In 2013, after 8 great years of working in agency recruiting, I decided to change career paths slightly and switched to the ‘Dark Side’ (or ‘Light Side’ depending on which side you’re on!)…

I became an in-house recruiter at an international corporation with their global HQ in downtown Vancouver.

Being on the Dark Side felt new and strange at first, but it didn’t take me long to adjust to my new environment. I’ve enjoyed the experience so much that I doubt I’ll ever go back to the agency world (or what I now refer to as the ‘Dark Side’).

Working in-house has allowed me to work with businesses at both the tactical and strategic level to design and execute successful recruitment campaigns for immediate and future need, which is a nice change from the transactional, ad-hoc based recruitment style of the agency world.

It also didn’t take long before the flood of cold calls from recruitment agencies wanting business from me started to fill up my voice mail, email and LinkedIn account. After 8 years of “hammering the phones” for new business at agencies, it was an interesting and enlightening experience to be on the other side of a cold call, and I immediately realised how repetitive and annoying they are to listen to. Almost every day I’d have messages in my inbox or voice mail that sounded something along the lines of this:

“Hi Brian, I’m calling from XYZ recruitment agency and I see that you’re advertising for a ABC position. I specialise in the recruitment of ABCs and have a great candidate for your role. Please call me back at…”

Sound familiar?

It sure sounded familiar to me as I was guilty of leaving the same message on voicemails all over Vancouver for the past 5 years! Sure, it worked sometimes, but not very often, which is no surprise seeing as all of my competitors were probably leaving the same message.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

(Drum roll please!)

What is the secret to building a solid client base for recruiters?

After reflecting on this for a while, I’ve concluded that if I were ever to return to agency recruiting, I’d go about business development with an entirely different approach! Here’s how:

1) The goal of the cold call should be to form a relationship with the HR representative or hiring manager as a CANDIDATE and not a CLIENT:

Sound simple? Well it is!

You’ll find that people are a lot more willing to take time and talk to you if you are offering them something. Instead of asking for business from a hiring manager or HR representative, offer to help them with their own career.

In fact, make it clear that you don’t want their business and instead that you want to form a relationship so that you can confidentially notify them of career opportunities in the market. Don’t ask for something, instead give them something.

RELATED: How the Hiring Manager & Recruiter Relationship Can Impact the Recruitment Process

2) Don’t expect to get business for at least 6 – 12 months:

Go in with the expectation that you’re not going to get the business for at least 6 – 12 months and be ok with this.

Take this time to build a deep relationship with them as a candidate and don’t be tempted to cross the line by offering to help them with their hiring.

3) Be genuine, keep it organic and don’t force it:

If you’ve done a good job of building a genuine candidate-based relationship with them, then you can be almost certain they’ll ask for your help eventually:

Hey, by the way, if you’ve got a great developer on your books then I’d be interested in seeing a resume…

Also, if you’ve managed to place them in a new position during this time, the chances are that they’ll be picking up the phone to call you next time they look to expand their new team.


Separate yourself from your competitors by trying this approach. Even if they don’t become a client in the end, at least you’ve gained a good candidate (and maybe even a friend!). If they do become a client, then they’ll probably be one of the best and most loyal clients you’ll ever have.

Author: Brian Thompson is a Talent Acquisition Expert at

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