Improve your recruitment skills: Guide for new consultants

The painstaking pursuit of application perfection was successful, your interview preparation could not have gone better, you've researched thoroughly to ensure the minimum risk of being tripped up, and finally you have confirmation: you have landed a job in recruitment. 

That whole process though is only a precursor to the hard work that is to follow. Now you have to step into a recruitment agency and wow your boss by hitting the ground running, while building relationships with clients and matching them with suitable candidates. 

To make yourself a success in this industry, what do you need to do? Let's find out

Good time to be involved in recruitment?

If you are about to embark on a career in recruitment, you've picked a turbulent time, with the short term effects of Brexit being felt. 

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) helped to produce the Markit/REC Report on Jobs. Published in August, it acts as a guide to the UK labour market with data provided by recruitment consultancies.
 
Because of uncertainty emanating from the Brexit decision, July saw a fall in the number of people placed in permanent job roles, while the availability of such staff also declined. 

Conversely though, demand to fill permanent positions is still there. According to REC's Chief Executive, Kevin Green, it suggests 'caution' being used by employers in light of the EU referendum.

"Demand for staff remains strong with vacancies continuing to rise, but the sharp fall in placements suggests that businesses are highly cautious about committing to new hires. Economic turbulence following the vote to leave the EU is undoubtedly the root cause."

The fact that the demand is there though suggests the industry is still one that is needed to meet the needs of employers - and the challenge of finding those permanent staff will shape the roles of those starting out in recruitment.

For ambitious professionals who have the drive and ability to succeed, recruitment is a rewarding career that can bring many benefits.



Although permanent placements eased in July, and staff availability increased, the number of candidates placed into temporary or contract positions rose again during that time, with all regions other than London seeing growth here. 

This tallies up with REC's Recruitment Industry Trends Survey 2014/15, which showed an increase of placements for contract, temporary and interim staff.

Placements for such positions were the chief reason behind the recruitment industry seeing turnover increase by almost 10% last year to £31.5 billion. In this context, the recruitment industry is one that people should want to join. 

Kevin Green thinks that while we don't know the long term effects of the summer of uncertainty, it's also important not to "jump to conclusions from one month's data," especially given the decisions made by the Bank of England, and a settling down of the political landscape. 

With the evidence at hand, a fair conclusion can be made that working in recruitment is a sensible career option, and there are challenges for employers that require the expertise of consultants. 

Specifically, Kevin Green said: "The record high employment rate and ongoing skill shortages have made it difficult for employers to find suitable candidates for the roles available in the past, and this remains the case. We're now seeing the added problem of individuals deciding to stay put rather than change jobs in the current environment."

It's fair to say then, that recruitment consultants will have plenty to be getting on with. For those new to the industry, what must they do to succeed?

Life as a recruitment consultant

Whether you're mapping out your career, or even at the point where you've been offered a job, it undoubtedly helps to know what it's like stepping into the lion's den. Is recruitment for you? Certainly people have entered careers that they subsequently realised didn't suit them. Indeed, it takes a fair degree of bravery to accept you've made a mistake, in order to benefit you in the long term. 

Having a grasp on what you'll be dealing with though will minimise the chances of this happening. 

What does a typical day look like?

We spoke to people within the recruitment industry to get a feel of what a normal day (used in the loosest possible sense) entails and something that was commonly mentioned was the number of hours. All tend to get into the office by 8am at the latest, and in many cases, even earlier if contact needs to be made with people in different parts of the world. 

Natalie Winterton is a Resourcer who has recently graduated from BPS World's Rising Stars Apprentice Programme. She outlined her average day to us. As you can probably guess, it's jam-packed, fast paced and above all else, busy. 

A typical day, she said, starts with responding to and sending emails before running through responses to these from applicants. A plan for the coming day is made "and then the fun begins," Natalie said. 

A conference call is made to discuss roles and candidates with respective teams before the work begins in earnest. 

There are people in the business who have years of experience and are keen to help. You just need to ask.



Natalie explained: "If you are a day planning guru, you will know what calls to make and when to make them but this does not always go to plan. Alongside this you will expect to be making/formatting submittal documents to send applications, liaising with your team and account manager and generally keeping up to date on all your live roles, so as to remain agile to the clients' needs and hiring schedules."



We also spoke to Andy Evans of Contract Options, a recruitment agency that specialises in supplying temporary staff to the Catering industry. 

He says the day begins at 7am, when the first port of call is to make sure all candidates are set to make the jobs they've been posted to, prior to filling last minute bookings received from clients who are looking for sickness cover, for instance.

For the rest of the morning, recruiters at Contract Options register new team members, sift through CVs to invite other candidates to register. Client calls are then made and visits scheduled.

The rest of the day entails dealing with received bookings from clients, touching base with existing employers to make sure the staff they have been sent are acceptable for their needs, and the day is rounded off by making sure staff for the next day have been given details for tomorrow's work. 

Key to success in recruitment


Not every day will go your way. There'll be times when candidates let you down, or you toil for weeks to fill a position that seems to yield no ideal candidates. Remember, everybody in that office has been in extremely similar, if not the same scenarios.



The overriding theme from those who work within the recruitment industry is that the job entails a great deal. Multi-tasking is required, which means time management is crucial, and solid communication skills are also necessary.  

It's easy to get overawed when having so much responsibility and pressure on your shoulders, especially from the outset of your employment. That is the nature of the beast. 

Ann Swain, CEO of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), outlined the difficulties of starting out in the industry, describing the pace of the sector as "overwhelming."

This is backed up by the APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index which says the average churn rate of people leaving recruitment before 12 months is 18%. It should be mentioned that there are elements outside the control of employers that can lead to people changing careers, but to put the above figure into context, a Mercer survey from last year had voluntary turnover in the UK at less than 12% and involuntary turnover at 7%.

Despite this, however, Ann believes that, "for ambitious professionals who have the drive and ability to succeed," recruitment is a rewarding career that can bring many benefits. 

This is something we firmly believe too. With that in mind, what advice is key for recruiters if they are to make a success in this industry?

"Do what you say you are going to do. From the smallest commitment like arriving on time each day through to achieving larger goals by doing whatever it takes to get it done."

Follow the buzz words 

Patience, tenacity, resilience, motivation, desire, determination. Okay, I'm starting to sound like a David Brent appraisal here, but honestly, implementing these behaviours into your work as a recruitment consultant will stand you in good stead. 

Moreover, experts in the field used the above words as ways in which you can succeed in the industry. 

As we have seen, a day in the life of a recruiter can be stressful. Hours can be spent trying to find suitable candidates for the client, which clearly can sap confidence. 

On top of speaking to prospective candidates, a day can involve writing adverts, searching social media and job boards to increase the candidate pool you reach. 

In order to offer a truly consultative service, you must become a trusted advisor to your clients and candidates.



BPS World is focused on generating candidates, so a consultant has to initially identify candidates, give clients professional copies of their CV, consult throughout the process of interviewing as well as manage the offer process from a client, all the way through to the candidate finishing their probation in a new job.

All in all, there is a huge load on the shoulders of a recruiter. Going back to the buzz words, it is why Liam Murray, Client Service Director at BPS World, thinks that the likes of determination, desire and self motivation are crucial if you are to succeed. 




With a heavy, interchangeable workload, a recruitment consultant will need to be motivated to get through all tasks. The desire and determination to undertake the work you need to is a sure fire way to succeed according to Liam. 

He said: "Do what you say you are going to do. From the smallest commitment like arriving on time each day through to achieving larger goals by doing whatever it takes to get it done. Going the extra mile to achieve your smaller, daily weekly goals will see you achieve the wider individual and team goals that are set."

Lean on your support network

This is a common theme from the experts in the industry that we spoke to. Andy Evans believes that 'learning from those around you' is one of the important aspects of ensuring success in recruitment. 

He's not alone in this opinion. It's an obvious thing to do really, given the best people to learn from are those who have a track record of being successful. This can be anything from their method when finding and matching candidates with employers, to the way they conduct themselves around the office. 

Opportunities to learn and grow are always there, and by grasping them, the recruiter is maximising their chances of success. 

As pointed out by Ann Swain, this arrangement doesn't have to be a formal one, but getting advice and guidance from people who are experienced in the industry can only be a good thing.

"Seek out a mentor - senior professionals who are willing to fight your corner and pull you up from within can be an invaluable tool for ambitious recruiters looking to advance their careers. Identify professionals with qualities that you admire, ask for guidance and attempt to emulate their behaviours."

Opportunities to learn and grow are always there, and by grasping them, the recruiter is maximising their chances of success.



Support doesn't have to come in the form of a mentor. Indeed, as Natalie Winterton said: "There are people in the business who have years of experience and are keen to help. You just need to ask."

The wealth of experience in many recruitment agencies means it's an obvious source of encouragement and help if you encounter problems. 

Not every day will go your way. There'll be times when candidates let you down, or you toil for weeks to fill a position that seems to yield no ideal candidates. Remember, everybody in that office has been in extremely similar, if not the same scenarios.



Realising this helped Natalie at BPS World, who had spent two months working to fill a position with no luck, before realising "my team are here to support me so why not ask for a second opinion?" It resulted in a colleague helping her to fill this position. 

Importantly, she "found candidates in places I'd never imagined looking." Here is a prime example of how listening to others can help recruitment consultants succeed in the industry. It opened up a completely new way of thinking and looking for candidates - experience that could then be applied to other scenarios, increasing the chances of success. 

Be an expert

Would you get your car fixed by somebody who doesn't know their alternator from their exhaust? Would you take advice on building a website from somebody who automatically thinks bricks and mortar? Hopefully the answer is no. Why? Because they neither know the industry, nor the needs of the people they are servicing. 

The same rules apply to recruitment. If you're beginning your career as a consultant who focuses on construction firms, but you don't know the workings of your market, how can you expect to fulfil the needs of a client?

Whether you're working with manufacturing, accountancy, law, catering, or clients from any other industry, it is so important you are fully integrated into said sector. Keep on top of current events that could change a client's priorities and the candidates they are searching for.

Seek out a mentor - senior professionals who are willing to fight your corner and pull you up from within can be an invaluable tool for ambitious recruiters looking to advance their careers.



APSCo's Ann Swain urged those new to recruitment to become 'immersed' in the sectors you are going to be operating in. 

She explained: "In order to offer a truly consultative service, you must become a trusted advisor to your clients and candidates.

"Keep abreast of latest developments in your sector in terms of cutting edge technological advancements, skills shortages and incoming legislation through seminars, sector-specific press and social media. Yes it eats into your time, but it will pay dividends long term."

More than anything, a consultant following these steps will find that the service they offer to clients and candidates provides added value, meaning better results for everybody. 

Highs and lows


The key seems to be not to get carried away with your successes or inconsolably down on bad days.



Inevitably, as with any job, a recruitment consultant will experience highs and lows. There will be days when everything falls into place and candidate interviews with employers go swimmingly, resulting in a quick and efficient appointment, and a happy client. 

Conversely, there will be days when everything you try to find that perfect candidate doesn't work, and your misery is compounded on another account when a candidate doesn't show for an interview, leaving you in a difficult spot. 

The key seems to be not to get carried away with your successes or inconsolably down on bad days. Successes should be celebrated, but it's important to remain focused on the job, and retain your consistent approach to your tasks. 



Natalie Winterton describes recruitment as a rollercoaster "because you get a build-up of great candidates and interviews and when you get an offer, you feel at your highest point, but the next day you might feel like you're plummeting back to earth. Those low points will definitely make you appreciate the highs."

Not everything will go for you but such is life and recruitment! 

Lows will happen, according to Liam Murray, but the response is much more important than the bad news, which he says "will happen unfortunately, as people will not always make the decisions you would like them to make."

Ensuring you are successful goes back to the attitude shown by recruitment consultants. Not all variables can be controlled but Liam believes that with the right application, "you can reduce the frequency that these (lows) will happen by being thorough throughout the process."

Identify professionals with qualities that you admire, ask for guidance and attempt to emulate their behaviours.

Will you be successful in the recruitment industry?

We believe if you take these tips on board, you can look forward to a fruitful career in the industry. 


Of course, in the words of Coldplay, "nobody said it was easy," and life as a recruitment consultant can be testing. 

It is, according to Ann Swain, "a profession like no other: fast moving, emotionally charged, notoriously competitive and immensely rewarding."

For all the fear the first three points can elicit, the final one shows the tantalising advantages of being successful. 

To achieve this success, follow the advice of the experts, believe in yourself, never give up during those occasions when you're having a tough time, and we know you'll be just fine. 

Written by John Train