What Is Recruitment?

In our Careers Close-up series we'll be putting common graduate career paths under the microscope- so you can see what they are all about, and ultimately decide if they are right for you. Here we're taking a look at Recruitment.

What is Recruitment?

Recruitment is all about matchmaking - between an organisation looking for an employee and an individual looking for a permanent or temporary job. Almost 100,000 people already work in this important sector of the economy. Why not join them?


Recruitment roles are usually open to graduates from all disciplines. Qualifications tend to be less important Entrythan personality and experience of a competitive/sales environment. There are several entry-level Recruitment positions:

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Recruitment consultants are responsible for attracting candidates and matching them to temporary or permanent positions with client companies.

Recruitment Resourcer - Unlike Recruitment Consultants, you’ll be working solely on the candidate side of recruitment, supporting Consultants by sourcing new candidates for vacancies.

Trainee Headhunter - Headhunting is one subsection of recruitment. Headhunting firms look for individuals, often at executive or senior level, to fill a position within a client company, usually using a direct approach as opposed to open advertising.

Researcher - Usually found within Headhunting firms. You'll be working alongside Headhunters/Recruitment Consultants to research companies, industry sectors and clients. It's most likely you won't be approaching clients or candidates, although some firms will may want you to do this as well.

If you like the sound of Recruitment already, visit our jobs page for our latest entry-level Recruitment jobs!


The recruitment industry is target-driven, so progression can be very fast for those who hit targets.

As a Trainee Recruitment Consultant you'll typically become Recruitment Consultants with between 3 to 6 months of training. After that you may progress to become a Senior Consultant and then to management level-working as the Manager and then Regional manager, depending on the size of the consultancy you are working for.

Trainee Headhunters will again become Headhunters within 6 months or so, with the potential to progress to eventually progress into management too.

Graduates hired as Resourcers or Researchers usually progress to become Recruitment Consultants or Headhunters too, and then can follow a similar career path into management.

Although not essential to progress, membership to the IRP and qualifications from the REC can be a useful way to build confidence and learn about opportunities. Networking is also an extremely important way to further your career in recruitment.

The pros 

Generous bonuses and commission schemes mean a career in recruitment can offer unrivaled earning Prospotential for graduates.

The recruitment industry is also renowned for the benefits/incentives it offers, which may include mobile phones, company cars, laptops and even holidays abroad!

The cons

The nature of recruitment is very target driven and competitive- so can prove stressful for some  graduates and is not for the faint-hearted!
Also recruitment positions often provide relatively low basic salaries, meaning that you have to hit targets to earn a high wage. It’s also worth bearing in mind that long working hours are common and that some roles will involve cold-calling.

Key skills required

You will need to be:

Target driven - Recruitment is based on targets, whether that's placing a certain amount of people in a month, or making a certain amount of money. You need to strive to achieve them. If you're not motivated by targets, recruitment may not be for you.

Personable - Your entire job revolves around building relationships with people, you need to be able to strike up rapport with them quickly.

Confident, with a good phone manner - In the majority of recruitment roles, you will be on the phone for  a considerable amount of time. You need to be able to get your point across when you don't have the luxury of face to face interaction.Skills
Tenacious - As with other sales type jobs for every 'yes' you get, you'll get a lot more 'no's'! You'll need to be able to remain positive and not be disheartened by these setbacks.

Persuasive, with an ability to influence others - You'll need to be able to bring people, both candidates and clients, round to your way of thinking ie. get them to use your recruitment firm, in order to hit your targets and make money.

Jargon buster 

Executive search - the formal term for headhunting. Executive search companies look for individuals, often at executive or senior level, to fill a position within a client company, usually using a direct approach as opposed to open advertising.
OTE - on-target earnings - used in advertisements to suggest what actual earnings might be with basic salaryQuestion mark plus commission.
REC - Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) - the professional body for the recruitment industry. The REC offers specialist recruitment training and qualifications and provides information on key industry updates.
IRP- The Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) was founded by the REC. Membership to the IRP ensures that individual recruiters are recognised as a member of the professional industry.

Pay scale

Here's a chart showing the median pay for common Recruitment positions in the UK:Rec Pay Scale
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