Those who can Recruit
Whether you're in retail or hospitality, management or head office, a career path open to you is recruitment consultancy. If you've got the right skill-set, attitude and expectations it could be a lucrative, fulfilling career. But that's a big if...make sure you look before you leap.
What does a recruitment consultant do?
Sounds like a stupid question doesn't it, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what a recruitment consultant is and does, so let's clear it up: they sell. Of course the principal commodity you're selling is people: you're there to find candidates for client companies. There are many processes involved and skills required but when you boil it right down it's about selling: selling companies on your ability to find the right people; selling companies on the candidates you have put forward; selling candidates on the merits of companies for which you're recruiting...you get the idea. Headhunting, cold-calling, negotiating on fees, closing deals, each of these key activities require accomplished selling skills. So if you are not prepared for a sales job, this isn't a career for you.
Where does the money come from?
It's pretty simple really; recruitment consultants make their money by earning commission from placing candidates into client companies - commissions typically based on the starting salary of the candidate. Recruitment consultants do of course earn basic salaries but it's in the commission where the serious cheddar of the successful consultant can be earned. And make no mistake, if you're good at this game you're going to earn some fat old bank.
A day in the life
Specific activities will vary from company to company and day to day but the basic structure is fairly common and breaks down into two broad camps, client management and candidate management.
- interviewing candidates - consultants, particularly the successful ones, interview a lot of candidates. If you have no candidates to put forward, you're not going to make any commission.
- sourcing new candidates (headhunting/networking / advertising)
- negotiating offers of employment
- briefing, taking feedback and managing candidates through the application process - this last step would include doing your level best to make sure your candidates turn up to interviews or assessment centres and thereby avoiding an ear-bashing from disgruntled clients.
- arrange interviews
- update current vacancies
- register new roles and brief team on details
- negotiate terms & conditions for new business
- manage expectations - some roles are easier to fill than others, some markets are easier to work in than others, some brands have greater candidate appeal than others; what doesn't change is the client's need to have someone in position straight away. A consultant has to make sure the client has realistic expectations.
- account management: the principal activity of a consultant is selling, but part of this is building a longer-term rapport with clients, building trust, developing understanding and even loyalty. Some might call it hand-holding or 'touching base' but either way developing an existing client is almost always easier than gaining a new one.
Upsides and downsides
Like every job there are two sides to being a recruitment consultant. It is incredibly hard work being good at this job and it's not always a barrel of laughs.
On the potentially negative side:
- it's a pressured job; this is a target-driven sales environment, fail to meet your targets and you'll be finding another career.
- variable income: you can't guarantee placements (your candidates hired by your clients) and therefore commissions, every month. And each month that goes by without a placement puts a little bit more pressure on you as your targets look ever more challenging.
- placements falling through: anyone who has been a consultant for any amount of time will have experienced the huge frustration of a deal that looked to be done and dusted collapsing at the eleventh hour. This might be due to a candidate/client changing their minds, a candidate being counter-offered...whatever, it all spells no commission and lots of time wasted.
- unrealistic client/candidate expectations: sometimes you are the bearer of bad news and have to suffer other people's annoyance.
On a more positive note:
- money, money, money: you cannot get away from the fact that recruitment consultants can make a great deal of money. They work for it, no doubt, but the scope for serious earning is quite something.
- job satisfaction: having a client offer a job to a candidate you have put forward is a buzz. In one stroke your client has agreed with your recommendation, thereby increasing their faith in you for the future, you get to go back and tell your candidate they got the job and of course there is your commission.
- autonomy and teamwork: recruitment consultancy provides a unique working environment in which you can enjoy a good degree of autonomy while still being part of a close-knit team. Your activity levels, decision-making and ability will have a material impact on how much money you take home. But at the same time you have the support of people who are in the same boat (other consultants) and with whom you will work closely - after all, they may have candidates perfect for your client and vice versa.
Have you got the right stuff?
Taking all of this into consideration, have you got what it takes to be a recruitment consultant? Let's run down some of the key personal requirements and see if you measure up. A successful recruitment consultant needs to have:
- sales skills
- the ability to build relationships
- interpersonal skills
- communication skills
Resilience and the ability to sell stand out head and shoulders above the rest. This is no occupation for shy little wall-flowers, this is a job for people who are hungry to carve out their own lucrative niche and are prepared to graft for it. Could be you, but you've got to want it.
"The best consultants are those who can strike the right balance between charisma and commercial awareness. Personality-wise you have to be sociable, outgoing and a great relationship builder in order to develop and maintain important contacts, whilst always keeping one eye on your strategic and financial targets, not to mention your competitors! Not everyone is built for it, but for those who love a challenge the rewards can be great."
Adem Ismail, senior account manager, Retail Human Resources