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How to get a job in the recruitment industry

Recruitment is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the UK – and with more than 8,000 recruitment businesses employing upwards of 100,000 people, there are plenty of opportunities available.

How to get a job in the recruitment industry

Recruitment is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the UK – and with more than 8,000 recruitment businesses employing upwards of 100,000 people, there are plenty of opportunities available. In fact, recruitment firms are struggling to acquire talented staff.

According to this year's APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index, some 61 per cent of recruitment firms say increasing headcount will be their main challenge in the next 12 months – good news for anyone wanting to enter the industry.

'The recruitment sector is ripe with opportunity and offers the potential for a top salary, international travel and business ownership,' says Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo (Association of Professional Staffing Companies).

Routes into the industry

So how do you land a job in recruitment? Despite there being plenty of opportunities, there isn't a well-established career path into the industry.

Ann explains: 'Unlike other sectors which have established career structures and arguably more buy-in from schools and parents, recruitment is not promoted as a viable career path for millennials at a crucial stage when they are making decisions about their futures.

'Because of this, people have historically lacked guidance on the best way to enter the profession. Things are changing however, and today there are an increasing number of apprenticeships, internships and undergraduate schemes available.'

Training opportunities

While many graduates go into recruitment, you don't necessarily need a degree. Some people work their way up or enter via an apprenticeship scheme.

There are two types of recruitment apprenticeships. Advanced level apprenticeship, allowing you to train in a role like junior recruitment consultant, in-house resource and account representative - and higher level apprenticeship, for roles like recruitment consultant, senior consultant and account manager. For opportunities visit Gov.UK.

Undergraduates looking for experience may want to consider APSCo's Internship Programme. Now in its third year, APSCo and its member companies offer a number of paid 12-week, full-time internships across the UK each summer.

Specialist or general recruitment?

While you can enter the sector with any degree subject, some employers may prefer one more closely related to the industry they find staff for, such as human resources, marketing or public relations.

Lynn Sedgwick, Managing Director at Clayton Recruitment, explains: 'It may be easier to operate in an area related to your degree as you'll probably have a greater understanding of job roles and the skills that are required to be a success. However, there is also no problem with starting afresh and learning about a new industry.'

So should you target a niche area, or look for work with a generalist recruitment firm?

'It's a bit of a "Catch 22 situation,"' says Lynn. 'Working in a very specific vertical will mean you're probably able to generate more fees because there's demand for a relatively small batch of people. However, it also means that candidates will be harder to find, which could make your job much more difficult.'

Rewards and challenges

While recruitment can pay well for the top performers, don't expect easy money.

Lynn says: 'Many recruiter job adverts suggest you'll be making "£100k OTE" in your first year, which simply isn't true. Yes, there is the potential to earn a significant amount of money as a recruiter, but it's a lot of hard graft and you have to be able to deal with the peaks and troughs.'

The average salary* for a trainee working in recruitment is £16,000 to £20,000, while experienced professionals can earn £38,000 and managers £60,000. As most recruitment consultants earn a basic salary plus commission that can be higher for top performers.

'The rewards can be enormous both in terms of money and the satisfaction you get from placing people in the right role,' says Lynn. 'Changing career can be potentially life changing and it's a big responsibility to place someone into the perfect role for them.'

What employers look for

Recruitment is a highly pressurised industry and like sales, much of the work is commission-based - meaning you have to find the right person for the job in order to earn good money.

As part of the job involves cold calling companies to generate new business and interviewing job seekers, you need to be outgoing and confident talking to people. Previous experience in sales, marketing or customer services can be an advantage.

Lynn says: 'When hiring junior recruitment professionals at Clayton we mainly look for softer skills, specifically people who are hard-working, resilient, confident communicators and driven by success. We also look for quick learners who have the mental agility to learn about a field they may have no familiarity with.'

Get networking

When it comes to finding a job, Lynn's advice is to attend as many networking and professional events as you can. 'This will not only mean you have a large network of contacts, but also that you are exposed to different relationship building methods.

'Remember that the people you're placing in roles are likely to be experts in their specific field and if they don't have the confidence that you know their specialist area inside out, they're probably not going to want you to find them a new job. That means it's absolutely critical to learn as much about your particular field as possible.'

How to impress at interview

While there are opportunities available, there are also many people competing for them – and you'll need to stand out at interview.

Ann's advice is to make sure you do your research. 'If you're applying for an entry-level position you won't be expected to know the intricacies of how recruitment works, however it is crucial that do some legwork and research the company beforehand.

'The interviewer will want to see that you are passionate, ambitious and ready to learn – so make sure your enthusiasm for the role comes across.'

*Salary figures taken from The National Careers Service