Why You Should be a Consultant First, and a Recruiter Second

Very few employers would care to admit it, but if you have even just a few years’ experience as a recruiter, you know more about the industry than virtually everyone else.

Being immersed in different verticals, job-seeking platforms, candidate dialogues, contract negotiations, and more, gives you a powerful and in-depth insight into recruitment.

So why don’t your clients and prospects view you as an expert?

It’s probably because of your job title. Let me show you how to fix this…

No Resolutions Please

It’s that time of the year when you’re going to be inundated with clichéd articles and emails, inviting you to set New Year work resolutions, and probably trying to work in some kind of metaphor about the year 2020 being an opportunity to see your future clearly.

You won’t catch me falling back on such lazy ideas just because it’s a new year, which is why I use mixed metaphors and tenuous analogies all year round 🙂

Forget vague resolutions like “make this the most profitable year ever” and “start living your best life”, let’s do something that really matters.

Let’s revolutionise your career by giving up your status as a recruiter.

Your Job Title is Just a Label

Most recruiters describe themselves as a “recruitment consultant”. It’s a fine title. Good for all seasons. It describes what you are in terms that make sense to employers and candidates.

But it doesn’t really mean anything to your clients and prospects.

You could describe yourself as a “recruitment manager”, as a “recruitment specialist”, or a “candidate and employer negotiating guru” and it wouldn’t make a jot of difference.

Unless something changes, employers will see you as one thing and one thing only…

A Candidate Gatekeeper

That’s it.

Employers want candidates. Recruiters have access to candidates. So, employers come to you to get access to those candidates.

You do more than that – a whole lot more – but employers only see recruiters as a necessary go-between to accessing candidates.

How does that make you feel?

Probably not great.

Especially when you consider that, from your perspective, a gatekeeper is a receptionist or an assistant that blocks you from speaking to potential clients.

Receptionists and assistants probably don’t like being thought of as “gatekeepers” either. No one likes to be thought of as just a means to an end. You’re better and more skilled than that. But that perception won’t change unless you make it happen.

Consultant with a lowercase ‘C’

For a transactional recruiter, the relationship with the client is mostly limited to the employer asking you to help them fill a specific role.

And that’s about it.

If you’re smarter than the average recruiter you’ll probably ask for more details to help you locate the right candidates, but convincing the employer to take the time to have a proper discussion is easier said than done.

This is the problem that is wrapped up in your job title.

You’re a consultant in name, but not in practice.

A consultant is supposed to be someone who sits down with their client, reviews their processes and makes recommendations.

Employers don’t want that. They just want some CVs sent over, yesterday if possible.

But is that really true?

I sometimes get pushback from recruiters when I encourage them to move towards consultative recruitment because there’s a perception that employers don’t care and aren’t interested in a better, value-added service.

I believe this is just an assumption.

There will always be some employers who are too narrow-minded to tackle the inefficiencies and weaknesses in their hiring strategies. But in most cases employers don’t ask for more from their recruiters because they don’t know that alternatives exist.

When a client asks you to help them fill a role – especially if it’s a client that you’ve known a while or with whom you have at least some relationship – tell them that you have a new recruitment strategy that you’re rolling out that improves interview-to-hire ratios and employee retention and that you believe they would be an excellent candidate.

Arrange a free consultation, either in person or via a web link.

Notice that this isn’t instead of taking on the role they’ve just offered. No one’s suggesting you should turn work away or damage your existing income streams.

But what happens next will change your relationship with your clients forever.

Question Everything

Once you’ve carved out the time to speak to your client at length about their hiring strategies, you’re not going to waste everyone’s time by delivering a canned speech about how awesome your recruitment firm is, the depth of your networks and the speed of your candidate delivery.

At least for the moment you’re going to put your recruitment hat away and be a consultant.

That means asking questions.

We provide i-intro® clients with comprehensive recruiter training on how to consult with prospects for the purpose of winning retainers and MSP contracts, so what follows is a greatly condensed version.

Q. What is your current process?

Let the client talk as much as possible, aside from pushing them along with helpful questions about how many recruiters they use, how they assess CVs and candidates, what there are expectations are, and so on.

Q. How many people did you recruit in the last 12 months (or what is a typical number)?

You don’t need them to give you absolute precision – a rough figure is fine.

Q. How many – or what percentage – are still in place 12 months later?

Again, a rough figure is sufficient.

Q. How do you feel about those numbers?

This is a key question. They might feel good – most feel bad – about their metrics, but either way you’re getting them to put a central issue on the table. Probe gently with additional questions, tailored to their business type. For example…

·  Are these figures what you expected?

·  Are they higher or lower than your expectations?

·  How did this affect your growth?

·  Did you hit your budgets and targets?

Q. If you had reached or exceeded your targets, how much more could you have achieved?

Whatever comes before, this is a key question to work toward.

Q. If you don’t hit your targets next year, what will be the effect?

This is also a key question. You’re getting the client to think about the problems they’ve experienced, the problems they’ll experience if they don’t change things up, and the potential benefits if they make improvements.

At this point, a lesser recruiter will then introduce their comprehensive, retained recruitment options that can be tailored to the client’s precise needs.


An i-intro® recruiter, however, will keep their consultant hat on for a bit longer and introduce the Recruitment Process Audit tool. This part of the consultation is too involved to go into detail here (book a free consultation to learn more), but suffice to say it’s about taking the client’s own metrics and reviewing them through the filter of an independent study.

This helps to solidify your arguments in an objective fashion and sets you up for a strong close.


Whether or not the consultation results in winning exclusive and/or retained business, the exercise will change the client’s perspective of what you have to offer.

It repositions you from recruiter to consultant. From gatekeeper to expert. From service provider to partner.

And that isn’t a small change.

Instead of being interchangeable with the other recruiters the client transacts with, you’ve set yourself above them because you know – and they know you know – their long-term requirements, their hiring culture, their quirks and their priorities.

Even if the client isn’t prepared to try a new kind of recruitment, you’ve positioned yourself as the person to talk to when they’re ready to do so.

Anyone can call themselves a recruitment consultant, but if you can elevate yourself to the position where your clients view you as a consultant…

This is how you win long-term retainers and MSP contract. Or, at the very least, get your foot in the door.


If you want to know more about how to reposition yourself as a consultant, you can book an online strategy session with me or one of my colleagues.

It’s one-on-one, it’s confidential, there’s no obligation and it’s absolutely free. We do have limited slots however, and it’s first-come, first-served. So please click the link below to reserve your time slot.


For a personalised plan of action for growing your recruitment business, book a FREE CONSULTATION. There’s no obligation and I’ll show you the exact method that only the smartest recruiters are using to command higher fees. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE CONSULTATION!


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