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Recruiter Spotlight: How to Start a Recruitment Business During the Pandemic

Starting up a recruitment business is quite a challenge at the best of times. Starting up a recruitment business during the economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, one might say, is pure madness. Or is it?

As part of the Ikiru People Recruiter Spotlight interview series, we have spoken to Kelly Knopp, Director of Southern Education Recruitment. Kelly’s life – like so many people in the recruitment sector – has been affected by the pandemic. However, Kelly refused to accept her fate without a fight and took a plunge into the unknown.


Watch the full interview with Kelly Knopp or read on…


The Background

Kelly’s original background was in healthcare for about twenty years. She then moved into healthcare recruitment for about a year, then moved over to education recruitment. She recruited for a large corporate company for about six and a half years and very recently moved to a much smaller company. When the pandemic hit, after just two months into her employment, Kelly was made redundant.

Kelly commented: “Losing my job had a massive impact on me and my family. I think there was an element of panic from a financial perspective. It forced me to make some very rapid decisions about how I was going to deal with it, and how I was going to move forward.”

“There was obviously a massive element of shock, particularly for my husband. Thankfully, he is a psychiatric nurse – so he counselled himself through the process, as well as me. But this was not an individual thing that was just happening to me – this was happening to everybody. Because of the global impact, I think the worry felt more shared than if it was just an individual case”, Kelly added.


The Decision

Once Kelly decided to start her own recruitment firm, everything started falling into place and the support she received from all walks of life was truly overwhelming.

“Being obviously a very small company, just myself, I was very keen to support local industry and local companies. I approached a very small local company that I had connected with on LinkedIn to design my logo. I explained to them my situation and they came up with some designs. When I asked for the invoice, they came back and said, “it’s on us, we have to support each other”, and I was absolutely delighted. What you get from that is a sort of loyalty. They did something for me, and I have gone back to them for other things. I did something for the charity they support, and it has a knock-on effect. I actually think that’s a lovely way to work, and I hope it continues after we come out of lockdown because it’s a good human thing to do”, Kelly commented.


Selecting the Right Recruitment Software

Technology plays a key part in any recruiter’s life and good software takes care of a lot of mundane admin tasks, freeing up recruiters to do what they do best: source great candidates for their clients. But selecting the right recruitment software supplier is not always easy.

When asked about her experiences about the selection process, Kelly could hardly contain her excitement: “Oh, Voyager Infinity, I love it. Recruitment is an industry that is always changing, it’s always having to adapt, even pre-pandemic. Personally, I find if you have everything in one place, it makes it so much easier to work, much more user-friendly. Also, it means you can be transient, you can be mobile when you are working. You are not tied to one place. With Voyager Infinity, you can do that.

“When I was looking for a database software to use for my company, I did some research on different suppliers. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted, very similar to what I had been familiar with using in the past. One of the key things that Voyager Infinity did was they came back to me straight away. There were so many suppliers that just never came back to me, or communication was very poor. When you deal with a supplier that will talk to you and support you, it is essential. The ease of use of the database is wonderful. When I spoke to them particularly about my industry, which is education, I was very concerned about how the software would work for my schools when they received confirmations or candidates when I contacted them and it’s simple, it’s effective,” Kelly added.


Technology Partner, not a Supplier

Kelly was adamant, that there is more to the CRM selection than just ticking off the list of features. Knowing that she can phone technical support and instantly speak to a knowledgeable consultant who can help with the query was of great importance and comfort. It was essential for her to select a supplier who listens to their clients in terms of what features to develop and offers a user-friendly and adaptable product. However, knowing that she not only bought the software but partnered with an organization that wants her to succeed was of paramount importance.


Recruitment software for both perm and temp agencies


Overcoming the Obstacles

Starting up a new business is riddled with obstacles and Kelly’s journey is no different: “For me the biggest obstacles were to decide where to start, what to do first. I had been sledge-hammered by being made redundant. Whatever your background, you get used to a certain lifestyle and a certain way of living. So, you start thinking about how you can cope; how you can move forward when nobody’s hiring because everybody’s on lockdown. It was about weighing up the pros and cons. Can I do this financially? How do I go about this? I do not doubt there are some bigger mountains to climb as I move forward in this endeavour.”


The Benefits of the REC Membership

Soon after setting up Southern Education Recruitment, Kelly became a REC Corporate member: “I chose to use the REC as it is an organisation that is universally recognised. Their knowledge is second to none when it comes to employment law. Knowing you have the legal support as well as access to a library of template documents is also very useful. The process from start to finish of becoming a member was very straight forward and I was supported every step of the way with any questions I had. I am proud to show the REC logo on my website.”


3 Tips for Starting up a Recruitment Business

When asked what advice Kelly would give to other recruiters thinking of starting-up on their own, she replied: “First research and look at suppliers. I only came across Voyager Infinity because I was doing research into it and I thought ‘Yes! Brilliant, this is it!’ Research is essential to competitors, services that you are going to use. My second one is making lists. I know that sounds very dull and not very high-tech, but I have got lists about lists about lists that I cross and tick; you have to be organised. And then the third and most important aspect is self-belief. Do not listen to the naysayers. I am a very much a “leap before I look” person anyway, but I think that if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. Hopefully, if I can do it, anybody can do it!”

Despite the economic uncertainty, Kelly is positive about the future and firmly believes that those who are willing to adapt to the new reality and go an extra mile for their clients and candidates will thrive.


The Future

The pandemic has certainly changed everyone’s lives. Kelly’s inspirational story of starting up a recruitment business during the pandemic has hopefully shown many recruiters the way to turn the negative into a positive. It has also highlighted that many recruitment businesses emerging during these difficult times will be more compassionate, flexible, focused on building strong relationships and giving back to the community they serve. This will go a long way into restoring recruiters’ reputation. I’d say this is a win-win for everybody.

Voyager Infinity and Voyager Mid-Office are software solutions that make Recruiters’ lives easier. Voyager Infinity is a CRM used by thousands of recruiters globally to source, nurture and maintain the relationships with their clients and candidates, and Mid-Office manages the entire Pay and Bill process (IR35 ready).

Starting up a recruitment business during the pandemic