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Recruitment Consultant

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Recruitment Consultants (RCs) are hired by client firms to find suitable candidates for their job vacancies.

An RC receives details of vacancies from the client and advertises to attract a pool of applicants. They try to achieve a certain number of filled vacancies each week. To help them decide which candidates will be suitable, RCs use knowledge of their client companies, the structure of the company, the personalities in senior positions and what the working conditions are like.

The vacancies that an RC will be trying to fill can be temporary, permanent, entry-level or very senior positions. Once they have one or more suitable candidates they check their references before forwarding their application to the client.

The work of an RC is essentially a sales role. RCs must initially sell the services of their agency to attract business client companies. They may have to emphasise the benefits of working for their client to candidates, or on the other hand, they may have to emphasise the attributes of the candidates they have chosen to their client.

Good results – i.e. an offer of employment being made and accepted – earn RCs a commission for their services, usually a percentage of the pay rate that their successful candidate will be earning in their new job.

RCs work from an agency office, frequently using the phone, but may travel outside to meet clients or candidates in person. The role is not male or female dominated.


RCs earn a basic salary with commission on top. Commission is negotiated by the RC with the client company, and usually is between 15% and 30% of the successful candidate’s salary.

Trainee RCs start on a basic salary of between £15,000 and £20,000 a year, reaching up to £40,000 a year with more experience. The commission element increases annual salary of experienced RCs to between £32,000 and £42,000 a year. Recruitment consultants in senior positions can earn up to £100,000 a year in certain sectors.

RCs are often provided with a mobile phone and in some companies, a company car.


A Recruitment Consultant must:

  • Make cold calls to get new business from client companies.
  • Build a detailed knowledge of the characteristics and specific needs of their client.
  • Meet targets set by their consultancy of vacancies taken on, and vacancies filled successfully.
  • Build up the client’s loyalty to their agency by providing a good service.
  • Draft advertising to attract applicants of the right standard.
  • Choose appropriate candidates from the applications received.
  • Keep a record of applicants on the agency’s books in case of other similar vacancies.
  • Interview candidates and check candidates’ references.
  • Provide a shortlist of candidates to the client and if necessary ‘sell’ the candidates chosen.
  • Brief candidates about what to expect at interview and what their role will involve at the client company.
  • Arrange practical details for interviews to take place.
  • Negotiate the agency’s fees with the client.
  • Provide advice to both clients and candidates about pay rates, training and career progression in their sector.
  • Make suggestions to the client company to help them attract candidates with particular skills or attributes in the future.


Certain degree subjects are relevant to recruitment, including human resources, marketing, and public relations. However, recruitment consultancies welcome candidates from a range of backgrounds and there are no qualifications that are essential to becoming an RC. It is such a results-driven role, that skills and attitude are more important than academic qualifications.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) both provide qualifications for practising RCs. These include a certificate, diploma and degrees in Recruitment Practice, as well as the NVQ level 3 in Recruitment. Each of these qualifications may be studied for by distance learning, or alternatively the certificate in Recruitment Practice can be achieved on a fast-track basis by attending a short course. Again, these qualifications are seen by recruitment agencies as beneficial to RCs’ professional development, but not as important as having the skills to get results.

RCs working in a very specialised sector such as engineering, medicine or IT will find it is an advantage to have relevant experience and qualifications.


RCs work in a pressured, competitive environment. Essential skills and attributes include:

  • Confident telephone manner.
  • Determination to succeed.
  • Excellent ability to communicate, especially giving clear explanations and being persuasive.
  • Being motivated by challenges, problems, deadlines and targets.
  • Ability to stay calm and be professional under pressure.
  • Organisational skills: multi-tasking and prioritising tasks.
  • Creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Good teamwork skills.

Working Conditions

It is common for RCs to work from 9am – 6pm in the week. They will be based in their agency’s office, where a lot of their work will be conducted on the phone or via email. RCs will travel to interview candidates in person or meet representatives from client companies. Sometimes interviews are conducted outside office hours.

RCs starting their career will be given training on the job, which is likely to be a structured programme in larger agencies.
The job can be stressful as RCs are given individual targets, and must constantly make sure they are on track, responding quickly to setbacks. On the plus side, there is great job satisfaction in achieving targets, and placing good candidates in vacancies.

It is common for men and women to be RCs. In the industry there are a few male-dominated and female-dominated sectors.

RC jobs are available across the country, with consultancies mainly based in cities.


It is possible to get into the recruitment industry without experience in recruitment. It is useful to be able to show previous experience of providing customer services, being part of a team, and being a ‘people person’ in general. Experience showing these qualities could include work as a sales assistant, or in the hospitality industry.

Sales and marketing experience are also very useful to have, as they show you are already skilled in negotiation, and have some commercial awareness. Working in the retail industry or in a call-centre can develop sales and marketing experience.

Experience from within the secretarial, engineering or medical industries is very valuable to specialist consultancies.


The recruitment industry is growing fast, with a turnover of £26,673 billion in 2006/7 – an increase of 7.3% from 2005/6. In 2006/7 the industry employed 101,286 staff, and the industry is forecasted to continue growing.

Recruitment consultancies vary considerably in size and the sectors they recruit for. When searching for RC jobs it is worth deciding beforehand if you are interested or experienced in a particular sector, and using websites such as Recruit2Recruit to find out if there are consultancies that specialise in it.

There are hundreds of local and national consultancies with different branches in operation in the UK. Consultancies that operate internationally include Adecco, Blue Arrow, and Michael Page International.

Career Progression

Junior or trainee RCs receive their training on the job for the first few months of their career. In larger firms this will be more structured than in smaller ones. From the position of RC it is usual to progress with time and experience to being a senior consultant and then branch manager. If a consultancy has many branches, then promotions to regional management positions are possible, which may involve relocating.

Career progression is possible at an early stage in an RC’s career. It is usual for this to happen internally. Some consultancies may have ‘talent spotting’ and career development programmes for those with the potential to progress quickly to management roles. When applying for any job one of the most important things you must do first is learn How To Write A Cover Letter properly, this is the first thing the potential employer will see so it must be good.

Self-employment or freelance work as an RC is possible, but generally only if an RC has specialist knowledge of a sector. It is not common for RCs to have career breaks, as the industry is so fast-moving and dependent on building and maintaining contacts.

Also known as…

  • Careers consultant
  • Recruiter
  • Staffing provider
  • Head hunter

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