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Starting a Career in Recruitment

A career in recruitment essentially comes down to helping businesses fill staff vacancies and aiding candidates’ career advancement.  Roles you fill may be permanent, temporary or contractual in nature.   This industry demands certain qualities from prospective recruitment consultants, and as long as you meet the criteria you can expect a promising and lucrative career path. 

Many recruiters fell into the profession by accident, having first started their career in sales or marketing. But it undoubtedly pays to plan your career in advance. If you are reading this post then you will gain an advantage over many others looking to enter this rewarding profession.  If you are truly serious about entering recruitment then we suggest you bookmark this post for future use.

Those new to recruitment often start their career as a ‘trainee recruitment consultant’.  This role requires grit, determination and excellent people skills.  Although various qualifications exist within the profession, on-the-job practical experience is placed at a premium.  

When you’re in recruitment you are ultimately in a sales role.  You must be able to demonstrate an ability generate revenue for your employer.  Below we discuss the various skills, qualifications and actions you must develop in order to progress in the recruitment industry.

Skills needed to succeed

In the recruitment industry employers often value specific soft-skills over academics. This is because recruitment is results oriented by nature.  Customer service and sales skills are valued above all else. Below I list many of the skills I feel a trainee must develop in order to progress in his or her recruitment career:

·         Selling skills

·         Communication

·         Passion for what recruitment

·         Professionalism

·         Results oriented

·         Grit, determination and persistence

·         Negotiation skills

·         Customer service skills

·         Teamwork skills

·         Genuine interest in others' career advancement

·         Willingness to continuously expand knowledge

·         Show initiative/self-starter

Entry routes into recruitment

Many graduate recruitment schemes do not require a specific degree course. However it won't hurt your chances of securing a placement if your degree is business or human resources related. Academic requirements are typically not too high. A 2.2 in your degree will suffice for most 'high street' graduate programmes.

Previous experience in sales and marketing will clearly hold you in good stead, particularly when you are able to draw on examples of how you made a difference.   Since recruitment is about grit and determination, experience often goes further than academics. It is therefore advantageous if you are able to secure work experience or an internship early on.

Another route into the recruitment industry is through a modern apprenticeship.

What do trainees do?

Trainees typically learn the industry by shadowing an experienced consultant.  That’s not to say trainee positions are not hands on. 

Common tasks trainees undertake include:

·         Updating client database

·         Shadowing an establish consultant

·         Following up on references

·         Client contact

·         Finding out needs of clients

·         Cold calling

·         Headhunting

·         Writing job advertisements

·         Sifting through CVs

·         Interviewing candidates

·         Administrative tasks

·         Negotiating agency fees


There exists various job-specific qualifications you may gain whilst you complete your traineeship. The Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) is perhaps the most well-known body that rewards recognised qualifications in the recruitment industry.

Here is a list of qualifications offered at the IRP:

·         Level 2 Certificate in Recruitment Resourcing

·         Level 3 Certificate in Recruitment Practice (QCF)

·         Level 4 Diploma in Recruitment Management

·         CIPP Payroll Technician Certificate

·         CIPP Certificate in Pensions Administration

An alternative to the IRP is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). 

Professional associations

The IRP offers a membership scheme for those operating in the recruitment industry.  The IRP holds network events and useful training courses throughout the United Kingdom.  IRP membership adds credibility to your CV and helps you progress in your career. 


The majority of recruitment consultants earn commissions plus a basic salary of around £18,000 and £24,000 per year.   Experienced consultants can earn up to £38,000 per year depending on where in the country they live. 

Hours of work

Since consultants earn a commission, many work far longer than your standard 9-5 hours. Candidates are often hard to reach during the day since many are in work.  You therefore must be willing to work long into the evening.  Clients may also require you to contact them after 5pm. Since a career in recruitment demands you work long and unsocial hours, it's essential you have a passion for this sort of work.

Career progressions

Recruitment offers many roles other than just consulting.  Below I list some of the less well-known roles on offer in the recruitment industry:

·         Account manager

·         Team leader

·         Branch manager


·         Regional manager

Paul | Thu 1st Oct 2015


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Amanda Wright Rec to Rec - Recruitment Specialists for the Recruitment Industry, specialising in recruitment to recruitment. © 2021 Amandawright rec to rec recruitment consultants