’s not niche – it’s super niche.

Become famous for something and start in a region with plenty of opportunities. Refine your value proposition and internal processes, and you’ll have a scalable model to roll out over and over again.

An element of trust

Generally speaking, people distrust recruiters. To the outside world recruitment agencies are all the same – they bring nothing to the table but a middleman. All recruiters claimto understand the roles they’re talking about, yet credibility is soon lost unless they know their onions.

To understand what ‘good’ looks like for both candidates and clients, specialist knowledge is critical. Only when you’ve invested the time in getting to know your market inside out will you be able to demonstrate what makes you different from every other recruiter. 

Niche is at the heart of this. It also involves getting to know people in your space. Trust is built on relationships – you won’t get very far cold-calling candidates saying “I’ve got the perfect job for you!” How could you possiblyknow? 

You simply cannot build trust if you’re talking about 15 things to 15 different people. Instead, channel your time into becoming a subject matter expert. That way, you’ll get to know the market and the best players in it – what ‘good’ looks like and where things are heading.

Do this, and you’ll gain an ability to get hold of talent where an algorithm can’t.

The niche multiplier

A recruitment agency with a niche is more than the sum of its parts. When you really hone in on a specialism in a different location, everyone gets to know who you are. You become a trusted agent in a space; as a result, the noise about roles, companies and projects goes bonkers.

What’s more, you have the power to predict the future. If one company is doing something, you can use this intel to ‘insight sell’ to similar organisations. helping them get ahead in their market.

People pay for knowledge. You’ll easily get onto PSLs (if that’s your bag) when you demonstrate the value you bring to a specific area. Equally, PSLs quickly become irrelevant if a recruiter comes to a company with an absolute niche that their current suppliers are unable to match. To be blunt, specialising quashes competition, drives better deals and justifies higher fees.

You only need to look at the Frank Group to see the outstanding multiples being super niche can bring. Despite only really working perm roles, they became the unquestionable leader in the Dynamics arena globally. They chose one area of tech and went at it, region by region. 

Frank Group would reach 30-40 people in a region before they even considered the next one, which would be led by the best people in the team. Of course, now they’ve branched out beyond Dynamics and into contract, but they didn’t do this until their first sale event. 

In short, you can get to 200-300 people just by doing one thing brilliantly.

Finding your super niche

Niche can make a recruitment agency, but it can just as easily break one if you don’t get that niche right. Too broad – again, like ‘tech recruiter’ – and you risk becoming part of the noise. Too leftfield, and you’ll make life too difficult.

I don’t believe there’s value in being a first-mover in recruitment. Just make sure when the availability of candidates and clients is there, you become the best at it before the market is saturated.

Germany, for example, has no need for more .net recruiters, but an agency specialising in AR devs in Boston would do very well for itself… Investing the time in research is therefore critical before you start piling resources into a niche. If it won’t sustain 50 people, don’t start it.

When going about your research, challenge limiting beliefs. It’s a myth that you need to speak the same language as the country you’re hiring in. And why should you be based in the same location?  He (or she!) who dares wins. Just ensure you’re making informed decisions, not bets.