Big Vs Small and the Happy Middle Ground

If, like many, you started your recruitment career with a big company, there’s every chance you’re pretty darn good. The baptism of fire you receive can make you or break you.

But in reality it’s a pretty safe place to start your career.

The cost per head of large agencies is diminished thanks to the well-known brand they’ve cultivated over years at the top. So you’ll be afforded more time. And be trained well.

There’s a reason some of the newest and largest recruitment agencies are led by those who once worked for conglomerates.

The SThree lot, the Hays brigade, ex-Michael Pagers or Old Randstadions.

The training and knowledge base big companies provide can be second-to-none.

But as we highlighted recently, the grass is often greener.

You reach a point in your career when your manager will peer over your shoulder, posing the same question they’ve asked everyday of your tenure.

“What you looking at Today champ?” they’ll prod, hoping you announce two placements whilst closing another.

“I’m going back to basics” you’ll say sarcastically.

And as the pained expression of their face turns the milk in your pumpkin soy latte sour, you’ll know it’s time.


You have a few alternatives now you’ve outgrown ‘the path well-travelled’ by your industry behemoth. One of them is to move internally.

This is the move a lot of recruiters make.

And it’s not necessarily the wrong one. It all depends where you want your career to go.

The route of Non-Billing Manager or Training Manager or Associate Director can all offer high rewards.

But ask yourself this… is that what you actually love about your job?

Don’t you love the feeling of placing another candidate?

The thrill of the chase?

The delighted shriek of the candidate on the other end of the phone?

The commission cash sliding into your Bank’s DMs?

The office rivalries and friendly competition?

Thought so.

Where next then?

Where might offer you the progression, flexibility and success you crave, without cramping your style on the day to day?

Big Vs Small and the Happy Middle Ground

Enter the boutique

We’ve written about boutiques previously, and it’s fair to say if you find the right one, you’re set. But finding the right one’s easier said than done.

And it’s a massive leap to take to go from having tons of support, to having very little.

There’ll be fewer heads putting food on the table, which means there’s a higher chance of a volatile situation unfolding.

What if you don’t get on with the few people who work there?

What if you’re carrying other members of staff?

What if you’re so busy doing admin, you find it harder to maintain the same numbers?

Sure, you’ll probably get a higher commission scheme, but if you don’t hit the same numbers, that becomes somewhat irrelevant.

These are definitely fair questions to ask. And realistically harder questions to answer. If you’re leaving a huge business stepping out into the unknown, you may want to limit the risks you take.

After all, will you know the answers before you’ve started at your new role?

Probably not.

So how about the middle-ground?

A business with the back-office support of a big agency, but the smaller nimble benefits of a boutique?

If you’re still on a discretionary bonus, the facts displayed in this video might just persuade you.

Or maybe you’d want some actual facts before considering the safest risk in career change?

1) You’ll have a bigger say in your business

You might get the decision over where to go for team lunch right now.

You might have an opinion over the Friday pub choice.

But how much say do you have in marketing? How much freedom do you have to explore new avenues of business? Are you consulted over how you’re rewarded?

Because I guarantee, if you were, your daily working life would be more enjoyable.

You’d have a higher drive to succeed and feel more valued as a senior leader. Not just a number in the room.

2) You’ll be more agile into new markets

As touched on above, boutique agencies are exceptionally well positioned to move into new markets. There’s less red tape, and far less bureaucracy.

But unlike tiny businesses with few staff, there’s a safety net behind this agility. 

Just think about roles which fall in between consultants. Opportunities pop up almost daily for new angles and new niches to ply your trade. And this is only going to get more likely as the business grows.

But rather than an all-or-nothing approach, working for a ‘backed boutique’ means you’re not left high and dry should a new market take time to build.

If you work for an agency with the agility to follow new trends, you’re future-proofing your career.

If you work for an agency with the support of a larger business, you won’t be hung out to dry.

Charterhouse HK Big Vs Small Company

3) Lower cost = higher reward

As a rule of thumb, the cost of running a boutique agency is far lower than a conglomerate.

Headcount’s the primary reason for this. But think about it laterally. There’s less chance you’ll be paying for a Graduate intake every year. A huge percentage of whom, probably won’t work out.

You’re also less likely to cover non-profit arms of the business.

Like marketing. Or social media. Or administration.

Sure, you’re likely to have to do some of that yourself. But if you want someone who doesn’t know your market posting on your behalf, you’re doing it wrong.

And with a lower cost base, guess what happens?

Yep, more money going towards things which make your life easier.

Sometimes that might be a bar tab on a Friday or holiday budget. But other time it’ll be L&D support to fit your situation. Not just the programme rolled out to every employee regardless of skill.

4) More individualism, stronger teams

When everyone in a team’s fighting for the same thing, you grow closer. Whether that’s wining a huge client, or simply striving towards a holiday target.

Sure, there’s camaraderie in a big company. But it’s less personal.

And just to make a name for yourself internally, you may need to be outspoken and bullish.

At a boutique there’ll be fewer restrictions on showing personality online.

Which means your name will become synonymous with, not only your niche, but the wider business too.

On top of this, if there’s a smaller workforce, your ability to find a closer fit is improved massively.

You’ll understand the ethos and atmosphere quickly, meaning ‘fitting in’ is a piece of cake.

Which company’s for you?

Finding said employer used to be difficult.

Where do you start?

How do you get an idea of what an employer’s like, before you start?

This is why Hunted exists.

And why, if you’re looking for a business that sounds like the above, this is a great place to start.