Phil Clarke is Head of Accounting & Financial Services at MCS Group. Phil started his recruitment journey in England, specialising in finance & accountancy and progressing quickly to Regional Manager. Having returned home to NI, Phil now leads the Accountancy & Financial Services team at MCS and is focused on ensuring outstanding service delivery for all MCS customers. He now exposes 8 myths about a career in recruitment and gives great insight to the good, the bad and the ugly truths and myths about recruitment.
Whether you work in recruitment currently, have used a recruiter to secure a role or have partnered with a recruiter to find talent for your business, most people will have had some exposure to a recruitment company in the past. As a result, most people will have an opinion of what recruiters are like based on their own personal experience but it’s important to remember that there will be big differences between companies.
Some businesses focus on fulfilling high volume contracts, others on specialist services. Some businesses are ruthlessly sales focused where others put the customer at the heart of what they do. Some companies reward almost exclusively through financial means where others take a more holistic approach to reward hard work and success. Whether it’s the space they operate in, the approach they adopt or how they act as an employer, every recruitment company is different and finding the one that works best for you can often be the key factor in building a career in recruitment.
Imagine a world where you could post a job advert, filter the responses, send on the best-looking CVs and be paid handsomely at the end for the privilege. Sounds good right? I’ve interviewed more potential hires than I would like who have had this basic vision of a career in recruitment but sadly it just doesn’t work like that.
The value of a recruiter is in offering a solution that goes way beyond what a client could achieve by their own means. In an increasingly tight candidate market, that means working extremely hard to reach talent that doesn’t appear on job boards or apply to generic adverts or get excited by every LinkedIn post that you throw up. You need to build your networks and your relationships, hone your skills in sourcing talent and then drill down into each individual’s motivations and background to ensure you present well qualified and engaged shortlists that meet your client’s needs.
This one is a bit like saying the easiest way to become a millionaire is by playing football. Yes, there are several footballers who become millionaires. But in the grand scheme of those that take part (265 million people according to the last FIFA survey) it’s a tiny fraction that make it.
Likewise, it is true to say that a career in recruitment can be very rewarding financially – maybe not always millions but enough to pay the bills! To get there though takes a LOT of hard work, making sacrifices, persevering through setbacks and continually pushing to do more for your customers. For every recruiter out there doing well, there will be a long line of those who sit somewhere on the spectrum between those that tried and abandoned recruitment and those that are in it but still slogging hard to make it.
Can a recruitment career pay well? Absolutely. Does it happen easily? Not a chance.
Linked to the point above, because you can make money from recruitment there is sometimes a perception that recruiters will do whatever it takes to suit their own interests. Cutting corners, pushing inappropriate candidates on clients or pushing candidates towards jobs that don’t meet their needs all in the hope of making that extra fee and by extension, extra commission.
The truth is there is a dark, shady little corner of the recruitment market where practices like that are encouraged but it is (I hope) an increasingly small minority. The bottom line is that how you treat your customers becomes your own personal brand and building that brand is critical. Cutting corners now to make that extra little bit of commission might seem like a good idea, but the recruiters that last are the ones that build a reputation for being trustworthy and operating with integrity.
I would imagine there are some recruitment businesses that are full-time desk jobs – but I would also suggest there are very few circumstances where that works.
There is a need to spend time in front of a screen and on a phone, without question. Equally though, there is a need to interview candidates face to face, to get out on the road and visit your clients at their premises, to attend those networking events or even to host events of your own and to have those informal chats over coffee that often lead to great things down the road.
Sure, recruiters do need to spend a certain amount of time at their desk but in a business that is built on relationships, your day should have plenty more to it than that.
As with most myths, this one is born out of some truth but isn’t quite fair. There are certain constraints in a recruitment role that impact on the working hours. Reaching candidates about a role can be difficult in the middle of the day, so early mornings, lunch-times and after 5pm can be important times to make calls. Starting out in a recruitment career, you are probably playing catch-up to your competition and to make up ground you may find that working some extra hours becomes important to getting ahead too. When I started out in recruitment, my contract said 9am-5.30pm but 8am-7pm were the hours I put in to get where I wanted to get to.
That said, the industry is increasingly changing. Cloud based CRM systems allow for more flexible working arrangements, emails can be replied to at home if necessary and the focus is shifting more towards output than simply monitoring input. As a Manager, I’m more impressed by the person who leaves on time but has met their objectives for the day than the person staying late every night without being productive. As an example, learning to prioritise, structure your day and focus on productivity are all key reasons why at my firm you will rarely find more than a couple of people on the room after 6pm and anyone who is there has good reason to be.
Maybe it’s the high energy environments, or the often-stellar social side that comes with most roles in recruitment, or the perceived unsociable hours. Whatever the reason, recruitment can often be seen as a career for the young twenty-somethings and it’s true that many in that bracket work in and do well in the recruitment space.
To think that anyone outside this bracket is precluded from entry or success though is far from the truth. Bringing experience to a role in recruitment can often be such an advantage. That could be in the form of recruitment knowledge, of sector-specific knowledge and networks gained from a previous career or simply from a developed resilience from having been out there and operated in the business world. If you can see in yourself the skills it takes to be a strong recruiter but have been put off by the apparent age profile then fear not, the door is wide open.
Ask most people to describe their idea of what a recruiter looks like and you may get words like loud, extroverted and salesy. The kind of people that take centre stage at any event, that love the spotlight and that can work a room in textbook fashion.
There is a fair few of these types of people in the industry who do well, but they aren’t exclusive in their success. Some of the very best recruiters I have worked with are more reserved types, who operate much better one-to-one than in large groups and who keep their head down and just get on with it. The old cliché about having two ears and one mouth is as central in recruitment as it is anywhere and the ability to really listen, pick out the right information and make connections is what differentiates the good from the great. Drive, resilience and a fair amount of EQ are all key traits. Extroversion, public speaking and the ability to sell snow to Eskimos are less critical.
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MCS Group is a recruitment consultancy based in Belfast, Northern Ireland specialising in IT & Digital Jobs, Technical & Engineering Jobs, Professional Services Jobs, Accounting & Finance Jobs, Banking, Legal and Executive Search.