A Day In The Life of an Independent Recruiter
Independent Recruiter, Ryan Recruits
Ryan is an independent recruiter/consultant who provides companies—startups mostly for now—with candidates for roles in their organizations.
The first part of Ryan’s morning routine is what he calls, “against the grain” or ATG. Ryan likes the quiet and feels a rush knowing that he’s doing things that benefit him while people are sleeping. No one’s texting him. No one’s bothering him. Ryan said it’s the perfect time to direct undivided attention to things that matter most to him when he’s distraction-free.
“Waking up early feels like a psychological edge.”
Ironically, Ryan doesn’t consider himself as a morning person. He’s not springing out of bed the moment the alarm goes off and it’s still dark outside! Ryan said, “my first thought every morning hasn’t changed, I’m still like ‘ugh, I just want to roll over and continue to sleep for sure!'” He added getting up this early gets easier over time, but doesn’t make it better the moment you hear that alarm.
He’s out of bed by 5:00 AM. By then, the desire for sleep wore away and the motivation to start the day took over with mindful breathing & day-idealizing exercises. Next, Ryan made his bed, reviewed his journal, and took a cold shower, which he said primed him for the day.
With an episode of The Sports Motivation podcast playing, he got dressed, foam-rolled, and drank a pre-workout supplement with L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation without drowsiness. This guy on Medium thinks L-Theanine in your morning coffee is life-changing.
Ryan got in his car and drove to the gym resuming the podcast he was playing while getting dressed. However, he’s not silent in this car ride. Ryan recited, like most mornings, some positive incantations to himself. Admitting he laughs at himself while doing so, Ryan shared he says short, positive phrases like, “I’m smart. I’m funny. I’m athletic. I’m prepared. I’m inspired. I’m successful,” helps get him in the right mindset.
“Saying these phrases out loud makes you feel good and they have a kind of power to them.”
5:30 AM, he was at the gym where he followed his pre-scripted workout so he didn’t have to think too much this early. He obviously listened to music—he said a lot of Nipsey Hussle recently.
6:30 AM, Phase 2 of Ryan’s morning routine commenced as it usually does, and it’s called “Mind Right.”
After listening to another podcast on the drive home, he made some coffee and dove right into some reading. Ryan used to read whatever he was compelled to—mostly self-development books—but then created a “curriculum” for himself to learn more about business, recruiting, technology, etc. He feels this way, his time is being put to better use. On this day, he read “Recruiting in the Age of Googlization,” for about an hour.
Ryan works from home and starts right at 8:00 AM on the dot.
To set the scene, Ryan’s working in his home office with the blinds closed, music without lyrics playing and a candle lit. The music playing on this day was Chopin. The candle scent was wild fig and tobacco.
When asked why his office needs to be dark, he said when he’s working, the light “irritates” him. When he’s not working, he has no qualms with the sun, but not while he’s trying to be productive.
Ryan meditated for about 5 minutes or so, to just sit and think. Ryan said, “it’s still hard to sit still without doing or creating at first but just as soon as I chill and let my mind roam, ideas and inspiration emerge.” He added sipping coffee helps too.
Ryan quickly reviewed his daily “blueprint” script for the day, 2019 goals, and money playbook. He likes to look at his daily and yearly goals each day to remind him to work towards staying on track. He told us his 2019 goals were to improve finances, read 120 books and get to a certain body fat percentage. His money playbook is a practice his business coach has him do where he actively updates every account he owns on one spreadsheet, so he knows exactly where his money is going. After quickly reviewing his goals, Ryan dove into my first work time block—8:30 AM-10:00 AM— spent on sourcing candidates. Ryan said, “as a recruiter, sourcing candidates and new clients are tied for the most crucial thing we can do,” so he makes sure to start his workday with one of those. On this day, he targeted ‘digital strategists’ for a boutique ad agency in LA. When he’s looking for candidates to fit the ‘digital strategist’ role, Ryan said his clients are looking for digital strategists who have worked on specific accounts close to accounts of his clients or more established than theirs. Speaking generally about his sourcing strategy, Ryan said, “most of my business lives on LinkedIn,” so that’s where he starts when he looking for the candidates to fill particular roles. At this point, he’s spoken to the client hiring for this role about the skills and qualities needed to fill this role and it’s up to Ryan to find the most qualified people. A strategy of his is to look at other companies where he’ll find employees/potential candidates who are working the same role he’s hiring for and approach them with a new opportunity. Sometimes, Ryan said, sourcing isn’t necessarily finding completely new people every single time—he taps into his network.
“I like to play the long game.”
“My goal to approach anyone that’s good is to engage with them in a real, authentic-type way and see if I can just jump on a call with them,” Ryan said. The keyword there was “authentic.” Ryan said he loves that the industry is moving away from greasy-car-salesman tactics and more towards fostering true, genuine connections. It takes a while to see those efforts come to fruition, but it’s worth it, Ryan said, because you learn more about the industry, crowd-source potentials candidates’ feedback on the interest behind the role for the clients, all while meeting new people. More on this later on in the day.
Ryan took a standing break. He went to the kitchen and made a green smoothie and a salad for later. He started intermittent fasting—only eating in an 8-hour window and fasting for the other 16 hours of the day—about 3 years ago as an experiment and just kept it. “Skipping breakfast has the added benefits of saving time and money on groceries too,” Ryan said.
This time block, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM, Ryan typically reserves for sourcing new business. For him, this looks more like trying to help people out or engage people with content on LinkedIn. Ryan said that’s because the sales landscape has changed. Since there’s so much information out there, Ryan said, “nowadays, companies looking to hire people who are better informed and will let us recruiters know if and when they need us.” As a result, companies are doing more homework to determine if services like Ryan’s are needed. Ryan told us that means his strategy is more marketing than sales.
“The customer drives the business.”
“My goal is to stay top of mind to the niche that I can help and forge actual, genuine relationships with people. A lot of times it feels like I’m not accomplishing much but the long play I’m describing creates win-win scenarios for everyone,” Ryan said. That’s where his LinkedIn activity comes in. This same mindset applies to source and keep tabs with potential candidates on LinkedIn. No one wants to feel like they’re being pitched, even if they are.
“As much as I am a people person, I don’t like to sell or persuade. I just like to help people.”
When asked how to not *sound* so sales-y when approaching people with opportunities, Ryan said he tries to answer questions and help where he can. “If it makes sense, it’s usually pretty obvious that I can help and that’s when I ask if I can help them out,” Ryan said. Imagine this process, times the eight to ten roles he’s sourcing for. That means there needs to be some organization on his part to keep track of all the people he’s contacted. Since he’s a one-man team, for now, he uses the Google Chrome extension, Streak, to keep track of his contacts cross-referencing from his LinkedIn conversations as well. Can’t let anyone slip through the cracks!
Ryan broke his fast and had lunch with a centenarian smoothie, aka a green power smoothie, with a big, protein-rich salad and toast.
Another ritual Ryan adopted was taking a power nap in the afternoon. On this day, he did it at 12:30 PM. It may feel like you’re losing out on prime productivity time, but Ryan said, the opposite is true. Ryan said after a 20-30 minute snooze, he feels like “a new person,” and more “posed and clear.”
“It’s really hard to force yourself to get to sleep, until you make it a habit, kind of like getting out of bed.”
On this day, Ryan conducted phone interviews with candidates. If not that, he’d also make “discovery calls,” with prospective clients. If you haven’t noticed by now, Ryan reserves his mornings for administrative tasks he needs to get done, but that’s when he feels the most productive. That work he does then is what makes his business. The afternoons are for calls. This particular Tuesday, Ryan spoke with a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Specialist that looked great on paper—or LinkedIn we should say for this day-and-age—but ended up not being the perfect fit for his SEM Specialist role. This conversation Ryan had, he said, reminded him about why he loves his job. They wound up talking about her life goals and what she wanted to accomplish in her career—a genuine conversation. “It’s just nice to talk to people,” Ryan said, and after speaking, Ryan let her know she wasn’t going to be considered for this role. Ryan, in this role, his loyalty at the end of the day is with his clients—he makes money by sending them the best candidates he could find for the roles they’re looking to fill. In terms of his business model, one of his payment structures Ryan implements is a retained-search policy, meaning he’ll get money upfront for the time he’s spending sourcing and sussing candidates plus a percentage of the candidate’s annual income if the candidate he provides gets hired. Ryan does offer a money-back guarantee for clients’ peace of mind but he said, “it’s never come close to that.” With that said, his reputation is truly on the line, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want the best for potential candidates. Their needs and desires out of a career matter to him as well. It’s a collaborative effort. That being said, when asked how he breaks bad news to candidates, Ryan said being “direct and transparent” is the best way to be, but he said he tries to “let the candidate figure that out for themselves as the conversation goes on.” Ryan does this by asking the right questions to get them to reflect on what they truly want out of an experience in a low-stakes manner.
“Turn it into a conversation, not an interrogation.”
Aside from technical questions, like salary requirements and skill sets, Ryan likes to get them talking more to feel them out and open up. At this stage in the interview process, Ryan is trying to figure out the candidate, so he or she should be as honest as possible. Ryan’s go-to question that he said is the most revealing is, “what is it about your current role that you would like to change moving forward into your next role?” That question sets the stage and gets to the root of the reason for the call in the first place he said. This candidate didn’t end up empty-handed though. Ryan connected her with a recruiting friend of his that has roles available that are more in line with her goals. When asked about the degree of collaboration in the recruiting industry, Ryan said, “maybe if you ask other recruiters, this answer would be different, but to me, I like to put my other recruiting friends on.” Because he truly wants the best for those candidates, Ryan will refer his candidates to recruiters who have more roles in their Rolodex. That conversation he had with that candidate inspired him so much, he wrote a rough draft that he eventually posted to LinkedIn.
Ryan took a half-hour break, grabbed a handful of almonds and hydrated. 3:00PM on this day, Ryan went back to work calling more candidates and sourcing for more candidates for “urgent roles” Ryan has. Ryan juggles filling 8-10 roles on average at a time, and the roles labeled as urgent are the ones where the company paid a retainer. The payment plan when a retainer is established, the percentage of the annual salary he’d get for filling the role will be less than if they didn’t pay a retainer. To get even more specific, for the payment structure just described, Ryan said the percentage of the candidate’s annual salary will be between 20-25%. Without a retainer, Ryan’s price range is between 30-35% of the hired candidate’s annual salary. These are all details Ryan hammers out with potential clients on “discovery calls” mentioned at 1:00 PM on this day, which Ryan said normally go a little something like this. Earlier in this article, Ryan referenced the industry landscape shifting from the company acting as the passenger on recruiting strategies to now becoming the driver. So it’s very important in these “discovery calls” that Ryan’s getting to the root of their needs so he can then offer solutions to give them exactly what they want. That means he’s asking specifics about the role, the skillset they desire out of candidates, the company culture and the overall mission of the project or business as a whole. On this day, he spends this hour sourcing, but sometimes these calls take place at this time!
Ryan said this is one of the most important things he does with his day—he spends the time to script next-day tasks based on the progress he’s made on this day and future deadlines. This practice is another habit his business coach has him do to visualize goals and gain a clear sense of direction. He has a sheet where he captures his wins and losses for the day. The wins from this particular he shared with us were finding five great candidates, and an A+ gym workout. If you’ve noticed, some of his wins are non-business related, which gives you a glimpse of what his work-life balance is like. More on that later on in the day. He also notated, as he usually does, his accomplishment status of his top three missions for the day, his challenges, his gratitude and the biggest takeaway of the day, which was the fact that he needed “bulletproof substitutes.” Ryan said what that means is he needs to find substitutes for desirable, but unrealistic things. The example he used was having a piece of cake. He wanted a piece of cake, but given the fitness goals he has for himself, he can’t. So instead of salivating over the piece of cake, he could bake his own healthier version of that cake. Feel free to think of your own “cake” in your life, professionally or personally, and think of what your bulletproof substitute would be! Ryan also scores himself in certain areas like “emotional agility, healthy eating, exercise, avoiding vices, made it look easy, aggressive learning and breathing management.” He also spent this time tying up administrative loose ends like emails and such. On this day, he booked a flight to France and Spain for next year, which is another big reason why he wanted to work for himself. When he worked for another company, he was allotted PTO days, but the nature of the job and the culture of the firm hindered opportunities to travel and heightened his anxiety whenever he did. Ryan needed his set-up to do his job properly and without that, he couldn’t for the most part. Hence the constant, unsettling feeling of professional FOMO he got. Now, with his own set-up, he can virtually work wherever he wants, giving him the freedom to go wherever, whenever. However, we all know the Spider-Man phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and that responsibility Ryan bears working for himself he said is to hold himself accountable to be productive.
On this day, Ryan had a meeting with his business coach, Niyi. Ryan said his program and consultation has helped him “innumerably both in work and in life.”
Ryan ate dinner, salmon to be specific, caught up with friends over text and scrolled through memes on Instagram. After dinner, he took a quick walk on the beach. Ryan described his work-life balance as “through the roof.” Ryan recognizes he has a life outside of his work, but he said the fact that he’s his own boss has proven to be a challenge to make sure the “work” part of his work-life balance is just as fruitful as the “life” part. The reason being is he’s never worked for himself before, so while he’s doing what he needs to do for his business to thrive, he’s also learning how to be the best leader and businessman he can be. That way Ryan and “Ryan Recruits” can grow. With so much to accomplish and learn, Ryan admitted that at the end of any day, when he’s wrapping up and reflecting on the progress of the day, he always asks himself, was that enough? “The answer to that question is always going to be ‘no’ because you can always do more,” Ryan said, but it’s not productive to dwell on that fact.
Ryan watched an episode of “Succession”on HBO.
Ryan started his nighttime routine, which started with laying his gym clothes out for the morning. He gulped down a magnesium supplement mixed with water, flossed and brushed his teeth, and started to read. This night, he was reading “Money is My Friend,” and fell asleep a half-hour later.
Ryan didn’t always want to be in recruiting. Ryan said if you ask most recruiters how they got into the industry, most “kind of fall into it.” Even while studying Business Administration and Management at California State University, Northridge, Ryan still felt directionless when it came to finding a career. He was making money working at Nordstrom and decided to drop out of college to pursue entrepreneurial ventures like selling suits. From there, he moved on to a corporate sales job going door-to-door selling internet packages and then pivoted to recruiting.
He said he actually remembers the day he learned about recruiting—he was golfing with a friend and his eyes “lit up” when he heard his friend explain the role of a recruiter. He was sold when he also heard about the kind of money recruiters can make.
Ryan spent the first four and a half years of his career working a couple of recruiting agencies. But, as soon as he started at the first agency, he was itching to start his own. Ryan knew he needed experience at established agencies, but that itch continued to spread until four and a half years later when he finally scratched it. Soaking up all the knowledge and mistakes he made at these companies gave him the tools, network and confidence to see his independent business through.
In terms of legitimizing his business, Ryan said to remember, first off, “the barrier of entry for recruiters has lowered.” What he means by that is, nowadays, with all the technology and resources out there, it’s easier for recruiters to do things on their own without the support of a major company or agency. Second, he said the logistics to legitimize your business should not be skipped, but the first priority was to find his clients. Ryan worked with LegalZoom to incorporate his business. He found an accountant, built a clean, straightforward website and a few weeks after he started, he found his first client. The sooner you put all these logistics in place, the easier it’ll be to sell the client.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self today?
Ryan would tell himself to read “Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. He’d tell himself to get “crystal clear on what you want your life to look like 3 years from now.” That means health-wise, wealth-wise, career-wise, education-wise, travel-wise etc. and write it out in bold detail. “Then, obsessively reverse engineer that vision into reality,” he’d tell himself. And to the people who were telling you his goals weren’t possible, Ryan would say to his younger self to remember those people “are not your friends, so avoid them at all costs.”
Which job do you want to experience next?
Jobs like Ryan‘s
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