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Overview of the recruitment and HR sector in the UK

Almost 100,000 people work in the fast-paced recruitment and human resources (HR) sector, with job opportunities available all over the UK…

What areas can I work in?

Job opportunities in the recruitment and HR sector can be grouped into several categories, including:

  • employee relations/industrial relations;
  • employment law;
  • health and safety;
  • payroll and pensions;
  • performance and reward;
  • recruitment and talent management;
  • strategy and organisation development;
  • training, learning and development.

Graduates in the sector usually take one of two routes. They either work in-house for an organisation or, alternatively, work for a recruitment agency that hires employees on behalf of clients.

Working in-house at a large company would see you become part of a HR team. You may specialise in recruitment or one of the other areas listed above. At a smaller company, you may perform a range of tasks.

Some companies outsource HR to recruitment agencies or consultancies. There are several large international agencies that operate in numerous sectors of the employment market. For example, Adecco has 6,600 offices in 70 countries. Many smaller independent agencies specialise in recruitment within a particular sector.

Other roles relating to recruitment and HR include careers coaching and occupational psychology.

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

Who are the main graduate employers?

Graduate schemes in HR are offered by numerous large employers across a range of industries, including:

  • construction;
  • energy;
  • engineering;
  • finance;
  • health;
  • pharmaceuticals;
  • retail.

Some organisations offer HR as just one element of a general management scheme. However, graduate schemes specifically in HR are offered by companies such as:

  • Balfour Beatty;
  • BP;
  • Civil Service;
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK);
  • KPMG;
  • National Health Service (NHS);
  • Rolls-Royce;
  • Tesco.

Recruitment consultancies who take on recent graduates include:

  • Adecco;
  • Big Red Recruitment;
  • Cititec;
  • Client Server;
  • Hays;
  • PageGroup;
  • Randstad;
  • Spencer Ogden.

Recruitment and HR are functions that exist in the majority of UK companies across most sectors. However, HR is a head office function for some large organisations. This means you may be based in London or another major city.

What's it like working in the sector?

There are several things that graduates entering the recruitment and HR sector can expect.

  • A competitive industry with deadlines and targets (particularly recruitment agencies).
  • High earning potential, with an average salary of £44,033. Some companies offer commission and bonus schemes for meeting recruitment targets.
  • Office-based roles and working as part of a team. However, in small companies it's more likely that you'll work on your own.
  • Self-employment as an option for an experienced recruitment or HR professional. This is because outsourcing is making HR consultancy increasingly common.

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?

The recruitment industry is now buoyant, with the Recruitment & Employment Confederation's (REC) 2013/14 Recruitment Industry Trends Survey finding that revenue is now higher than before the recession. It also predicts further growth over the next three years.

Skills CFA's Human Resources Labour Market Report 2012 notes that the sector has recently moved towards strategic activities. More HR professionals are now working as consultants and advisers to business.

Talent management is also a growth area. This is a reaction to companies placing more emphasis on attracting, retaining and developing the best employees. The uncertain economic climate means that there are changes to staffing levels across all organisations. This requires recruitment professionals to ensure that organisations retain the talent and skills they need.

Written by Editor, Prospects
December 2014

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