As a recruiter, I spend a lot of time speaking to candidates about their next steps – discussing what they’ve achieved and what they want to accomplish in the future. I find it so easy to talk about everyone else’s career progression but I don’t often refocus the lens on myself and question; what, as a recruiter, do I want to achieve and what are my next steps? And the million dollar question - is recruitment a good career choice?
My six year old daughter recently asked “what do you do at work mum?” I explained I work in recruitment – so I help people find a new job and support them with the next steps in their career. It didn’t have the same exciting ring to it as an author, doctor, rock star, prima ballerina….all the glamorous career options kids seem to dream about. Fast forward a few days and I’m at a wedding reception and when asked “what do you do?” My answer of “I’m a recruiter” was met with a twisted face of disdain. On a number of occasions, when I have disclosed that I work in recruitment, I have been faced with inaccurate, stereotypical ideas about my profession. Or alternatively complete surprise; “really? I wouldn’t have guessed that you worked in recruitment!” It’s made me wonder why some people have such a poor view of recruiters and why is it viewed by some as such a lowly career choice, when I myself hold the opposite view.
Historically recruiters appear to have gained a bad reputation, particularly in relation to the cold-calling element of the role. There also seems to be a view that recruiters are the obtuse middle party, withholding information and seeking to manoeuvre situations to their own gain. It conjures up a parasitic image, of distrust and disloyalty. If I’m being honest this image troubles me, since I hold such a high value against my own career choice – I wanted to know why this same view wasn’t shared by many other people I engage with. I could have brushed off these comments as I have done in the past, but instead I decided to open up the conversation to other recruiters, candidates and clients to gain a more holistic view.
Some of the feedback I gathered unfortunately did feed into this undesirable image of ‘the recruiter.’ In many situations the individuals I spoke to ‘fell’ into recruitment rather than made a conscious decision to join the profession. Often people are attracted by the high earning potential rather than the nature of the role itself, which could explain some of the behaviours, which drive the negative view of the profession. Some commented that they have to earn the trust of people they deal with and ‘justify’ themselves when talking about their career choice. A level of integrity isn’t necessarily assumed as it is with many other professions.
When I spoke to people about their experience as a recruiter, there was a varying degree of responses – some individuals stated that it can be quite demotivating dealing with rejection on a regular basis, as well as tricky to manage the inconsistent flow of work and ever-changing client and candidate requirements. Others felt more positive about their profession, commenting that views have changed over time and now, more than ever, there is a level of respect for the difficult job that recruiters do. It was felt that the industry has become far more client-focused, and about ensuring quality over quantity, which will no doubt help to improve the reputation of the industry, over time.
A recent candidate stated that she found applying for jobs through a recruiter to be preferable to applying for jobs blindly. She found her recruiter’s networks invaluable when accessing the job market. She also found the interview prep offer by the recruiter very helpful. In contrary another candidate found the mechanisms used by many recruiters to be reactive, impersonal and often unhelpful.
In an attempt to address some of these reputational issues I wanted to explore how recruiters feel they add value to the recruitment process. A common theme here was knowledge; current market intelligence was felt to be absolutely critical in successful recruitment. Proactivity was also felt to be an important factor, maintaining networks, building trust and keeping a finger on the pulse. It may sound basic but being kind and listening to your candidates and clients to ensure they feel appreciated and their needs are being met, was felt to be critical. The recruitment process isn’t just a transactional process, genuinely working to the best of your ability to get the right outcome for all parties involved is a key component and surely this willingness to listen, think and consult must be what drives a good recruiter.
Becoming an expert in recruitment takes time and dedication, research and an understanding of what makes a good client and candidate match. Clients and candidates want a high value service and track record that speaks for itself. So, would you make a good recruiter? According to my discussions you will need acute attention to detail, resilience, persistence, good engagement skills and the ‘x-factor’ – the likeability quality which can be as subjective as it is unquantifiable. It could be said that you either have it or you don’t...but I guess this depends on your audience and your ability to adapt your approach and communication style accordingly to appeal to who you’re addressing.
Still thinking of recruiting as a career choice? Well it’s tough, the hours are long and you will spend many hours dealing with the changing candidate and client landscape. Its hard work, high pressure and can be stressful particularly in commercially driven firms. This coupled with the fact that recruitment is not always recognised as a valuable profession can be frustrating. However, there’s a range of varied roles within recruitment, there are opportunities for career development and the financial compensation is often good. Perhaps it’s an industry that would benefit from a re-brand to help shake the unattractive image of ‘the recruiter’. Would I recommend to my daughters to join the world of recruitment? That’s a difficult question. I guess it depends on the individual - what makes you tick, do you have the drive, commitment and compassion, combined with the sector knowledge and the ability to build trust and deliver a high quality service. Regardless, I stand by my career choice as a recruiter.
Gemma Stevenson- Coupe is assistant consultant, interim management at SOLACE