Business OverviewIf you've got sales and people skills in big supply, then this could be the business for you. As an executive recruiter, you'll match job candidates with potential corporate employers. Sometimes you'll start with an executive looking for a new position; on other occasions a company with a slot to fill will initiate the search. While an employment agency generally works with lower-echelon prospects, executive recruiters--as the name implies--concentrate their efforts on higher-level posts, filling management, and professional and technical spots. You can specialize in a particular industry or you can be a generalist. And there's plenty of work--according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2 million executive, administrative, managerial, professional specialty and technical support employees actively sought new jobs in one recent year. And in executive search, these people are just the tip of the iceberg--most of your successes come from recruiting those already happily employed. The advantages to this business are that you can work at home or anyplace else where you can access the telephone, your startup costs are low, and you get the satisfaction, when everything goes right, of delivering matches made in corporate heaven. You'll need A+ people skills, coupled with the business acumen to assess a candidate's skills and level of experience against the requirements of the position. You have to be a stellar salesperson because you are, after all, selling--candidates to companies and vice versa. If you specialize in a particular industry, you'll also need up-to-the-nanosecond knowledge of its trends and technology. And last but definitely not least, you'll need the salesperson's thick skin--you'll have to do a lot of trolling for clients, and you'll net a lot of 'no thanks' along the way.
The MarketDepending on whether you specialize and in what industry, your clients can be anything from a five-star hotel desiring an executive chef to an oil company looking for a petroleum geologist to a software company desperately seeking a CEO. Look through trade and business publications for companies advertising for, then call to offer your services. Direct-mail brochures to clients in your specialty, then follow up with phone calls. Network at trade shows and professional organizations and with present and former colleagues. Establish relationships with other executive recruiters--often they'll have a client for whom you have the ideal candidate, or vice versa, and you can share the placement fee.
Needed EquipmentYou don't need special licenses or permits to be an executive recruiter, but an employment agency does, so take care that you don't mislabel yourself. Some states prohibit meeting candidates or client companies in a home setting, so check into this before you launch your home office. (You'll conduct the vast majority of your business by phone anyway.) You'll need the basic office setup--a computer, a laser printer, a fax machine and the usual office software--plus a database program for tracking clients and candidates and plenty of filing space for the hundreds of resumes you'll have on tap. And you'll want one of those nifty telemarketer's headsets so your ear doesn't go numb from hours spent jammed against the earpiece.