Working in recruitment is like working in sales, where your basic salary could be bolstered by potentially high on-target earnings (OTE) in the form of performance-related bonuses or commission

Recruitment consultants are responsible for attracting candidates for jobs and matching them to temporary or permanent positions with client companies. You'll build positive relationships in order to gain a better understanding of your clients' recruitment needs and requirements.

Working as a recruitment consultant, you'll attract candidates by drafting advertising copy for use in a range of media, as well as by networking, headhunting and through referrals. You'll screen candidates, interview them, run background checks and finally match them to their clients.

You also provide advice to both clients and candidates on salary levels, training requirements and career opportunities.


As a recruitment consultant, you're the vital link between clients and candidates. The role is demanding, diverse and involves:

  • using sales, business development, marketing techniques and networking to attract business from client companies
  • visiting clients to build and develop positive relationships with them
  • developing a good understanding of client companies, their industry, what they do, their work culture and environment
  • advertising vacancies by drafting and placing adverts in a range of media, such as newspapers, websites and magazines
  • using social media to advertise positions, attract candidates and build relationships
  • headhunting - identifying and approaching suitable candidates who may already be in work
  • using candidate databases to match the right person to the client's vacancy
  • receiving and reviewing applications, managing interviews and tests and creating a shortlist of candidates for the client
  • requesting references and checking the suitability of applicants before submitting their details to the client
  • briefing the candidate about the responsibilities, salary and benefits of the job in question
  • preparing CVs and correspondence to forward to clients regarding suitable applicants
  • organising interviews for candidates as requested by the client
  • informing candidates about the results of their interviews
  • negotiating pay and salary rates and finalising arrangements between client and candidates
  • offering advice to both clients and candidates on pay rates, training and career progression
  • working towards and exceeding targets that may relate to the number of candidates placed, a value to be billed to clients or business leads generated
  • reviewing recruitment policies to ensure effectiveness of selection techniques and recruitment programmes.


Salaries vary across sectors and locations, but typically include a basic salary plus a performance-related bonus or commission. This can either be an individual, team or branch bonus. Basic salaries are highest in London.

Some vacancies will advertise high OTE (on-target earning) salaries even for trainees. Promise of an initial high salary very much depends on your sales performance.

  • Trainee recruitment consultants typically start on a basic annual salary of £15,000 to £20,000. Recruitment consultants' average salaries are around £22,000 to £28,000, with senior consultants earning in the region of £28,000 to £35,000, excluding bonuses or commission.
  • Managers with 10 to 15 years' experience can earn in excess of £40,000 (excluding bonuses or commission).
  • Once bonuses and commission are included, the total average salary can increase to £38,000 for consultants and £60,000+ for managers.

Other benefits may include training, a company car, mobile phones, laptops, pension schemes, team drinks, social functions and end-of-year rewards for the top billing consultant or department.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

The working day usually covers the core hours of 9am to 5pm, but working longer hours is common and may include early starts and evenings.

Self-employment or freelance work is possible, but generally only for consultants who have expert knowledge of a specialist sector. Career breaks are possible in certain circumstances, but are uncommon due to the dynamic nature of the sector.

What to expect

  • The role can be challenging, but also exciting as the profession is fast-paced, target driven and demanding.
  • Work is office based but time is also spent outside the office, meeting with clients and interviewing candidates.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the UK, although more jobs are available in London.
  • A smart personal appearance is important as the role involves meetings with clients and conducting interviews with candidates.
  • Travel within the working day may be required to meet with clients.
  • Overseas travel is less common, unless you are working within travel-related industries or for a niche market. Overseas work is possible, however, with large companies that have overseas branches.


Recruitment consultant roles are generally open to graduates regardless of degree subject. Rather than specific qualifications, employers typically value drive, experience, skills and abilities as well as the determination to succeed. Applying to an agency that specialises in a market or industry related to your degree subject, for example IT or engineering, may increase your chances.

Entry with an HND or foundation degree is possible. Entry without a degree is possible for those with relevant experience, skills and abilities.

Postgraduate study is not essential and you will probably find that relevant experience and skills are more useful.


You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • sales and negotiation skills
  • a goal-orientated approach to work
  • the ability to handle multiple priorities
  • problem-solving ability
  • the ability to meet deadlines and targets
  • ambition and the determination to succeed
  • tenacity
  • confidence and self-motivation
  • time management and organisational skills
  • team-working skills
  • creativity.

You must also enjoy working in a high-pressure environment and the responsibility that comes with it.

Work experience

Work experience in sales, marketing or any customer-oriented role is useful for starting a career in the recruitment industry. Active membership of student societies will also show that you have the necessary communication skills to succeed in recruitment.

Recruitment consultancies will often accept applications from those without recruitment industry experience as long as they demonstrate the right combination of skills and personal qualities.


Almost 100,000 people work in recruitment consultancy. The industry provides services to all business sectors, including IT, teaching, finance, engineering and logistics. Get some tips on how to find a job.

Employers range from national and international recruitment agencies to small local firms, and from specialist sector-specific agencies to those that recruit for many sectors.

Large consultancies, such as Adecco, Randstad and Michael Page have branches worldwide and cover a range of sectors including marketing, accounting and secretarial and IT.

Medium-sized consultancies usually have branches nationwide, while small consultancies often have just one office providing a broad-based service to a variety of local employers.

Look for job vacancies at:

Some agencies specialise in recruiting for recruitment positions (known as recruitment to recruitment or R2R).

It may also be worth contacting agencies on a speculative basis.

Find more information on how to create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

On-the-job training is offered to trainee consultants in their first few months. Larger firms offer induction or skills training for new staff members entering as trainee recruitment consultants.

Short courses on specific aspects of the industry, run in-house or by external training providers, may cover:

  • interviewing skills
  • employment law
  • running a payroll
  • business planning
  • negotiation and sales techniques
  • psychometric assessment
  • headhunting
  • designing an assessment centre.

Some large recruitment consultancies may provide career development programmes for graduates wanting to progress quickly.

Commercial training providers offer short courses specific to the skills required in the industry. Personal development training for members is also run by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Professional qualifications are available through CIPD and REC. These courses are normally undertaken while working in the recruitment industry, rather than as a requirement to gain entry.

For example, REC offers the Level 2 Certificate in Recruitment Resourcing, the Level 3 Certificate in Recruitment Practice, the Level 4 Diploma in Recruitment Management and the Level 5 Diploma in Recruitment Leadership via the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP).

Membership of a professional body is also useful for networking and for access to a range of industry news and resources.

Career prospects

Recruitment consultants generally start work in the industry as trainees, working in a branch within a small team.

As the role is target driven, progression largely depends on achieving and exceeding set targets. Career development depends to some extent on the size and structure of the employing agency and, if working for a small company, you may need to change employer or location to progress. The ability to sustain a strong performance is vital.

Progression from consultant is usually to senior consultant or account manager. Progression to team leader or to managerial positions, such as branch manager, requires additional people management and financial skills. For large organisations with many branches, it may be possible to move into area and regional management.

It is also possible to develop your own market, become involved in training new recruits or specialise in a specific area, such as executives, or a specific industry.

Membership of the IRP or the CIPD may be useful for career development and networking opportunities.

The role of a recruitment consultant can also be used as a platform to build experience and contacts to move in to other areas like human resources (HR), training and other sales and management roles.