5 tips for a successful recruitment career

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
February, 2018

With the sector continuing to grow, now's a great time to consider a recruitment career - here's how to ensure you get off to the best possible start

Figures from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) show that the recruitment industry is on an upward trajectory, with this predicted to continue for at least the next three years.

In 2016/17, recruitment agencies found a permanent role for almost one million people, while 1.3 million managed to secure temporary placements, according to the latest Recruitment industry trends report. Turnover for the sector, which employs more than 100,000 workers, reached £32.2billion.

It's no surprise that with the overall jobs market improving, many graduates are pursuing a career in recruitment. Here are five tips to help you on your way.

1. Show determination

Recruitment consultants are responsible for attracting candidates looking for work and then matching them to vacancies. This may sound straightforward, but taking on such a role is by no means an easy option.

For example, Claire Houston was awarded the honour of being Adecco Group's UK and Ireland 'CEO for One Month' - under the mentorship of the CEO and the executive team - yet she still found the prospect of entering the industry as a recent graduate daunting.

Those who press on and overcome any initial concerns will find the industry to be exciting, innovative and full of opportunity, promises Claire. Indeed, the Ulster University graduate says, 'It's the ideal stage for graduates to flex their creativity, flair and ambition - but make no mistake, you need to be prepared to work hard, fast and smart.'

2. Be confident in your ability

After graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a degree in American Studies in 2001, Phil Cookson gained an insight into how recruiters operated when searching for a job. He discovered that being able to talk to people and build relationships were essential to the profession - strengths that not everyone appeared to possess.

'To be honest, I thought that some of the people I dealt with didn't seem too good at recruiting, so I thought I could do better,' says Phil, director at , a recruitment agency specialising in marketing, digital, creative and PR roles throughout the North West of England.

With many years' experience in the industry now behind him, Phil is perfectly placed to comment on the key skills required. 'Empathy for people is very important, both clients and candidates equally. You also need to have passion for the sector you're working in, and the willingness to immerse yourself within it,' he adds.

3. Choose to work in-house or at an agency

Graduates starting a career in recruitment typically have two options: to work for a recruitment agency that represents its clients, or in-house for a large company.

By choosing to specialise in a particular sector for an agency, Phil says that following your clients through their development and growth as a business can be very rewarding - as is seeing candidates progressing from graduate through to director level. 'Eventually the candidates become the clients,' Phil remarks.

The working environment at a smaller recruiter can be very relaxed, reveals Phil. 'We don't operate as a target-driven recruiter, which means we're totally focused on the service we provide.'

Phil also explains how you can draw great job satisfaction from hearing how you've made a positive impact on people's lives.

At the other end of the scale, Claire points out that you only get to understand the complexity of a multinational company such as Adecco Group - with 33,000 full-time employees spread across more than 5,000 offices in 60 different countries - once you become involved on a day-to-day basis.

Relying on a number of teams to operate successfully, and indeed thrive, Adecco puts a lot of weight on its recruitment strategy. Claire credits its programme for giving her an insight into the business.

'The role gave me a realistic view of how each section has to play its part and innovate in order to secure success for the group as a whole. It doesn't matter that this is achieved in a variety of ways, and by very different cultures. If the task cohesion is there, it will work,' she explains.

Search the latest job vacancies in the recruitment industry.

4. Embrace the digital realm

For those contemplating a recruitment career, Phil explains how digital has changed the industry completely over the last ten years. 'The way we engage with candidates is far more proactive and less reliant on candidates responding to adverts,' he says. 'We're now actively sourcing talent on a daily basis.'

This is only set to continue, with the increasing need for job-hunters to effectively manage their social media and network profiles, using technology to their advantage.

Claire stresses the importance of this by encouraging graduates to keep pace with the 'ever-evolving machine', as reading books, along with articles on LinkedIn and Twitter 'demonstrates engagement with the industry, providing a wealth of knowledge, challenging you to think outside the norm'.

Digital has also changed how a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) such as Creative Resource manages its internal processes, with Phil finding that it allows for a greater level of efficiency, and the ability for staff to carry out their work from any location.

5. Think about your career development

Phil is adamant that a career in recruitment has great potential, whichever route you eventually decide to take.

While his experience of working for a small niche recruitment agency provided an opportunity for rapid progression, he is aware that some graduates may be enticed by the prospect of moving to the international offices of a large global recruiter, or even going it alone and forging their own path.

'It's also a sector where many people choose to start their own businesses, so if you've got an entrepreneurial streak it's a great industry to work in,' suggests Phil. To explore this further, find out what it takes to be self-employed and discover what is an entrepreneur?

Phil's final piece of advice to graduates is to 'think about what sectors might be of interest to you, or are relevant to your background'.

Only a small proportion of recruitment businesses run dedicated graduate programmes, but there are still opportunities available to train on the job in a structured graduate recruitment consultant role.

Once you land your first role in recruitment, it's recommended that you focus on what training and development a company can give to you, while finding out what their expectations of you would be.

As you progress your career, you may wish to study towards further qualifications. See HR courses.