Working in recruitment: Ten facts of what being a recruiter is really like

Why would you want to become a recruiter? Like any job it involves blood, sweat, tears, long hours, hard targets, and at times difficult individuals. But still people flock to it. In 2015, there were an estimated 103,225 people working in the recruitment industry and it generated a whopping £31.5bn per year (see the REC industry report here). Maybe it's because parts of the industry have a reputation as being a bit of an easy ride that can potentially pay rather well? Maybe it’s because people genuinely have a passion for recruiting? Or maybe it’s just a by product of an ever increasingly sociable society? 

I made the move in to the recruitment sector in my mid (ish) 20s, and it was without doubt one of the best decisions I've ever made. But what's it really like as a sector to work in? Whether you’re actively looking at it as a new career path, or just toying with the idea of trying something different. Here are 10 things you should probably be aware of before you embark on this new potential avenue.

 

  1. Not Everyone Is Nice
    I know this is a bit of a negative point to start with (sorry in advance) but... We all know the stereotype of external recruitment agencies sitting somewhere between A. something you might scrap off the bottom of your shoe, and B. that pop star whose name rhymes with Dustin Fever... Unfortunately the stereotype exists for a reason. Having said that, it definitely does not apply to all agencies! In recruitment, maybe more so than anywhere else, reputation is key. If you’ve heard good things about an agency or have had a good experience with them, chances are they are a good employer too.
     
  2. Agencies Are Not All The Same
    There are High Street Agencies, Office Agencies, Generalist Agencies, Specialist Agencies, Permanent Agencies, Temporary Agencies; the list goes on, and on, and on. It’s not always immediately obvious what area an agency operates in, but definitely something you should invest a bit of time in looking at before making a decision. The approach to recruitment and the culture within the business will be massively different between an office based permanent specialist agency, and a high street temporary generalist agency.


     
  3. People Will (Oddly) Talk  To You About Numbers
    More often than not, when looking at recruitment for the first time you will come across people throwing around lots of terms that sound more like they should be used when calculating a bit of trigonometry. 360 is the most common one. This refers to someone who does everything; recruitment, account management and business development. 180 (or resourcing) refers to just finding candidates.
     
  4. You Have To Get Up Close & Personal With Your Phone
    I am aware that there are people out there who might find ringing between 20 and 50 complete strangers each day... slightly... unappealing. Personally I rather enjoy it, last week I spent 10hrs 34mins on the phone - so if you don’t enjoy having a piece of technology glued to your ear for essentially a day and half of your working week this might not be the best job for you.


     
  5. You Will Become AMAZING At Leaving Voicemails
    Going hand in hand with calling those 20 to 50 strangers each day, there is a lot of getting diverted to the old answer phone. After a while your standard voicemail will become second nature. Personally, I have been told off by my girlfriend twice for apparently reciting it in my sleep...
     
  6. The Learning Curve Is Incredibly Steep
    I recently read an article about ‘settling in’ periods for new jobs. It said that normally it takes 3 months for someone to decide whether they enjoy their job or not. I would say that within the first 3 weeks of recruitment you will know if it’s right for you. The nature of the job is very full, on very fast, and as with marmite it’s something you will immediately love or perhaps not so much.


     
  7. It’s An Emotional Roller Coaster
    One of my colleagues recently compared being in recruitment to being hormonal when she was pregnant. In the space of a morning it’s possible to go from being euphorically happy having made a placement, to borderline depression having had a candidate pull out at the final stage, back to being euphoric again having signed a deal and bringing on a new client, back down to being on the verge of tears because a role has been withdrawn after doing loads of work on it, back to being ecstatic again after finding out that someone has got through to final stage in an ongoing process... and that’s just in one morning.
     
  8. You Can’t Take Things Personally
    This really goes hand in hand with the last point. You really can’t take things personally; it’s very wise to have a bit of professional detachment from the role. The nature of the job means that unfortunately things can go from being very good to incredibly frustrating and back to very good VERY quickly. Don’t get me wrong, it keeps the job very interesting but it does mean you have to make sure you are taking everything with a pinch of salt.


     
  9. The Rewards Can Be Amazing
    “I just wanted to say thank you so much! I’m absolutely loving my new job, so much more than I expected. The team are so kind and supporting and the job is so much better than when I was at ********. I just wanted to say thank you for finding me the job and giving me support throughout. I couldn’t have done it without you :) If you are ever in the area please pop in to the restaurant for a dinner on me.”
    Aside from the free food, there’s not a lot that beats getting an email like that… aside from being paid for doing it.
     
  10. People will lie to you
    I have come across some amazing reasons for not turning up / withdrawing from a role / not getting in contact etc. All of which when you delve in to them a little deeper turn out to be slightly less than legitimate. My favourites have included, being involved in a legal dispute over the ownership of a pet pony, getting picked to go on a TV quiz show, having a dog eat their car keys, and my personal favourite moving to Asia to teach Tibetan monks how to speak English. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone tells you porky pies but it does unfortunately happen.

So I should probably talk about the elephant in the room... the money. Personally I am one of those weird people who isn’t really money driven which is why I have purposefully left it out. Now don't get me wrong, potentially recruitment can pay incredibly well, so long as you put in the time and effort. However, despite the best laid plans, some months the commission won’t always be there. If money is your sole reason for looking at recruitment (as with any job) I would question whether it's right for you.

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone is to pick your firm carefully. Recruitment is relatively easy to get in to however I would say the company you work for will more than anything else determine how successful you are and whether you remain in the sector long term. 
I work for an agency that has never pressured me in to hard selling or misleading a candidate in order to get him/her in to a job. My targets are reasonable and if I need support then it’s there. But as I said in point 1 not all agencies are like that. I would thoroughly recommend recruitment to anyone who enjoys being on the phone, working to deadlines and can deal with the ups and down the role regularly brings. All I would say is to do some research first and pick the agencies you apply to. We are by no means the only business that doesn’t follow the traditional stereotype.

 

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