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The Resilient Recruiter

Jul 20, 2023

The most successful recruiters and recruitment business owners are constantly learning and evolving. While average performers often think they know it all, the top 10% are never satisfied in their quest for continuous improvement.

Someone who has reinvented himself multiple times over his 30-year recruitment career is my special guest, Fernando Espinosa. 

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Fernando is an incredible recruiter who’s filled as many as 500 roles in one year - that’s more than a placement per day!  But the reason I most admire and respect Fernando is his humility. 

Fernando has navigated several economic recessions and business setbacks. In the process, he has overcome self-doubt and limiting beliefs numerous times throughout his career. His passion for personal growth and development stems from his sincere desire to become the best version of himself on a daily basis.

Fernando is the President and CEO of Top Notch Finders, Inc., a member of Sanford Rose Associates (SRA) Network. With over 3 decades of excellence in the field, Fernando’s firm recruits top-tier executives for manufacturing sites in Mexico, LATAM, and the United States. He also has expertise in executive roles across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Fernando’s been a member of The Pinnacle Society since 2007, a collective of the top 80 headhunters in North America. 


Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [01:54] How Fernando got into the recruiting industry.

  • [04:52] Placing 30 to 40 people per month and launching Top Notch Finders.

  • [10:47] Making more than one placement a day - how Fernando did it before the internet!

  • [15:43] Practice makes progress - Fernando shares how he became fluent in English.

  • [18:21] Transitioning from a successful recruiter to becoming a recruitment business owner and returning as a solo recruiter.

  • [22:00] Reflection on overcoming limiting beliefs.

  • [34:00] Why and how you should avoid the “Lion Syndrome.”

  • [35:45] Shifting from contingent to retained and engaged.

  • [46:04] What makes Fernando one of the top recruiters in the US? Hear his incredible story of how he filled 500 positions in a year.

  • [53:18] The biggest lessons Fernando has learned that make him a successful recruiter today.

  • [55:07] Why Fernando invests in coaching and personal development despite his great successes.


Become a Successful Recruiter by Overcoming Self-Limiting Beliefs 

A key topic that really resonated with me in this conversation with Fernando is his mindset on limiting beliefs. 


He shared his story of resilience when the 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis hit their recruitment business: “We went from $6 million to about $500,000 in sales. So we had to let go of many people. It was a brutal experience. We felt like we were, we had imposter syndrome because we weren't what we thought we were.”


He had to part ways with his business partner and he had to start over by setting up his solo shop. This is how he described the situation: “I had to start all over again… And of course, also the limiting beliefs. When you have limiting beliefs and you don't know that you have limiting beliefs, that affects your ability to reinvent yourself, to create a better version of yourself. And I have tons of limiting beliefs, self-limiting beliefs.”


Can you relate to Fernando’s experience? Have you faced a setback so hard that it affected your mindset and you would not know where to start? You will likely be inspired by how Fernando overcame this hurdle by reinventing himself throughout the years and improving in many different ways.


Evolving from Contingency to Retained Recruiter - and Billing $700,000 in 8 Months with One Client

I have always advocated the value of the retained or engaged search model as a win-win solution for both clients and recruiters. That is why I was interested to hear how Fernando transitioned from 100% contingent to retained search. He shared mainly two key pointers in doing so:


  • Understanding the dynamics of engaged and retained search processes.

  • Overcoming the biggest obstacle in transitioning to a retained - his own beliefs.


Fernando shared his first retainer project and how he started to engage his clients in this new approach by working on positions that most competitors and talent acquisition teams are struggling to fill. He then asked for a low retainer - of one to two thousand dollars, just to get the commitment of the client. He then turned it into an incredible $700k billings in eight months!


At the time that this episode is published, Fernando is getting a 60% success rate in his retained search.


Continuously Reinventing Yourself in a 30-Year Recruiting Career 


My main takeaways from this episode are Fernado’s astounding humility and appetite for learning. As he mentioned, he has reinvented himself continuously in his 30-year recruitment career. We actually recently started working together as part of our coaching group. This is despite him already billing $1M+ yearly, having already extensive training from SRA, being a member of Pinnacle, and doing so many things right in his recruitment business.

This is how he concluded our conversation:

“I believe that it is very critical to develop the best version of yourself on a daily basis. When you settle with the version of yourself, you automatically put a stop to your growing and your developing. I always believe that I don't have all the answers… I always know that there are people with different perspectives, different ideas, and different thought processes that I can learn from and that I can enrich myself. And I'm willing to do that. I'm willing to listen to an expert recruiting coach that has been very successful helping other recruiting owners.”


Our Sponsor

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro 


i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Their technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees, and increase their billings. Their software combined with world-class training enables you to transition from transactional, contingency recruiter to consultative, retained recruiter. Instead of being perceived as a “me too” vendor, you’ll be positioned as a “me only” solutions provider. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here:


Fernando Espinosa Bio and Contact Info

Fernando has more than three decades of search experience in search. Since 1994 involved in assisting clients from North America, Europe, and Asia to solve a variety of dedicated search, recruiting, outplacement, employee engagement and retention, cultural sensitivity, and other human-resource-related issues in their Mexico, Latin America, and US/Mexico border region operations.

He is the first credentialed member of The Pinnacle Society from Mexico. Membership in The Pinnacle Society is limited to 75 of the highest-performing recruiters in North America. Membership is attained only by meeting an exceptionally high standard of recruiting production and after a thorough review and approval process by its Board of Directors. Member of the Board of Directors for NAPS (National Association of Personnel Services). District Director for the US West Coast.



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