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Overview of the recruitment and HR sector in the UK

Opportunities to work in the fast-paced recruitment and HR industries exist all over the UK...

What areas of recruitment can I work in?

Employment opportunities in recruitment and human resources (HR) are grouped into:

  • recruitment, resourcing and talent planning - this area is concerned with understanding the strategic gaps in the organisation and then meeting those needs in the labour market;
  • learning and talent development - may be called the 'training department'. It is an important part of making sure a company has the competitive edge by retaining employees who perform at their best;
  • organisation development - involves working closely with management to apply change successfully in an organisation;
  • employee relations - entails supporting, developing and maintaining working relationships across the organisation;
  • employee engagement - differs to employee relations; it is more about the internal communication of the organisation's brand to employees;
  • performance and reward - professionals in this area set the salary levels and company allowances. This may include developing and monitoring performance-related pay and other company schemes related to pay and benefits.

You could work either in-house recruiting staff into an organisation or for a recruitment agency who hires employees on behalf of organisations. Agencies often specialise in recruitment within a particular sector; for example, recruitment agencies may specialise in one of the following areas:

  • accounting and financial services;
  • childcare;
  • construction;
  • education;
  • drivers;
  • engineering and technical;
  • hospitality;
  • healthcare;
  • legal.

For job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in recruitment and HR.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The top 250 recruitment agencies in 2012, according to Recruitment International's annual report, included:

  • Arlington Moore Search & Selection;
  • Big Red Recruitment Midlands;
  • Blue Octopus Recruitment;
  • Bond Williams Professional Recruitment;
  • CG Consultants;
  • Client Server (IT recruitment);
  • Kensington Consulting;
  • Morson International (aerospace).

Some companies that have in-house recruitment departments include:

  • CERN;
  • House of Fraser;
  • ITV;
  • Mintel;
  • Tesco.

There are many employers offering graduate schemes in either HR or have HR as one of the placements on a management scheme. Graduate schemes are mainly offered by large organisations. Some of the companies that offer HR training schemes include:

  • British Airways;
  • Centrica;
  • NHS;
  • Sky.

Recruitment and HR are functions that exist in the majority of companies in most sectors across the UK. However, it is likely that if you want to work on a graduate scheme in HR for a large organisation, its headquarters will be based in London. It is possible to have placements at other sites across the country.

The HR departments in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are usually run by individuals or small teams. Very small companies are likely to source their HR needs out to a consultancy.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the recruitment and HR sector can expect:

  • most roles to be office-based within a team, although in SMEs you will be more likely to work on your own. Recruitment agencies may have consultants working towards a team target and that will require you to work in a very dynamic environment;
  • an average starting salary of £24,375 as a graduate HR officer, and with progression to HR director, you could be earning an average of £75,000 a year, according to CIPD, the professional body for the HR sector. In recruitment agencies, salaries are often very basic but employers offer performance-related pay or commission for meeting recruitment targets;
  • self-employment to be an exciting and flexible option for an experienced recruitment or HR consultant with a good network of contacts.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see types of jobs.

What are the key issues in the recruitment and HR sector?

More recruitment agencies are expanding their online channels of communication and using social media to reach their audiences.

Spending cuts in the public sector have meant more staff redundancies, which has been a challenge for recruiters.

The uncertain economic climate means that there are changes in staffing levels in all organisations. This requires HR to use its expertise in change management to ensure that organisations maintain the talent and skills needed.

Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
July 2013

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