Recruitment consultants work on behalf of companies to source candidates for their latest job vacancies. It’s all about understanding the requirements of a job and then finding the right people to fill that requirement.
Recruitment consultants can work for independent recruitment agencies or in-house for major companies that manage their own recruitment processes. Some even work as self-employed professionals.
Working as a recruitment consultant generally involves analysing and understanding job specifications, which are provided by clients, and then using a variety of different means to find the right candidates for the roles.
Recruitment consultants might find candidates by conducting keyword searches on internal recruitment databases, trawling through CVs online using various job websites, or actively ‘headhunting’ senior professionals through independent research. Many recruitment consultants now also use LinkedIn to find candidates.
Providing candidates with tips and advice on their CV and interview technique is another important part of the role. It’s all about building relationships, not only with candidates, but with clients too.
The majority of recruitment consultants will also engage in some form of business development and networking, meeting with potential new clients, establishing relationships and developing new business opportunities. They may also advise their clients on market trends, skills development and recruitment tools and techniques.
As a recruitment consultant, it is possible to gain general, overall expertise, irrespective of the markets you recruit for. However, the present and continuing trend is for recruitment consultants to specialise in one or two industry sectors, such as finance and I.T. Others may specialise purely in graduate recruitment or in executive contract vacancies.
Salary & benefits
Generally, trainee recruitment consultants earn salaries between £16,000 and £22,000.
Basic salaries tend to be quite low at all levels, since recruitment consultants also receive attractive commission payments, bonuses and other incentives, based on their achievement of revenue targets and new business acquisitions.
Consultants with more than two years’ experience can earn salaries of around £20,000 to £30,000, not including commission, while senior employees with team management responsibilities can earn basic salaries of £40,000 and above.
Annual commission payments range between £5,000 and £30,000, depending on a wide range of factors, such as location, industry expertise and overall experience.
Employees may also receive a variety of other perks, such as laptops, mobile phones and rewards for exceptional performance, such as weekend breaks or annual trips abroad.
Working hours tend to be long and irregular, including extra hours during weekends. This is natural, given the sales-oriented nature of the job. Travel outside the office, to meet existing clients or to develop new business opportunities, is also a regular occurrence.
However, most employers allow employees to make use of flexible work arrangements, as long as business requirements are met.
You certainly don’t need a degree to work in recruitment. However, some firms may prefer recent graduates with drive, ambition and a solid work ethic. There are no restrictions on what degree you can study, although studying recruitment-related disciplines such as human resources may be useful.
The emphasis is more on drive, tenacity, resilience, confidence and a general aptitude for sales, marketing and customer service.
Prior work experience in recruitment or any customer-facing field is usually preferred, since entry-level competition is stiff.
Training & progression
Structured training and development programmes vary from organisation to organisation. However, graduate schemes are provided by many medium-sized and large recruitment firms, such as Hays, Michael Page and Randstad.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) is another professional body which provides bespoke recruitment-specific qualifications.
Career progression depends on your ability to reach sales targets. Most people will start out as a trainee recruitment consultant or resourcer, before moving into an account management or team leader position.
Alternative career options include independent consulting, teaching and training, or niche market specialisation, e.g. CEO-level headhunting.