Unmasking an Industry Part One
Initially skimming over graduate job boards, you will come across a high concentration of jobs from one particular sector. These have job descriptions looking for 'dynamic and driven' graduates who want to earn up to £40,000 OTE. They offer a sociable work atmosphere, with a work hard play hard attitude and excellent progression. This is Recruitment.
A much-chastised sector in the working world, but is its reputation warranted? Does it deserve the disregard that so many graduates and professionals give it? Certainly the industry is regarded with slight contempt by many, but is it just misunderstood? Or has it changed? I spoke to Natalie Lightfoot, a Talent Acquisition Manager at Morgan McKinley, about why the sector has this reputation, why there are so many opportunities for graduates to join this sector, but most of all just what is Recruitment?
Recruitment job descriptions are not the clearest for someone coming straight out of university. Requiring a graduate to have confidence, drive and charisma is all very well, but that doesn't explain what they might be doing to earn these whopping great salaries. Matching people to jobs is usually the extent of a graduate's understanding about the sector but that does not do the industry justice.
'It is sales, not HR' Natalie Lightfoot explains bluntly. 'I think a lot of graduates see all these adverts for Recruitment Consultants and they don't understand what it really is. They think it is a link into HR, but industry recruitment is so different to in house recruitment.'
The Recruitment sector is not just about organising and submitting candidates for roles, there is competition, persuasion and persistence involved. Managing a Rolodex of candidates and understanding the demands of roles and a candidate's expectations are all at the forefront of a Recruitment Consultant's mind. 'You are in a sales function. You have targets to hit, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to hit and the ultimate aim is to earn money for the business and for yourself. It is a commission driven role.'
Recruitment as a sales function begins to add a third dynamic to the operation rather than finding candidates their dream role. The requirement for would-be Recruitment Consultants needing to be dynamic and driven now seems clearer. 'It's peaks and troughs,' Natalie explains, 'It can be a really tough role and demotivating at times, especially when deals fall through or candidates aren't answering their phones.'
If you are acting as someone's career ally, helping them move up a level, salary bracket or just change careers, why the hostility?
As an industry, Recruitment is undergoing a massive change and developing a respectful standing in the professional world. However there was a time where the sector was falling victim to a few bad apples.
'I think it is a stigma from the early 90s or 2000s where their parents or siblings knew about Recruitment Consultants and people have been burnt by them. Recruitment as an industry is massively changing. When you use bigger companies like Morgan McKinley, away from the high street agencies, that's when you get more of a personalised service and that's when you're dealing with salaries from £40,000 to £150,000.'
'You can't have this cold calling and boiler room type environment when you're dealing with those kinds of salaries - it just doesn't work.'
The opinion of Recruitment Consultants as money hungry and uncaring people has come from the roles being sales based. Natalie goes on to explain that 'Sales is seen as a dirty word, which is really frustrating. You're selling in every day. If you go to the cinema with your friends and you want to go see a certain film you will highlight the benefits of going to see your film and discount the others on offer. That is Sales.'
It is an image that the industry has been trying to shake off for over a decade now. At Morgan McKinley, Natalie assures me that this is no longer the case. The need for targets to be hit and placements to be made is important to keep the industry and the individual firm going, but 'That shouldn't bring in an element of the 1980s phone bashing type environment. We are still consultant-type Sales people. Especially at senior levels of recruitment, you are partnering businesses trying to get the best deals.'
This shift goes nowhere near explaining why job boards across the UK are swamped with Recruitment positions or why graduates are specifically targeted. The graduate job market is always displaying a high volume of graduate Recruitment Consultant vacancies leaving conclusions easily jumped to.
Firstly, graduates would be mistaken to believe that they are struggling to attract graduates. This is not the case 'There is a high churn rate, but not at Morgan McKinley or some of the other big firms because we've got great training records and can give graduates a real leverage point from using that.'
However this advice is not universal. Natalie issues a warning about particular agencies, 'A lot of companies get graduates in, burn them out and they leave thinking Recruitment is rubbish and they don't want to go near it again.'
This is all part of the learning curve for graduates leaving university. Many graduates leave university and do not know what they want to do with their careers. However, Recruitment is an obvious avenue to pursue because graduates usually have all the necessary skills. 'Graduates are great because they are impressionable. You can build them and mould them to your own business model. Recruitment is a great leverage point because you learn so many soft skills that you need because you will be client facing and candidate facing from roughly your second or third month.'
Natalie gives an honest account of Recruiting and Recruitment as an industry for graduates to pursue. It fulfils of what graduates want from the early days of their career. 'They want career development, they want the opportunity to grow and not in five years down the line, they want opportunities from Day One. It allows you to earn a lot of money, a lot quicker than other industries; you develop lots of transferable skills, from Excel spreadsheets to gaining exposure to the working world of businesses.'
Like many sectors, Recruitment is not without its trappings for graduates. It is a sector for a certain kind of graduate. This can be seen from the job descriptions with promises on target earnings of £40,000 in your first year. 'The reason for that is that it attracts that certain calibre of candidate you are wanting. You look for someone who is target driven and who is money focused. By seeing the money at the end it pushes people along and gets people through the tough times.'