How to become a recruitment consultant

The number of recruitment consultants has been on the rise over recent years. According to de Poel, back in 1990, there were just 88 recruitment agencies in the UK. There are now around 20,000 - and 2014 alone saw more than 4,000 new agencies register with HMRC. So how do you go about joining the ranks of this fast-growing profession? Here are some points to take into consideration…

Examine your skillset

This involves asking “What makes a great recruitment consultant?” before thinking about how your personal skillset matches up to what’s required. In a broad sense “selling” makes up a significant element of the job: you will typically find yourself selling individual candidates to your clients. What’s more you need to be able to sell the employer’s value proposition to prospective employees, especially when it comes to top talent who might have their pick of placements or employers.

More generally, whether you decide to go it alone or join an existing recruitment firm, you need the ability to ‘sell’ the benefits of your service. You have to convince potential clients that you are the ideal partner to work with for sourcing and bringing on board talent.

Success in this field isn’t built on one-off transactions. Crucially you need the ability to build and nurture relationships, both with clients and with candidates. Take the time to listen and to get to know the specific requirements and characteristics of your client’s organisation. You will then be in a better position to offer advice on how best to frame the job proposition and to build up a clear picture on what constitutes the ‘ideal’ recruit for this particular employer.

When sourcing recruits, the ability to build rapport can help you to develop trust, ease concerns, establish whether individuals and firms are suitably matched and help to bring about a ‘good fit’ for employers and candidates alike.

It’s worth looking at your own CV, identifying those situations where you have demonstrated these types of skills, and then ’fleshing out’ those situations in the main body of your CV. Examples might include the following:

  • Details of long-term relationships with clients.
  • Instances where you have had to undertake fact-finding exercises, working closely with clients to put together tailored solutions to meet their needs.
  • Instances where you have won or secured client contracts for your firm.
  • Involvement in events-based marketing and networking.
  • Involvement in the recruitment process within your firm, such as defining a new role and sourcing applicants.
  • Involvement in supervising and training new starters.

Consider putting your niche knowledge to work

In theory, the growth of social media (especially LinkedIn) suggests it has never been easier for employers to take a ‘DIY’ approach to sourcing new recruits. Yet UK employers are still struggling to fill skilled, specialist positions. In the most recent Employer Skills Survey for instance, it was shown that an estimated 22 percent of job vacancies are down to a skills shortage. The construction and financial services sectors find it especially difficult to fill key positions.   

Social networking can only go so far in helping businesses to find recruits for specialist roles. They still require niche recruiters; professionals who understand their markets; who know how to reach the best candidates and who have in-depth knowledge of the complexities of particular industries.

Many of these specialist agencies are staffed by recruiters who formerly worked in that particular industry (former solicitors recruiting in the legal niche, or accountants in financial services, for instance). Your existing professional expertise could be your greatest asset if you are considering a move into recruitment.

Use your existing experience as astarting point and consider how you can build on this to strengthen your credentials as a niche recruiter. Here are some ways you could do this:

Work on your list of connections

Part of your value to potential clients is based on your ability to source great candidates. As a professional you have the ability to grow your list of contacts organically, by connecting with them via LinkedIn, for instance. When it comes to making the switch into the recruitment arena you could already have a ready-made ‘database’ of potential recruits (and clients).

Bolster your market knowledge

What are current salary expectations among professionals in your niche? What are the biggest gripes of employees and employers? What trends are likely to impact the job market in the near future? Talk to individuals within your niche to get a picture of the recruitment market. Even better, if you can identify failures in the way things are currently being done in your chosen niche, it could help you to formulate ways to deliver a better service and fill a gap in the market.

Set out your stall as an expert

Businesses choose to use recruitment consultants because they offer expert, sector-specific knowledge, both on sourcing the right candidates and on building a reputation as an employer of choice - i.e. as an ‘employer brand’.

In other words, businesses are looking for expert insight and you do not have to wait until you’ve secured a position at an agency or until you’ve launched your own business to start providing these insights. Use Twitter and LinkedIn to share news and commentary and provide your own views on issues affecting your industry. Join in with discussions online and draw on your own experience to add to the debate. In this way, you can increase your standing and establish yourself as someone worth listening to - even before you start looking for clients.

Going it alone as a recruitment consultant

A consultant’s role reaches beyond sourcing employees. As an expert, clients will rely on your advice and giving inappropriate advice may provide clients with grounds for complaint or legal action in negligence. You are also likely to be in possession of large quantities of commercially sensitive and personal data, so protecting your business against data breach should be a top priority. Before getting your business off the ground, speak to us about recruitment insurance cover tailored specifically for the needs of your fledgling business.  


The content of this blog is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.