Why aren’t we all recruitment consultants?

An insight into the industry with Axcis Education

The “average” recruitment consultant in the UK runs a temporary recruitment desk (or a mix of temporary and permanent), earns £28, 820 and is satisfied in their job. Sounds great – why doesn’t everyone do it?


With 65000 recruitment consultants in the UK, and an industry worth £26.5 billion – and growing – it’s not surprising to hear that many people do, in fact begin a career in recruitment every year. But it’s not for everyone – in my recent article “5 Tips for being a successful education recruitment consultant,” I discussed the fact that to be successful in the job, you need to:


  1. Want to do it
  2. Be prepared to be a salesperson
  3. Be resilient
  4. Have a broad skill set
  5. Be prepared to give it time (commission isn’t earned overnight!)


So, it’s not just a career you can step into – it’s hard work, takes time to build a desk and can be high pressure and long hours. But for the right people it can be a great career choice. A recent survey by the REC found that “81% of recruiters are satisfied in their job”. But it’s not just the pay which attracts people to the profession. REC Chief Executive Kevin Green says:


“We know that pay and benefits aren’t the only reasons recruiters love their jobs. The buzz of a fast-paced business, the variety of activity and the satisfaction of helping people find work are rewards in themselves. “


However, when you consider that 65% of recruiters have between 1 and 4 years of experience, and only 16% have 5-9 years (see chart below), it becomes clear that a huge number of recruiters leave the profession after the first few years. But why?

Chart to show the % of recruiters with years of experience

% Of recruiters against number of years experience held

Reasons for leaving recruitment

Actual figures on staff turnover in recruitment are difficult to obtain. This is due to lack of cross-sector studies being performed. However, as a recruiter with a decade of experience, and as someone who has worked at HR and Management level within recruitment, I can suggest the following reason for these statistics:


Consultants who are new to the industry are likely to bring with them plenty of enthusiasm. And even if they are not performing well, they are likely to redouble their efforts and “hang on in there” until they make it to their second year. After this time, employers will have higher expectations. This means that pressure is likely to increase – and this is where the “make or break” situations start to emerge.



Recruitment is no easy ride! By the second year in the industry, most will realise if it’s the right profession for them. Credit Flickr cc

As I’ve already stated, recruitment is not an easy ride. Once people hit their second year in the industry, they will usually realise whether it’s the right job for them or not. They’ll either make it or break it… those who are under target may fail to meet the expectations of their managers, and either choose to leave or be asked to leave due to poor performance. I would predict that meeting financial targets is the most stressful part of the role for any recruiter. All the other day to day activities feed into this one core aspect of the job. So, if you aren’t making the required amount of money for your company, you’ll either need to demonstrate that you are doing the right things and that you can quickly turn it around, or you’re likely to be shown the door. While that might sound harsh, I do believe that it’s fairer to let people go if you can see early on that recruitment really isn’t the right job for them. It’s much kinder in the long-run than watching them struggle on.


It’s also easy for people outside of the industry to imagine that recruitment is a fun-filled day of chatting to clients, taking their job requirements, then chatting to candidates and sending them over for interviews. While this is not necessarily false, it certainly over-simplifies the process.


From my perspective as a previous manager, I think it is a lack of time management and prioritisation skills, coupled with a “glass half empty” attitude which is the cause for many of the times consultants fail to meet their expected targets. I’ve seen so many eager new starters come through the door who are told exactly what they need to do in order to build up their desk and meet their targets – and yet they often choose to ignore the advice, do things their own way and as a result end up being asked to leave when they fall badly behind on their targets.


Of course, some who leave do so of their own accord, and having been successful in the industry simply realise this is not the job for them in the long-term. That’s fair enough – it’s not for everyone!

A day in the life


So, what sort of expectations are there of staff on a temporary recruitment desk? Well, the day to day activities one would expect from a consultant who is building their desk would be something like:


  • Make some sales calls to new clients in order to help grow your business (essential for meeting those targets!)
  • Call clients who you are working on jobs for and get an update on the current situation around the position
  • Visit a client to either maintain current business or to elicit new business
  • Make some calls to candidates – either to tell them about jobs you have available, or to update them on their job hunt
  • Interview a candidate – essential for those running temporary desks
  • Check your “patch” for any candidates who have newly registered with the company and call them to discuss their needs and whether you feel you are in a position to help them to meet those needs
  • Market a candidate – this might be something like emailing clients whom you feel a particular candidate might be of interest to
  • Answer the phone! This can take a surprising amount of your day up as the phone is always ringing at a busy recruitment company!
  • Other administrative tasks such as attending meetings, updating the database as you gain new information about candidates etc.



Most consultants will support clients out of hours in order to provide a service which is second to none! Credit Flickr cc

Take it from me – fitting all of this into a day can be tough! This is why recruitment consultants are well known to work long-hours – with duties often spilling into their personal lives. And when you consider how hard it can be to generate a new relationship with a client, it becomes less surprising to hear that many consultants give our their mobile numbers and consider themselves to be “on call” during evenings and weekends. Recruitment is a highly competitive industry, and if you’re not offering your clients a service which goes the extra mile, it’s likely that your competitors are!




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