How to Start a Recruiting Business

This type of business requires the recruiting agency to establish positive relationships with its clients, by matching businesses with professional, well-qualified candidates.

Recruiting agencies do best when they establish positive relationships with candidates, by providing them with significant interviews with suitable companies.

As distinguished from temporary work agencies, recruiting agencies typically focus on sourcing skilled professional individuals for full-time, long-term positions.

Learn how to start your own Recruiting Business and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a recruiting business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your recruiting business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a recruiting business?

This business can be started as a sole owner/operator. Here are the basic requirements for this business:

  • A business license (around $300)
  • Form an LLC (around $500)
  • Business cards ($50)
  • Promotional materials ($100)
  • Service agreement forms ($25)
  • Space to work from (can be a home office or allow $500 per month rent)
  • A telephone ($50 per month)
  • A computer ($500)
  • Software (cloud services are $50 to $100 per month)
  • An Internet connection ($50 per month).
  • A business banking account (free)
  • An accountant (if you are not going to keep these records yourself)

If you plan to sell a large amount of items, you may need a storage space for your inventory. You can find storage spaces for around $75 per month.

This business can easily be started for less than $2,000.

What are the ongoing expenses for a recruiting business?

The monthly expenses are rent, telephone, Internet connection, promotional materials, conference/convention attendance fees, and other marketing expenses. A simple one-person operation may have expenses of less than $1,000 per month.

Who is the target market?

The best clients are larger organizations who have a constant need to fill a vacancy and have steady employee turnover at the senior management levels.

The other side of the business is recruiting top talent and having a strong database of professionals to draw upon for any placement opportunities that come up.

How does a recruiting business make money?

If the organization decides to hire a person brought to them by a recruiter, then they will pay a commission to the recruiter, which is a percentage of the new hire’s salary as compensation. Another business model is possible if the recruiter is paid a monthly retainer to search for potential employees, regardless of whether a new hire is found.

To help get new business and clients, some recruiting agencies will allow clients to hire job candidates on a contract basis and pay the recruiting agency a variable commission based on the number of hours worked under the contract.

By being successful in these efforts, recruiting agencies create repeat clients.

How much can you charge customers?

The typical commission for a placement is around 10% of the annual salary for the position or the equivalent of one month’s pay.

Some organizations like to outsource some or all of their recruitment efforts to companies that specialize in doing this work. In this case, the recruiting agency will have a contract that provides for the payment by the organization of a monthly retainer for the ongoing recruitment efforts. This monthly retainer can be a few thousand dollars to many thousands per month depending on the extent of the recruitment activities.

How much profit can a recruiting business make?

An average recruitment and placement can take between 30 to 90 days. If the annual salary for the available job is $100,000 and the commission for the placement is 10%, then the revenues for a successful placement would be $10,000 minus the expenses. If the recruiting agency is a simple one-person operation and only one position is filled during each three month period this would create $10,000 - $3,000 = $7,000 in net profits or about $28,000 per year.

Many recruiting agencies make multiple placements per month, so the profit potential for this business is very attractive.

How can you make your business more profitable?

The easiest way to increase profits is to place people in positions that pay higher salaries. Some recruiting agencies specialize in placing C-level senior management. The positions of CEO CFO, CTO, COO, and CMO all command very high salaries. Recruiting companies who successfully place people in these C-level positions make significant commissions.

Organizations like to work with top performing recruiting agencies to fill C-level positions because typically the people who are qualified candidates for these jobs are already employed by other companies. By working with a recruiting agency, the entire process can be kept confidential until the person and the business that is hiring them agree to the terms of an employment contract.

Recruiters who make themselves available to talk with potential placement candidates after work hours and on weekends increase their chances of finding good candidates. This is because many prefer to have confidential conversations about taking a new position from their homes, instead of taking such calls at the work site of their current employer.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Recruiting Business Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your recruiting business is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can start an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.

Small Business Taxes

Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).

You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a recruiting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Services Contract

Recruiting businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations. Here is an example services agreement.

Non-Discriminatory Practices

As of the time of this writing, there are no federal licenses required to become an independent recruiter. However, the practice is subject to the same legal considerations for anyone responsible for hiring new talent. If you're not careful, it is possible to unintentionally ask unlawful or even discriminatory questions to potential candidates. Adhere at all times to federal discriminatory laws regarding race, ethnicity, religion, marital or family status, physical or mental disability, gender, age, and sexual orientation.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Recruiting Business will cost.

Business Insurance for
Recruiting Business

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

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How to promote & market a recruiting business

Marketing your business requires networking with the human resource managers of many companies. It also involves lots of “cold-calling” of potential employees. Email marketing is possible if you build up a list of contacts.

One way to meet the human resources managers of larger corporations and their staff is to attend employment trade shows. Going to business conferences in the industry sectors that you are interested in working with is another good way to make personal contacts with potential employers and find good candidates for employees that might need placement.

It is important to build long-term relationships because both employers and employees may not have a current need, yet you will want them to call you if a need arises in the future.

How to keep customers coming back

The best way to build a steady flow of business and keep previous clients coming back for more is to be very successful in making placements. If both the employees and the employers are happy with the results of your work they will use your services again if another need arises. They can also help by spreading the word about your successful efforts to other professionals and organizations.

A report on NPR notes that up to 80% of the job vacancies are filled without the available positions being published. The candidates are found through various networking relationships including by using recruiting agencies.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.

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Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

Start A Recruiting Business In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

This business is good for people who like to reach out to others, enjoy talking on the phone with them, and want to support the development of those with professional careers by placing them with organizations looking for top talent.

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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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What happens during a typical day at a recruiting business?

There are two facets of this business. The first major activity is finding organizations that will agree to sign a contract and pay a commission fee to a recruiter who brings a qualified professional person to the organization’s attention that the organization subsequently hires.

The other side of this business is for recruiters to find qualified professionals and build up a database of those people that might be interested in a potential placement by the recruiting agency. These professional workers may not be actively looking for a new job and may be currently employed. However, in the interests of career advancement, they may consider taking a new position, which offers better pay and greater benefits than the current job they already have.

Most of an agency’s day will be spent sending in résumés of qualified candidates and corresponding with both clients and businesses.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful recruiting business?

Recruiting is a “people” business. It is important to understand the needs of both the employers and the employees. The goal is to become a good matchmaker that places people in employment positions where they are most likely to succeed. It is important for the employer to be satisfied with the work that they do and the employee to like the new job.

It helps to have previous experience working for another recruiting agency, before going out and starting one of your own. Being an expert at networking with business professionals and organizations is a necessary skill. Having an extensive list of business contacts gives someone an advantage in starting up a new recruiting agency.

What is the growth potential for a recruiting business?

Many recruiting agencies focus on a local area as well as people who are willing to relocate. A recruiting agency also has the potential to expand nationally and internationally.

One of the largest recruiting agencies is the Robert Half Agency, which specializes in placing accounting, finance, and technology professionals. The company has over 400 offices worldwide in many different countries. During 2015, the Robert Half Agency had revenues of over US $5 billion. The market valuation in January 2017 for the company is US $6.65 billion. The stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange as RHI.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a recruiting business?

One person worked for eight years at a recruiting agency before starting his own company ABrecruit. He recommends using the database software offered by Chameleoni, which can be started for free and as the activities increase, is a low-cost way to manage the recruiting agency.

How and when to build a team

After having some success with initial placements and earning enough commissions, it is possible to expand staff to increase the placement activities. Each new staff member can concentrate on expanding the opportunities in a particular industry sector or working with a certain type of professional. By using this strategy it is possible to build up a good reputation from efforts that are focused on gaining useful expertise and contacts in a particular industry.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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