The challenges of a career in recruitment

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I recently wrote a blog titled Top Eleven Best Things About a Career in Recruitment and jokingly mentioned that I would be writing this follow-up blog. In all seriousness, Recruitment is a very challenging career and anyone considering making the move into our industry should do so with their eyes wide open. In my view the pros far outweigh the cons, however in the interest of balance, here are some of the issues which can make the role so difficult.

People have minds of their own!

Dealing with people is fundamental in recruitment – it is what we do, day in, day out. Every action you take, decision you make and issue you face is related to a person and so it follows that every single situation is unique. Once you have chalked up some experience in recruitment, you will have seen a huge variety of scenarios which helps you deal with different issues, however achieving this level of recruitment ‘zen’ is a long and painful process!

People can be unpredictable, unreliable, change their minds and lie. However strong you believe your relationship with a candidate is, they can still cause you problems if you do not anticipate possible complications. The same goes for clients.

Negative image of the industry

Most relevant for those working on the agency side, the perception people have of recruitment consultants is pretty unflattering, down there with Estate Agents on the popularity scale! We are seen as aggressive, sales focussed, arrogant and unscrupulous. Although I have met a few people who do fit that description over the years, the majority of people working in the industry do not fit this stereotype at all. Unfortunately, if someone has had a negative experience of a Recruitment consultant, it can be very difficult to win them over, but therein lies the challenge!

The Ups and Downs

Although the highs are great and accompanied by financial reward and recognition, the lows are tough to handle. There are so many factors which affect your success and you have to learn to anticipate these and avoid them where possible. At some point you will experience a slump when your CVs are rejected, jobs are filled internally, none of your candidates gets an offer and one of your placed candidates ‘backs out’ at the last minute. Those who build a long term career in this industry quickly learn how to cope emotionally with the stress caused by these setbacks.

Targets

Recruitment is a sales role. You are expected to ‘sell’ yourself, your candidates and your clients, develop new business, grow existing accounts and deliver against often-stretching revenue targets. While it is not about helping someone find a new role, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. Chances are, if you have the right qualities to succeed in Recruitment, you will thrive on targets and on beating your competition. If you are very lucky, you will work for a company where you are measured not only on your financial performance but on the quality of your relationships – repeat business, candidate and client testimonials etc. The phrase ‘you are only as good as your last quarter’ will resonate with most recruiters!

Frustration

The only joke I can ever remember is this one. Patient: “Doctor, Doctor, people keep ignoring me” Doctor: “Next!” This describes how recruitment can feel sometimes. Picture this. You have worked hard to understand your client’s business and have advised them about how best they can fill a problem vacancy based on your experience of recruiting day in day out and your knowledge of current market conditions. They don’t take your advice and insist on proceeding as ‘normal’. Several weeks later, the role still isn’t filled and you now get the blame for not delivering.

When you have a proven track record with the client and they trust you it does minimise this issue but it can still happen. Perhaps it’s because there are so many recruitment agencies all operating with varying degrees of integrity and experience that clients simply don’t view us as ‘experts’ or perhaps they don’t believe we have their best interests at heart? It takes time to build up a reputation in recruitment and often it is our own lack of conviction which perpetuates this situation. We should be more willing to politely walk away from business if the process is not collaborative.

Equally, on the candidate side, the perception some people have of recruitment professionals is so negative that candidates will often go into a conversation expecting the worst. This means that as a consultant who is genuinely trying to understand their situation, you spend most of the call trying to overcome barriers that need not exist. Again, this is something we must work hard to overcome by building trust over time.

There are countless other daily frustrations: candidate no-shows at interview or pulling out of a process with no explanation, clients cancelling interviews at short notice or changing the job brief – the list is endless! However ultimately, the skilled consultant will help minimise the impact of these issues by firstly anticipating possible complications and learning to ‘read’ people and secondly, by maintaining tight control of as much of the process as possible.

A thankless task

 Most relevant for in-house recruitment positions (in an agency, you may not get a thank you from your client but you will hopefully hit your bonus target). Recruitment teams in-house rarely get the credit they deserve from the wider business as recruitment as a discipline/professional is not valued in proportion to its importance to the business! They tend to get all the pressure when there is a vacancy but little credit for finding the right person and often hiring managers have little interest in a) how they have found the candidate and b) how much money they have saved the business by sourcing directly. Line managers are more likely to complain that the process has taken too long! Recognition is more likely to come from HR who, particularly if they hold the budget, will thank you for your efforts to source directly.

Some of these factors have been exacerbated during the recession and so, for those of you who have managed to hang on in there, you should find it a little easier once the market improves.

Despite these downsides, Recruitment is a great industry to work in – challenging, fascinating and exciting! For any advice about starting a career in recruitment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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