Thinking of joining the Recruitment Industry?

Are you thinking of joining the recruitment industry? Have you heard mixed things? Are you not sure what to expect? Want to see whether it’s for you? Do you simply want a neutral and honest reality from someone who’s been there?

What are we defining as the recruitment industry?

For the purpose of this post we will be examining the external recruitment sector. This is defined by companies whose business is specifically focused on staffing and recruitment. This is as opposed to internal recruitment, which would be a company who are not involved in staffing and recruitment but have a recruitment team responsible for hiring staff for their business.

Why consider joining the Recruitment industry?

The industry offers various benefits and appeals that stand out from other potential career options. Three reasons are found as the most common reasons for people looking to join the industry:

1-Career Opportunities – You can progress up the career ladder much quicker than most industries

2-Earning Potential – Dependent on the recruitment sector and company you join you can earn sizeable amounts of money

3-Helping people find work – You have the ability to help people find their dream jobs

Is there a right reason for joining the industry?

Not necessarily. Whether it be for one, two, three or other reasons, the industry undoubtedly has a lot of appeal.

Many companies also offer various incentives based on you reaching designated targets. Coming from a modest background the appeal of VIP sections in the best clubs, lunch at the best restaurants and luxury holidays abroad were obviously an attractive benefit. I recall a long weekend in the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas and a champagne filled VIP section as some of the best memories of my then young social life.

Starting out in recruitment I lived in a sky rise council flat. In a relatively short period of time I went from that to paying for a whole wedding, buying my own 3 bedroom house and holidaying in the likes of Singapore. That was all thanks to joining the recruitment industry.

Sales Pitch over – What’s the catch?

Commitment – Relentless Commitment

The first, and most important, point I would make regardless of whatever reason you may have for joining the industry is that you need to be committed. The reason I refer to being committed is because you will not be very good at recruitment when you start. In fact, you’ll fall somewhere between useless and lucky. But even if you start your career being lucky, you’ll have a tough period at some point soon enough. If you are not committed when the inevitable tough period rears its ugly head, you’ll simply call it quits.

Commitment is about making the conscious decision that despite how hard it gets you’re going to make it. A bad day, a bad week or a bad month; you’ll succeed. You won’t give up. You’ll give your best effort all day every day. In fact, you’ll expect it to be hard. That way you’ll be even more prepared.

Is it really that hard?

Surely the job is just sending a few CV’s, making a few phone calls and wondering how you’ll spend your next big pay cheque. Is there any manual labour? No. Is there any health and safety hazards? Well those office chairs can be a bit stiff at times. Are you slogging it out in bad weather? Hmmm, the air con can get a bit nippy.

What’s all the fuss about it being a hard job then?

Dependent on the type of recruitment role you want this varies on two fronts. The two fronts are the difficulty and the earning potential. These two go hand in hand. The harder the job, the higher the reward. Also, your earning potential depends to a degree on the sector you are working in. The higher the average pay for a typical role in that sector, coupled with the volume of demand for it, the larger your earning potential.

As a guide IT, Engineering, Law and Finance (Particularly stock brokers) tend to pay well and are large sectors of the UK economy. Furthermore, you can earn similar amounts in contract or permanent recruitment. Use an educated guess on the type of sector you’d want to join based on this information.

What are the general types of job role in Recruitment that you can do?

Although different firms may use different job titles you’ll start your career by operating under one of five general banners:

360 Recruitment Consultant

This is all of the below in one role. This is the one you want if you want to earn well.

Account Manager

You will be given clients who will send you vacancies to work and your job is to keep the client happy and fill their vacancies.


You’ll be interviewing and assessing candidates for account managers

Business Development Manager

You’ll be generating new business leads, establishing new clients and trying to sell the benefits of using your companies’ services

Delivery Consultant

You’ll be sending the CV’s to the clients trying to secure interviews and place candidates. This isn’t dissimilar to the Account Management role, but Delivery Consultants tend to work in niche sectors where as Account Managers tend to look after all of their client’s vacancies.

What is defined as a niche sector?

A niche sector in recruitment can refer to a specific type of job role in a specific type of industry. For example, this niche could be recruiting Software Developers who use one type of software package and, despite the office where you work being based in somewhere like London, you’ll cover South Wales. That way you’ll become a specialist in placing software developers who use a software package such as Java in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.

Are only Delivery consultants those who work in a niche?

No. All of the five general recruitment roles can work in a niche. That niche can be broader or narrower dependent on the type of industry you are recruiting in. As a general rule, the more demand (that being lack of available candidates) in the industry, the more chance of you working in a niche.

Is there a benefit of working in a niche?

Arguably the job can be simpler. If you’ve only got one type of job role to look after, you can become an expert in your position faster. Contrastingly, if you were working in a much more general type role you could regularly find yourself recruiting for a new type of job role of which you have no previous experience of.

On the flip side though, working in a tight niche does mean that your general market knowledge is limited and if you were to leave your current company you’d probably find yourself pigeon holed when seeking a new employer. By pigeon holed I mean that if you want to earn similar or more money, you’d have to stay recruiting in your niche market elsewhere as that is where your expertise is.

Overall, if you are playing the long game and want to earn a lot of money for a long time it’s a wise idea to broaden your market knowledge and not be too niche in your expertise.

So, what’s the hard part about being in recruitment then – just learning some job roles?

I will answer this in two sections.

Firstly, remember my point about the harder the role, the higher the reward? And, also remember my list of the five general types of recruitment jobs? Here’s a rundown with a difficulty out of 5 (5 being the hardest) running down to 1 which is still challenging in the whole scheme of things:

360 Recruiter = 5 (Typically the highest earning potential)

Business Development Manager = 4 (Still high earning potential and in rare cases it can be the highest)

Account Manager = 3 (Good, but not as high as the above two)

Delivery Consultant = 2 (The same as an Account Manager, but made slightly easier by just looking after one job niche)

Resourcer = 1 (An average UK salary is the realistic earning potential)

Secondly, why are all the roles at best challenging and at worst really hard?

The best way to answer this is to use the example of a 360 Recruitment Consultants job role. A 360 Recruiter has to look after the Business Development, Account Management, Delivery and Resourcing all under their remit. Each one of these areas comes with a challenge, but to most people it is the Business Development which is hardest.


This is the sales part. If you ask most people, they don’t like sales. Imagine making 100 calls a day. Make those 100 calls, cold calls instead. Then, add in that most people say no. Actually, scrap that. Everyone says no. But you still have to push even though everyone says no. There is no end to people saying no. Hours pass, days pass and sometimes weeks can pass until someone eventually says yes.

Ah, finally. The business development part is over. You can start doing the resourcing part where you can interview people. That’s much more fun, right? But there’s a problem. You can’t find anyone suitable. There are loads of people who apply, but they vary between lacking essentially required skills to being completely irrelevant. You’ve searched job boards, systems, the database, Linkedin etc. You’ve sent a ton of emails out and left a bunch of messages. Despite your best efforts, nobody comes through.

Then out of the blue, at 10:27am on a Wednesday someone applies, or perhaps even calls you, who is bang on the money. Just as your weary head started to drop a ray of sunshine lifts it up. Where did that come from? Who cares. You thank your lucky stars. Just get that CV to your client pronto.

30 seconds later…

…you’re sat staring at your phone. Why hasn’t the client called? Stuff that. You call the client. Ring Ring. They’ll answer in a moment. Just wait. Ring Ring….Ring Ring.

“Hi there. It’s So and So. Thank you for calling, but I am away from my desk at the moment. Please leave me a message with your name, number and reason for your call and when I can be bothered to call you back, I’ll see if I can get around to it”. Grrrr. The irritation. Just answer the phone!

Meanwhile your boss is telling you to get back to cold calling. “You need to get more clients on board” they say. It’s like a cold slap in the face. A double whammy. No answer from a client you’ve worked so hard to make happy and all you get from it is another 8 hours of cold calling.

But you get on with it. You have no choice. It’s still playing on your mind though. Why haven’t they called me back? Or emailed? What happens if they try to call while I’m cold calling and miss them? Your boss say’s that when the client calls the office, you’ll know about it. Or better than that, your boss say’s “In fact, I’ll take the call for you”. Yet, you’re thinking WHAT!?!? I want to take that call. I’ve been waiting all this time and you’ll take the fun part off me?

And just as you’ve resigned yourself…

…to the fact that the client won’t call back. After the point at which your boss has told you that the CV may have already been sent by one of the other million recruiters you are competing against. You get a call. It’s probably the end of the day. Just as you’re knackered, broken, suffering arm and ear ache etc. There they are, on the phone. Requesting to see your applicant for interview.

The holy grail. The end of the rainbow. It’s not a placement, but it feels like the culmination of an epic journey. Your mouth goes dry. Your fingers tingle. You feel like a king or queen. It’s such a rush. You call the candidate and you book them in for interview. Cue the red carpet and celebratory music.

It’s several days until the interview though. Maybe even a week. But it seems like an eternity. You’re still cold calling away. Those calls are still tough. You’re still making slow progress. But, it’s not so bad because your candidate is going in for interview. Sure, your boss keeps telling you not to get your hopes up. They’ll tell you the odds are stacked against you. But despite your best attempts to play it cool, deep down you’ve got a good feeling. You just know.

Then suddenly…

…, despite it feeling like a lifetime to get there, it’s the day of the interview. You’re sat there, clock watching. Your boss is telling you just to crack on and not to think about it. But it’s all you can think about. What if my candidate gets offered? What salary could they get? Hang on. What fee could that be?

You’re there prematurely spending your commission cheque by the time the interview comes about. 5 minutes in. 10 minutes in. And then on 15 minutes your colleague transfers you a call. But not just from anyone. From the client who’s interviewing your candidate. Eh?

Why are they calling me?

You take the call. Confused. Bewildered. They try to sound calm, but you can hint some annoyance and confusion. The words haven’t sunk in yet.

“They haven’t shown up. Where are they”?

And then it dawns on you. It’s 15 minutes past the interview start time and your candidate hasn’t shown. Your words don’t come out. Your throat closes up. All of your pigment goes icy white. You mumble that you’ll find out where they are. That they must be lost and that you’ll call them back.

Your fingers can’t dial fast enough. Your thoughts race. It can’t be. They wouldn’t do this. Surely not.

And just as before when you make that oh-so-needed phone call there’s no answer. It just rings and rings. You don’t want to hang up just in case. After the seventh ring you know they won’t answer. But your gut wants to believe that they will. Cue the answer machine and the now irritatingly long pre-recorded message.

You try to sound calm…

…and add a hint of sincere sounding concern for their welfare.

You end the message, put down the receiver and your boss is looking at you. You say “answer machine”. Your boss will offer some brief words of wisdom, but they’ll go in one ear and out the other. All you’ll be thinking about, or shall we say praying for, is that your candidate calls back. And that they do it soon. Because you know that the longer it takes for them to call back the less likely it is that they will.

Yet, they don’t call back. Ever. After 10 minutes you have to make that call to the client to deliver the news that there’s no answer. They’ve resigned themselves to their fate that this candidate is a no show. A cross off the list. Finished.

Now you’re not only battered and bruised from the humiliation of a no show, but you’ve got a client who you’ve worked so hard to get who now thinks that you’re a disappointment. And then to add a side of kick-you-while-you-are-down with extra cheese your boss reminds you that it’s back to the cold calls.

Still think recruitment’s not that hard?

The industry statistics show a 60% churn rate of people that join the industry and leave inside their first year. It’s relentless. And it’s 90% failure. Yes, 90% of all of the work you do will go to waste. It’ll either be a wasted sales call, candidate rejection, job filled by another agency, a no show or some other array of possible failings stopping a successful placement.

Why do some people make it, and some don’t then?

The answer: Goals. A goal is something that you want. You really want. A goal is not a target. It’s not a pat on the back. It’s not even placing someone in a job. A goal is something much bigger than that.

When I joined recruitment, I wanted to marry my wife. Obviously, she wasn’t my wife at that point just to add. Weddings are expensive though and my family isn’t wealthy. At the time I didn’t have great credit nor much in the way of savings. When I joined the recruitment industry, I lived in a council flat in a sky rise block. I’m not meaning to put people down who are OK with that. If you’re happy with your lot good on you. But I wasn’t.

I wanted to get married and pay for a wedding. I wanted to buy a house. And buy a car. I wanted to be able to go on holiday where I wanted and I didn’t want to have to worry about looking at my bank account all the time worrying about money. I wanted a career. To become a manager. I wanted to be a senior manager with managers working for me and eventually to become a Director with a company working for me. I wanted to dream big and make those dreams a reality.

When you want things that much the day to day nitty gritty pales into comparison. Bad times don’t bother you as you value the things you want so much you’d do anything to get them.

There is no such thing as a quick win

There is no easy ride. I didn’t want to be one of those people who went into the best clubs wearing their bank account, when in reality they were spending all the money they had trying to make themselves look like they have money in the first place. It’s stupid and counterintuitive.

As someone who’s a little older now my nightclub days are a thing of the past. But recruitment, for as hard as it is, can change your life. The money you can make can become a bit silly. You are unlikely to make a million a year, but if you work your way up in the right company and never give in it’s perfectly achievable. And if you embrace the journey it’s a wonderful experience.

Should you join recruitment then?

It’s tough, relentless, competitive, emotionally turbulent, stressful, irritating and painful. But if you’re willing to do right by your own hopes and dreams, it’s a career which can make all those things seem a small sacrifice to pay. You decide.

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