The reality of working in recruitment

February, 2021

James Taylor, CEO of recruitment consultancy, Macildowie, shares his thoughts on how the industry offers genuine job satisfaction as well as many other benefits for its dedicated workforce

For those working in the recruitment industry it's often the 'buzz' of a fast-paced working environment and the rewards you can secure following a successful day at the office that make it all worthwhile.


Like any industry, salary can vary from business to business. The average recruitment consultant's salary can significantly increase depending on the location, performance, and bonus schemes that may be on offer. Depending on your role and previous experience, you may be offered a basic salary plus a performance-related bonus or commission.

The numerous opportunities for progression also come with added benefits, with managers earning a basic salary in excess of £40,000.

Not only do consultants enjoy extra income through bonuses, many recruitment firms also offer an excellent EVP (employee value proposition) that covers wellbeing and mental health. From employee discounts and gym membership, to once in a lifetime reward schemes that allow high performers to travel to destinations such as New York and Las Vegas.


Many working in the sector love the extra incentive of boosting your salary through commission can make the occasional extra hours worth it. Working in a recruitment agency may be demanding at times, however this tends to be balanced with a range of staff incentive schemes and workplace perks. More recently, the industry has been investing significant resources into staff wellbeing initiatives and culture workshops.

These schemes are enabling staff to voice their opinion on how the workplace can be improved, ensuring a transparent culture conducive to a happy working environment.

Flexible working was already on the rise before COVID-19, but the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated this and I don't envisage recruitment going back to being five days a week in the office. The next big challenge for all businesses is how to ensure that their staff can be upskilled and inspired while working from home. Those recruitment businesses adopting digital technologies will prosper and benefit culturally as a result.

Employees typically benefit from leading performance coaches and enjoy nights out on behalf of the company, all of which drive the team's desire to succeed and boost morale. During lockdown, Macildowie have hosted twice-weekly HIIT PT sessions to keep people active and fit, we have also extended our lunchbreak from 12pm to 1.30pm to allow everyone to get out and about for some fresh air during day light hours.


Appealing to a range of skillsets and expertise, securing a graduate or entry-level role in a recruitment consultancy can be competitive and requires you to have a determined mindset.

Often 'soft skills', such as the ability to communicate effectively, manage your own time and succeed under pressure are the most valuable. Recruitment is a people-focused career, so being able to build rapport and establish strong relationships is essential.

Previous sales experience may be viewed as beneficial but is by no means required and most organisations offer in-house training alongside rigorous personal development plans.

If you can prove yourself as a successful recruitment consultant, able to interact with clients and candidates to secure a high volume of successful hires, you may find you are quickly promoted. Securing a management position offers the opportunity to manage your own team, develop a broader range of skills and allow you to further progress and develop.

It's also worth noting that the industry's competitive atmosphere naturally demands individuals with resilient attitudes - with targets to hit, phone calls to be made and candidates receiving counter offers at the last minute - having a positive mindset and strong-will to carry on is vital.

Due to these demands, the industry has developed a reputation of 'fight or flight', with some consultants finding it a challenge to maintain the strength of character and emotional resilience needed to succeed.

Typical working day

The role is varied, active and challenging from chatting over the phone with clients to get a sense of their business goals, to meeting face-to-face with aspiring candidates.

Most recruitment agencies operate a typical 9am to 5pm working day, but this is by no means set in stone and the pandemic has meant that many have had to be more flexible. Pre pandemic the hours typically flex in line with the workload and type of tasks you have on. For example, you may be expected to spend one day on site with a client, and the another attending a meeting or training day, helping to broaden your knowledge on a particular sector or skillset.

While you may have to work in challenging or competitive environments, the recruitment industry can be hugely rewarding. Helping a candidate secure their dream job or finding the perfect employee for an appreciative business can bring a great sense of job satisfaction.

Opportunities for promotion

Recruitment consultancies are vibrant environments, with employees supporting each other to achieve targets. In particular strong performers with determined characteristics will see great opportunities to progress.

There is also the choice for recruiters to specialise in a particular sector or location, hiring for roles in HR, marketing, sales or not-for-profit, for example. Recruiters consistently hitting their personal goals will often have the chance to progress to become a senior consultant or manager and lead their own team or division. Senior consultants who desire to take an alternative career path can also go on to earn great bonuses.

The industry is particularly important for graduates, who are seeking a creative and thriving environment. Testament to this a number of our own graduates have gone on to remain within the company for almost a decade, becoming integral members of the overall business.

Challenges in the recruitment sector

The war for talent is one of the major challenges facing the industry and increasingly there seems to be a shortage of great candidates to meet the needs of recruiters and their clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic is without a doubt the biggest challenge that I have encountered, it’s unprecedented in nature. I fear that many graduates who have only been in the industry for one or two years might decide to leave and opt for something more stable. 

We adapted and evolved, looking ahead to what we predict our customers will want from their recruitment company. We re-branded to become the UKs first 'recruitment and retention company' and now offer more than just recruitment services. Only time will tell if this is a success. The pandemic has created a set of new challenges for businesses that we are now able to help with, such as how do we:

  • interview over Zoom?
  • promote our EVP?
  • onboard new hires when they are working from home?
  • train them to the required standard?
  • communicate with our people?

So the main challenge is evolve or be insignificant. The world has changed. We must change with it.

I fully expect that the second half of 2021 will see businesses getting back to pre-Covid levels of recruitment and that those businesses who have looked after candidates and offered advice and expertise to their clients to thrive.

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