Recruitment consultants are responsible for attracting candidates and matching them to temporary or permanent positions with client companies. They work with client companies, building relationships in order to gain a better understanding of their recruitment needs and requirements.

Recruitment consultants attract candidates by drafting advertising copy for use in a range of media, as well as by networking, headhunting and through referrals. They screen candidates, interview them, do background checks and finally match them to their clients.

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


  • Recruitment consultants provide a vital link between clients and candidates. The role is demanding and diverse and involves:
  • using sales, business development, marketing techniques and networking to attract business from client companies;
  • visiting clients to build and develop relationships;
  • developing a good understanding of client companies, their industry, what they do, plus their work culture and environment;
  • advertising vacancies by drafting and placing adverts in a range of media, for example newspapers, websites, magazines;
  • using social media to advertise positions, attract candidates and build relationships with candidates and employers;
  • 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 of 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 ten to15 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, 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

Long working hours are common and may include evenings.

What to expect

  • Work is office based but time is also spent outside the office, meeting with clients and interviewing candidates.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The role can be challenging, but also exciting as the profession is fast-paced, target driven and demanding.
  • 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. Employers typically value drive, experience, skills and abilities as well as the determination to succeed over specific qualifications. 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. You may 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 may also help you provide evidence that you have the necessary skills.

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.

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, and 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.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

On-the-job training is offered to trainee consultants for the 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:

Professional qualifications are also available through the REC and the CIPD. For example, the REC offers the Level 2 Certificate in Recruitment Resourcing (QCF), the Level 3 Certificate in Recruitment Practice (QCF) and the Level 4 Diploma in Recruitment Management (QCF) via the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP).

These courses are normally undertaken while working in the recruitment industry, rather than as a requirement to gain entry. See the IRP website for full details.

Membership of a professional body such as the CIPD or the IRP 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. On-the-job training and mentoring is provided in the first few months.

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.