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Recruitment is a fast-paced and fiercely competitive sector, as it offers the opportunity to build a successful and rewarding career relatively quickly. Graduates already possess most of the necessary skills, and should exploit experiences gained at university and extracurricular activities to improve their chances.

Graduates may start at Recruitment agencies which are outsourced by companies to help find the perfect candidate, or they can work directly with a bigger company attracting or headhunting new talent. The most common route is to begin with an agency.

Recruitment can be a stressful field, with long hours and hard work which is sometimes fruitless when deals do not come off, but the financial returns can be excellent. Starting salaries are often moderate in comparison to other sectors, but commissions, hitting targets and bonuses can all make Recruiters some serious money. After three years of stretching to make ends meet, graduates can enter this sector with the skills already in place and take home a tidy sum. Like other fast-paced jobs, if a candidate puts the hard work, they will be rewarded.

How to Get a Job in Recruitment

Graduates wanting to go into Recruitment need to combine a series of skills from university and previous employment.

Candidates should display the following:

1. Understanding of clients and candidates

The main responsibility of Recruitment consultants is finding and matching applicants on their database or in the working world, and putting them forward for suitable roles. They have to be able to recognise skills and experience, while understanding a candidate's specific desires and career goals.

Graduates should demonstrate an understanding of people and provide examples of their ability to meet a client's needs. They must prove themselves able to forge professional connections quickly, as client relations is at the heart of Recruitment. Graduates should prepare examples from their time at university when they had to manage expectations from several different sources in order to succeed.

2. Sales skills

The process of recruitment consists of three sales-type stages. Firstly, the recruiter must contract work from the employer, then they must sell the role to prospective employees, and finally, they must sell the best potential employee back to the employer. The required sales skills include understanding the client, knowing their needs and finding ways to help meet them.

3. Excellent communication skills

Candidates must have excellent verbal and written communication. Phone manner and clarity of speech are vital in Recruitment - graduates must be eloquent, succinct and clear in their expression. Written communication is also imperative, as recruiters must be able to express a professional tone and correct etiquette from their first interactions with employers.

The application process itself allows graduates to show off their communication skills early on. Candidates should use the application form, telephone interview and face-to-face interview to demonstrate that they are eloquent and able to sell themselves.

4. Confidence

Recruitment Consultants must be confident and able to think on their feet. Graduates should be aware they will spend most of the day on the phone, and must possess the confidence to talk to strangers and not hold back when trying to source and place job candidates.

5. Resilience and perseverance

No matter how hard a graduate works, and how excellent their communication skills, sometimes the Recruitment industry dries up for a while. Graduates must be resilient and determined in order to keep going when things are more difficult. Candidates should think about how they can demonstrate their drive and ambition, perhaps on a campus campaign or as part of a lobbying group, to prospective employers.

6. Proficient IT and research skills

In the modern world, and especially in Recruitment, prospective applicants cannot get by without proficient IT skills. Most graduates will have spent their time at university compiling research on the internet, and the combination of technical and research skills can be a big advantage in Recruitment as much of the work involves researching potential clients or candidates and assessing their interests. Graduates should emphasize the thorough research and IT skills they picked up while earning their degree.

Recruitment Case Studies

Natalie Lightfoot Sophie Loughe
If you are engaging, this really allows you to progress in Recruitment, especially when talking to clients and managing your contacts.

The Employer - Natalie Lightfoot (Talent Acquisition Specialist - Morgan McKinley)

Natalie Lightfoot

Name: Natalie Lightfoot
Job Title: Talent Acquisition Specialist - Morgan McKinley

What competencies do you like to see in candidates?

From their CV I want to know that they have read the job description, they have an understanding of the industry and they've linked their CV to the job. This is key and can show that someone is not sending out their CV to hundreds of jobs but they're very specific about what career they want to go into and they have put a lot of thought behind it. This could be tailoring their experiences to what the job requires. For example, if they have worked in a supermarket they would understand that in Recruitment you need strong customer service and they can link the two. It is looking at their key transferable skills.

For me it is also about personality. This can be difficult to get across in a CV or covering letter, however when you get to the phone interview you don't need to have robotic answers. It is encouraged to be engaging, to ask them questions and be positive in your answers.

Another competency is seeing that someone knows the industry, they know about the highs and lows and understand the sales environment. They know that it is not HR but is Sales. I'd also advise applicants to research the business. Knowing we're a global company is not enough depth. Research the person that is interviewing you and ask them some key questions at the end, which can show you're taking this seriously.

Can you talk us through the application process?

You would start by applying through graduate-jobs.com, which sends the applications through to our main inbox. We then shortlist applicants, usually by those who have included a covering letter, tailored their CV and acknowledged the person's name on the job description. We tend to pick up on these small things as it demonstrates whether a candidate has paid full attention to the job description.

We then shortlist the hundreds of applications we receive and telephone them to ask them their availability for interview, what their salary expectations are and other basic telephone screening questions. They are then invited for an hour long telephone interview or a digital interviewing process called HireVue, a digital video based interview done online. After that there is an assessment day at Morgan McKinley where candidates will undertake individual, group and paired exercises. There is more of a cut down and then a final one-on-one interview.

What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?

Besides spelling mistakes, it is not addressing Morgan McKinley. People submit applications for jobs in Marketing, when there are no marketing positions at Morgan McKinley. Candidates must proof anything before they send it in. Also make reference to the position, why you want to work there and some basic background information about yourself.

What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate starting in the Recruitment sector?

Graduates should not think about the Recruitment sector as a job but as a career. Recruitment is not a stepping stone into something else. It can be but you shouldn't see it as that. You do not reap the rewards in year one, you reap them in year two. Recruitment is not a quick win; it is about building a foundation.

Be aware that it is a sales environment, not HR. Every day you will need sell yourself, sell your client and sell Morgan McKinley as a brand. So it is being confident in being able to do that. We'll give you the training and the technique to approach clients in the first instance, but it is having that confidence in the first place to just pick up the phone.

I know it's a cliché, but it is definitely a work hard, play hard environment. It is long hours, tough days, lots of client meetings but there is also a big social scene. You're encouraged to go out with clients, colleagues and candidates. If you place a candidate in a role, the likelihood is you're asked to take them out for a drink afterwards.

What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?

Our consultants are industry experts in what they know. When you come out of university, you don't tend to know anything about a risk manager; it's more about picking up industry knowledge and awareness. We work in very technical areas, whether it is in Tax, Operations or Asset Management, so it is important to know your industry inside out so you have the gravitas when talking to senior level people.

Where do you see the company in two years' time?

We're planning even more growth. As a privately owned company, with over 500 members of staff, we are celebrating our 25 year anniversary this year. We are still run by the same guys who started the company all that time ago. We aim to have more market share in the next year.

If you weren't a Talent Acquisition Specialist, what would you be?

I would like to be on TV. I think I could be Britain's answer to Oprah.

The Employee - Sophie Loughe (Consultant-Tax - Morgan McKinley)

Sophie Loughe

Name: Sophie Loughe
Job Title: Consultant - Tax - Morgan McKinley
University: University of Leeds
Course: Management
Graduation Year: 2011

How did you find your graduate job in Recruitment?

I applied to Morgan McKinley after I received an email from graduate-jobs.com where I'd stated I was interested in Sales and Recruitment. I wasn't so keen on selling an object, but rather could see myself selling people for roles. I saw the email with vacancies in London, I got in touch and attended an open day where the recruitment sector was totally sold to me as a fantastic career.

Why do you think you were successful at Morgan McKinley?

The Recruitment process here is mainly based on values and these values are important for financial success for the company. You need to be confident and the person that someone wants to talk to. The values that they hire by are:

Always Communicating - you have to show in the recruitment process that you are a good communicator, enthusiastic when engaging with people and know the importance of that. Always Committed - they like people that have worked hard to get where they are and prepared to work hard if they're successful. Embracing Change - looking for people that were dynamic in the way they went about the tasks. Building Trust - there were quite a few questions asking how you would feel about lying to someone or how far would you go to get a fee.

What do you actually do?

When I first started I was a Researcher and was largely focused on the candidate side. This meant I was mainly sourcing candidates for the consultants and their side of the job. Whether this was a job they were working on at the moment or a good candidate for them to know about. This meant a lot of headhunting, calling ex-candidates seeing how they were getting on, advertising jobs, responding to the jobs, clearing people, meeting people and face to face for screening interviews.

Now I'm at a consultant level, so I speak to clients and try to pick up jobs and work both sides of the recruitment process.

What skills do you need?

Confidence is the first skill you need to have because even though you've spoken to one client 18 months ago they might not remember you so it can be a bit like cold calling. Having the resilience to carry on when someone tells you to go away because some people don't have the time to speak to recruiters. There are some people who have had bad experiences with recruiters so will not speak to you.

If you are engaging, this really allows you to progress in Recruitment, especially when talking to clients and managing your contacts. Organisation because sometimes the candidates that you have can form a large list and it is being able to manage that and be organised in your approach to them

What is the best thing about your job?

With everyone being driven and working hard, between every call people chat and discuss clients. It is not everyone sat in silence; people discuss candidates they have just spoken to.

Likewise, the best thing about my job is speaking to the candidates that I look after. You become interested in them and interested in your industry. I quite like the fact I'm talking to different people all the time. This leads to the perfect match which is a great feeling when you have the perfect CV for a role or the perfect candidate for a role.

And what is the worst thing about your job?

You can't force people to talk to you, which is sometimes frustrating. When I first started I was working through lists of one hundred people or more and you would only get through to ten of those and, of those ten, only three of them could speak to you. This can be a bit demoralising at the start. Also, sometimes you have to give candidates bad feedback from interviews which can be difficult early on.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I've been here nearly a year. At Morgan McKinley they have got a very good progression structure which can take you right to the top, should you wish to pursue it. You can either pursue the client side or the candidate side and they expect the driven attitude to be successful and progress when you start.

What advice would you give to graduates applying to Morgan McKinley?

You should definitely look at the role as a Sales job because you are targeted and need to be prepared for that. Show yourself as confident and willing in anything you do. For Morgan McKinley I'd definitely recommend researching the values. They are really important and are followed through in everything we do. Go in with an open mind and know the industry to make sure you know what you're going into.

If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with Morgan McKinley, please take a look at their company profile.