What I do…a rant about my industry (Recruitment)

I recruit.

Sorry, I’ll be a bit more specific.  I am a recruitment consultant.  There, I’ve said it.

I hate telling people what I do.  It conjures up pictures of pushy salespeople, unreturned phonecalls, unsuitable job interviews and your CV ending up on your bosses desk.  People give me a look of distrust and often sympathy.  Candidates often tell you that the only reason they are seeing you is because companies aren’t advertising in newspapers as much and only agencies advertise on the Internet.  Clients tell you that they havn’t got time to meet with you or give you a job description and just to “send me 20 or 30 CVs for me to review when I have chance”.  The environment is heavily targeted with constant pressure placed on you from every angle.

So why do I do it?  And why do I care what people think?  Most consultants are not that bothered, and if they were, would do something about the reputation that some of the industry has for less than ethical or customer service oriented practices.  I care because I am actually quite good at it.  I have regular clients, repeat business and receive testimonials and messages of thanks even if things don’t go smoothly 100% of the time.

I also enjoy the pressure, the environment, the challenge of finding that unique person that fits the unique requirements of that job.  That unique person will be successful in their job, the company will be more successful as a result, which means I have been successful.  One big circle of success.

Unfortunately, the industry reputation for ‘placing bums on seats’ (not my words, those of a client recently explaining why he doesn’t use recruitment consultants or agencies if he can help it) means that sometimes those of us out there who actually want to develop a long-term, successful career, suffer as a result.

It certainly doesn’t help that the staff turnover rates within recruitment are 4 or 5 times higher than other service industries.  “Every time someone from your company rings, it is a different person telling me that they have taken over from (Jane/John) and that things will be better from now on.  It never is – they just leave after 3 or 6 months as well”

So why don’t people stay in recruitment?  And why do you find the same people moving from one agency on the High Street to a competitor at the other end?  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The industry asks a lot of new recruits, they don’t always get instant results, which means more pressure, meaning more stress, until, one day, they see a nice advert for that agency down the street that always seems to have the business they are trying to win, and they think:  OK, if I can’t do it here, I can do it there, they have some business and I will make lots of bonus.  The competitor agency is recruiting because their last consultant had exactly the same experience and ‘jumped ship’ to another competitor agency round the corner.  There, another circle.

That said, not all consultants do this, many of them are very successful and find their niche straight away and build up fine reputations.  But that, in my experience, is the rare exception.  Even though I had quite a successful time in one company, the other pressures that were placed on me to work 60 hour weeks, long commutes, admin work at home (and socialising for the entire weekend – the vast majority of my colleagues were young, free and single and straight from uni, compared to me, the old married woman of 27!) pushed my work life balance completely over the edge.  I learnt a huge amount from the company and they are extremely successful, but they lose so many new recruits who can’t hack it, or people like me who can’t commit their whole being.

Recruitment is a relationship based industry, it offers relationship based services, and it’s staff are successful because they can build new relationships.  The variety in the workload of a consultants is tremendous.

Comparing a Recruitment Consultant to an Advertising Salesperson is one way of putting it into perspective.  The Ad Salesperson gets to work and picks up the phone to businesses and individuals that want to buy a box on a piece of paper or a website (or a poster on a wall etc).  Their product is stored on a shelf, in a computer or on a server somewhere.  They can change the product to fit the client requirements (as long as the client is willing to pay!).  The Recruitment Consultant gets to work and the first two things they have to do are find some candidates and find some clients who have jobs they need filling.  Their candidates come in all shapes and sizes, flavours, ages, labelled differently, different uniforms and skills.  They also have personalities!  Their clients are unique, some large, some small, some technologically advanced, some still don’t have email (the look of shock on your face – yes some people still live without it!).  They too have personalities, brands and policies that you need to comply with.  Every day is different.

I have worked in high volume, fast paced temporary labour, through to senior level, executive and professional search and selection.  The way I have worked hasn’t really changed.  The relationships are the key.  And it works both ways.

Candidates often complain that “consultants don’t care about what I want, just about what I can fill for them (and therefore make bonus on)”.  Yeah, sometimes that is the case, unfortunately.  But for every candidate that can honestly say that, and there are a few, there are the ones that come to you and expect you to be a mind reader.  “I can’t afford to spend the time to see you to find a new job or tell you what I want, what I can do, and what salary I will work for.  I’ll just send you this basic CV and expect you to bring me the perfect job”.

Clients do exactly the same.  For every client that has taken the time to invest in a relationship with a consultant that is providing as important a service as their accountant, solicitor and banker – ie hiring their biggest asset, their staff – there are those that send out a blanket email to 20 agencies which says “Send me CVs for a telesales person.  Not sure what salary, but we are looking for experience”.  No explanation as to how they are selling the product, what the targets will be, the environment they will be working in etc.

I turn down business if I know that I won’t be able to help due to a lack of information and cooperation.  I also turn down candidates if the investment in time and energy is not forthcoming.  I wish every consultant did this.  If they did, the industry would be happier, more successful and one where committed individuals can create a fulfilling career.

So … here comes my big idea for today … for the next 100 days (yes 100, I’ve already written my list) I am going to post on each step of the process of working with agencies, from client and candidate perspectives, so that we can all learn how to work better with each other.  My good deed for 2007.

If there are any specific areas that you would like to discuss come on over and we’ll add it in.

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3 Responses to “What I do…a rant about my industry (Recruitment)”


  1. 1 solentdreams March 31, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Looking forward to your 100 days!

    I’ve subscribed to your rss feed as I run a blog about my job-hunting experiences at http://www.solentdreams.co.uk

    Hopefully I’ll have found a new job by the end of your 100 days 🙂

    Kind regards

  2. 2 samh1 April 1, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for your support. I hope you find something too!

  3. 3 Bo Nicholson April 3, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I feel your pain… its not easy overcoming all the negativity associated with the industry


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