Recruitment consultants are the vital link between clients and candidates in a role that is demanding and diverse

As a recruitment consultant you'll be 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.

You'll need to secure 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 and test them, run background checks and finally match them to clients.

You will also work on bringing in new clients to the agency to help with their staffing needs.

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


As a recruitment consultant you'll need to:

  • use sales, business development and marketing techniques as well as networking skills to attract business from client companies
  • visit clients to build and develop positive relationships
  • develop a good understanding of client companies, their industry, what they do, their work culture and environment
  • advertise vacancies by drafting and placing adverts
  • use social media to advertise positions, attract candidates and build relationships
  • headhunt - identify and approach suitable candidates who may already be in work
  • use candidate databases to match the right person to the client's vacancy
  • receive and review applications, manage interviews and tests and create a shortlist of candidates for the client
  • request references and check the suitability of applicants before submitting their details to the client
  • brief the candidate about the responsibilities, salary and benefits of the job
  • prepare CVs and correspondence to forward to clients regarding suitable applicants
  • organise interviews for candidates as requested by the client
  • inform candidates about the results of interviews
  • negotiate salaries and finalise arrangements between clients and candidates
  • offer advice to both clients and candidates on pay rates, training and career progression
  • work towards, and exceed, targets that may relate to the number of candidates placed, a value to be billed to clients or business leads generated
  • review 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.

  • Trainee recruitment consultants start on a basic annual salary of £18,000 to £25,000.
  • Recruitment consultants' average salaries are around £24,000 to £30,000, 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 more than £40,000 (excluding bonuses or commission).
  • Once bonuses and commission are included, the total average salary can increase to around or just over £40,000 for consultants and £60,000+ for managers.

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

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

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Your working day will cover 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 only for consultants who have expert knowledge of a specialist sector and significant experience. 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 due to targets but also exciting as the profession is fast-paced and rewarding.
  • Work is office based but time is also spent outside the office, meeting with clients and interviewing candidates, therefore a smart personal appearance is important.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the UK, although more jobs are available in large cities.
  • 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.


You can become a recruitment consultant with any degree. However subjects that are particularly useful include:

  • business
  • human resources
  • marketing
  • public relations.

While some recruitment agencies cover numerous sectors others specialise in one particular industry or market. It can be helpful to have a degree related to that area if you want to secure a job with them. For example, specialist agencies exist within IT, healthcare, engineering, science and pharmaceuticals.

Entry with an HND or foundation degree is also possible. Employers of recruitment consultants may value drive, experience, skills and determination to succeed more than specific qualifications.

It can be possible to begin in a recruitment agency in an admin role and then work your way up.

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


You'll need to show:

  • 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
  • teamworking skills
  • creativity.

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

Work experience

Employers want to make sure you have the necessary skills for the role and so they value relevant work experience. This doesn’t need to be directly within the recruitment industry and instead can include:

  • sales work
  • marketing and PR
  • customer-oriented roles
  • admin roles.

You can get experience through part-time or vacation work. There are also summer placements available in areas such as sales and marketing.

Active membership of student societies also shows that you have the necessary communication skills to succeed.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Recruitment agencies provide services to all business sectors, including IT, teaching, finance, engineering, logistics, science and pharmaceuticals.

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

Large consultancies, such as Adecco, Randstad and Michael Page have branches worldwide and cover a range of sectors.

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. You can also look on general jobs sites for vacancies.

Professional development

On-the-job training tends to be offered in the first few months. Larger firms typically offer inductions or skills training if you’re a new entrant to the career. Smaller firms may rely on mentoring from colleagues or shorter elements of in-house training.

Short courses on specific aspects of the industry are available and may be offered by your employer or through external training providers. These may cover:

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

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

It is advisable to become a member of a relevant professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) or the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). They can help to support your professional development and also offer relevant training.

Professional qualifications are available that you can study for while working. For example the REC offers the following:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Recruitment Resourcing
  • Level 3 Certificate in Recruitment Practice
  • Level 4 Diploma in Recruitment Management
  • Level 5 Diploma in Recruitment Leadership.

Completing these can aid your career development and show you’re working at a particular level.

The REC also offers training in areas such as recruitment law and compliance and starting up a recruitment agency.

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

Career prospects

As the role is target driven, progression largely depends on achieving and exceeding set targets. Career development depends on the size and structure of your employer 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's 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. With significant experience and strong contacts it may be possible to set up your own agency.

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

The role of a recruitment consultant can 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.

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