Top 3 skills for a successful career in recruitment

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
March, 2015

With 70% of organisations looking to increase their workforce in 2015, recruitment is booming...

Analysis by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) shows that the sector grew by 8% in 2013/14, and is now worth £28.7billion. What's more, policy adviser Clement Sheil believes that even faster expansion is imminent. 'There are real opportunities for new entrants in the industry,' he adds.

Graduates are attracted by the fun environment, high earning capacity and scope for rapid career progression. Yet as openings increase, so does the talent pool. 'You must be prepared for a fast-paced, competitive and high-performance environment, where no two days are the same,' claims Jenna Alexander, head of internal recruitment at Hays UK and Ireland. 'Our focus will be to ensure that we hire the best graduates looking to move into the recruitment industry.'

With this in mind, here are three key areas that must be developed in order for you to stand out from the ever-growing crowd…

Passion for people

You'll establish a vast network of clients and candidates, matching the two effectively and confidently every day. This requires a customer-orientated approach, excellent communication skills and a strong memory - especially when listening to and empathising with the needs of both parties.

Understanding candidate concerns is particularly important. 'The process of applying and interviewing for a job can be stressful,' says Clement. 'Recruiters must be able to give good advice and guide people through the process.' Any work experience that includes regularly dealing with customers will highlight your ability to communicate efficiently.

Being organised and self-disciplined enough to prioritise tasks and meet tight deadlines is also essential. 'Graduate-level recruiters have the ability to work well under pressure while providing exceptional customer service,' adds Jenna. 'Working while studying will help demonstrate your ability to manage your time and meet deadlines.'

Hunger to succeed

Recruitment offers significant scope for career advancement, while commission makes up a substantial part of salaries. This makes ambition and self-motivation vital. 'New recruiters need to be prepared to seize opportunities,' says Clement.

Many recruiters operate in specific sectors such as healthcare, construction and education, so you must ensure that you understand your area of work. Find yourself a niche, such as specialist recruiter for a particular IT system, and you can earn big money. 'A desire to learn is important, as you'll need to keep up-to-date with developments within the industry that you recruit for,' advises Jenna. 'We're always looking for graduates who demonstrate our company values and are motivated by exceeding goals and targets.'

Committing to extra-curricular activities or positions of responsibility within your university will help to demonstrate your work ethic and competitive drive. Professional qualifications are another option, with a range of courses available with the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Networking and digital literacy

Recruitment consultants market the services of their own company to prospective clients and attract candidates through various forms of advertising. This makes networking, influencing and business development three key aspects of the job.

Social media isn't just changing the way that whole industries recruit - it's also a key networking tool. Follow developments in the digital space and ensure that you're well-versed in navigating around professional sites such as LinkedIn. 'Experience in building networks is a real benefit to new recruiters,' says Clement.

Calling recruitment agencies in your area and introducing yourself demonstrates an impressively proactive approach to networking. Picking up the phone is a large part of recruiting, so showing that you're not afraid to get stuck in will boost your chances. At the very least, actively publicise your CV and talk to recruiters. When jobs become available, apply for positions directly and send employers a well-written cover letter that sells yourself in a way that does you justice.