In my career I've had various dealings with recruitment consultancies/agencies over the years in varying capacities; as a young woman unsure of what career path to take deciding that temping would help make a decision and then several years later actually working as a recruitment consultant.
IN THE LATE 90s
My role was made redundant and I registered with several high street agencies including a local agency in Ealing called Directions. They found me some really good temp jobs including working at Warner Music and Transworld Publishing (the latter which was one of the most fabulous temp opportunities I've ever experienced). I mention this agency that I worked for specifically as I found the consultants there to be very effective in finding out what sort of work I was keen to do and to match me to roles that I was suitably qualified and experienced in - they were the sort of recruitment agents that people should aspire to be. This can be rare with larger agencies.
After a brief stint with Directions I was actually lured into working in recruitment myself. I worked for an IT recruitment consultancy and even though it was a fairly small company I found the cut-throat environment somewhat off-putting. My boss used to insist I push candidates forward for roles unsuited to them. I wanted to obviously earn money (as you have to bring in revenue and to keep your job) but I also wanted to actually work with candidates closely to ensure they found a job they would stick to and not walk out of after 2 months (which would mean we would have to refund part of the fee earned anyway). Also submitting candidates for roles they’re not suited to will mean you look like an idiot with your client as they will think “I asked for someone with these skills and what do they send me?” Pretty soon you’ll find that the client will refuse to accept your CV submissions and refuse to take your phone calls.
Within 3 months of joining I was promoted to Senior Consultant/Personnel Manager with the responsibility of recruiting and training new staff (as well as retaining some level of recruitment too to earn commission). I didn't realise the industry had such a high turnover but staff would stay for about 3-6 months and move on. Part of my role was to train the consultants how to use the recruitment database which had literally 10s of 1000s of candidates registered and updated on a daily basis with several hundred more new candidates looking for work. Database trawling is one of the more tedious parts of the role but you do have to have a good level of computer literacy to work in recruitment these days. Everything is computerised; pretty much all CVs have to be submitted by email or uploaded to a website who will then forward it to the agencies as per the requirements. If you don’t have internet access and the ability to email your CV, it’s pretty difficult to get your details registered with a recruitment agency, unless possibly with industrial or catering recruitment or similar.
Working in recruitment can mean working longer than your standard 9-5 daily. Who works those hours these days anyway? If you need to get in touch
with candidates they might not be available to respond to phone calls or emails during the day so you will often have to try them in the evenings. Some companies are happy for their staff to do this from home but others might not allow this. You have to, of course, follow Data Protection Laws. I know recruiters who come into the office at 7am and are still there at 9pm at night several times a week; even on a Friday.
I have to admit that I did enjoy the job some of the time, namely the feeling of satisfaction when placing a candidate in a job that they really wanted and knowing you've helped someone realise their dream of their "perfect" job! It wasn't just the money that mattered (although it was a well paid job indeed – you can make £30k a year as a basic salary and unlimited commission); it was knowing you put the right person in the job and that they would stick it out long term - that was a real buzz for me.
What I did learn from this job was to treat every candidate as an individual; to listen to their needs and not to try to dump your database of candidates onto a client who is
looking for lots of staff. Take the time to find out what the candidate wants and then match them up with the vacancies you have ensuring they have the right skill-set. No point sending someone who hates commuting to a job in
the city when they live in a village in the Home Counties or sending someone for a project management position who has never even supervised staff let alone managed a project.
It’s also definitely recommended to get to know your clients’ needs properly. As well as the job specification and hopefully a person specification try to find out what the company culture is like. Do they wear suits and boots to work? Do they have opportunities to work flexi-time? Is home-working allowed? Is it an informal environment with no strict levels of hierarchy or is the organisation very hot on junior, mid range, senior management titles and levels of responsibility. How big is the company? What are the promotion prospects for potential employees? Find out the information that you yourself would want to know if you were looking for your next permanent role. Your clients will appreciate you asking this information so you can find someone with the right mindset for them. No point is sending someone who is determined to be a “city type” wearing a 3-piece suit daily to a company in the suburbs which is very informal where everyone wears t-shirts and shorts and flip-flops in the summer! Also if it’s logistically possible try to get a meeting with the client so you can see the working environment in person so you can tell your candidates firsthand that you’ve seen the workplace and “sell” the company to them. “It’s great, they have free soft drinks in the fridge for all staff.” or “They have a PlayStation in the meeting room for people to chill out at lunchtimes!” BRINGING IT INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
In 2002 my next experiences of dealing with agencies were from a HR point of view. I would call up agencies (or they would call up dozens of times a day) and place a vacancy with them and asked them not to bombard me with unsuitable CVs. Did they listen? Hell no! I was sent all kinds of CVs with candidate's experience totally unsuited for the industry I was recruiting for. I stopped using a few agencies as they were filling up my inbox with 20 or 30 CVs a day, none of which were suitable.
The job I'm currently in, I've been at going on 4 years and I deal with agencies which are IT specialists only. They are all pretty much the same, the all promise the world but I've not found one to date that actually delivers 100% what they promise. Having worked in recruitment as a consultant and trainer myself for a period of time they don't seem to realise I can tell when they're spinning me the corporate spiel about how "unique" they are. Really it's a case of "they all say that" and "prove it" as far as I'm concerned.
Why am I telling you this? Well if you are
going to get into recruitment consultancy from scratch I assume your employer is going to provide you with some degree of “on-the-job” training. Make sure you take note of everything you’re told; if you’re unsure of the companies policies, just ask again. Try to remember to treat your candidates as human being and not just potential cash flow for you and your employer. The better you treat them the more likely they are to want to go for a job that you find suitable for them rather than another agent down the road who might treat their candidates better than your company.
Listen to your clients’ needs – build a relationship with them and don’t bombard them with calls every day trying to get vacancies from them. If you have some real vacancies, give them the attention they deserve rather than trying to fill too many roles from different companies at the same time, this is counter-productive and a half-hearted effort won’t produce results. I always found dedicate a whole morning or afternoon to a specific vacancy would produce much better results than trying to deal with 15 different roles. Get into the frame of mind of the company of the vacancy you’re trying to fill and work on that exclusively for a period of time rather than jumping back and forth. It’s good to remember which vacancies you currently have as you might have a candidate that applies for one role which they are clearly not suitable for but you might have another position that they would be ideal for. WHAT I LIKED ABOUT WORKING IN RECRUITMENT
THE BOTTOM LINE - GIMME THE MONEY?
- The pay was good and the ability to earn lots of commission was great of course too; if you’re experienced you can command a high basic salary
- Placing someone who was unhappy in their last role or had been out of work for some period of time in a permanent job that they love is a fabulous high. How would you feel if you made someone’s day, week, month or year by finding them something they’re ideal for? Every time I placed someone in a role I felt a great sense of satisfaction.
- Meeting some great people as colleagues and building a good rapport with the clients - it’s really easy to pass your working day with less stress when you get along with your co-workers. Some people assume all recruitments agents are loud and obnoxious - this is honestly not the case.
WHAT I DISLIKED ABOUT WORKING IN RECRUITMENT
- I didn’t like having to cold-call around potential new clients - contrary to what some recruitment agents believe, HR people are not just sitting at their desk waiting to answer the phone and fend off yet another recruitment agent.
- I hated having a reputation. By that I mean, for the first 10 years or so of my career I would always hear people slag off recruitment agents, estate agents and lawyers. How then did I end up being employed in that field? I tried not to live up to the bad reputation recruitment agents have managed to get over the years but what can just one person do?
- I found it very difficult to build relationships with colleagues as the staff turnover in the 2 agencies I worked in was so high. It’s not nice to start working with some really cool people and for them to them disappear from your daily working life after 3 or 4 months. I am a sociable person and meet up regularly with many people I worked with from the early 90s to now. BUT in the recruitment field I found the working relationships were quite short-lived.
What can you earn in recruitment consultancy? Well the salaries will vary depending on whereabouts you live in the country of course. As with most jobs if you work in the City you will likely earn considerably more than in the home counties or further out of the capital.
As of 2010 the average basic salary across the country is about £25,000. Did you know that 75% of jobs in recruitment agencies
pay more than £23,000? That’s a good start isn’t it? But overall 50% pay more than £28,000 with 25% paying over £40,000.
Average salaries in the recruitment industry fluctuate, due to the recession in recent years, the basic salary has dropped slightly and the commissions might not be as high as they once were but if you just check out the search facility on sites like jobsite.co.uk with the words “recruitment consultant” in London (as an example), you’ll see positions offered with salaries of £35-100k OTE (with OTE meaning on target earnings). Even a Trainee Recruiter/Resourcer can earn from £18,000 upwards. Many companies are still able to offer uncapped commission; in other words, you place as many candidates as you’re able to and you’ll make commission on every placement.DO I RATE IT OR NOT?
As a profession I’d rate recruitment consultancy as 3 out of 5. It’s not something I want to do again personally, but I gained good exposure into the world of the recruitment consultancy during my 3.5 year stint and it gave me a good insight into what agents have to deal with on a daily basis. Because of this it has made sure that in my HR capacity I try to give the agents I deal with as much information as possible about the role, the person specification and what we’re like as a company in the hope that they’ll be able to find me the perfect candidates. The agents I work with are usually very grateful for this heads up - and I’m quite honest in telling them that I’ve been on their side of the phone and know what it’s like.
If you think you have the stamina and ambition to make potentially a 6 figure salary - with hard work and determination and some quite long hours (sorry if it sounds cliched) recruitment consultancy is a field you should try out.