7 Lessons I learned working in the recruitment sector as a ‘Consultant’

working in recruitment

I say ‘Consultant’ in quotation marks because the definition of a consultant, according to Google is: a person who provides expert advice professionally. But in my experience, recruitment consultants appear to provide very little professional advice.

A couple of years ago, I finished my summer exams for my finance degree and was due to graduate a month later. I knew I had passed, not done amazingly, but enough to be awarded a 2:1 at least. I had applied to an endless amount of ‘Graduate’ jobs and had been knocked back from various employers across the country. The struggle was real; rejections day after day got the better of me and soon I realized that I was not of graduate job level caliber and lowered my expectations. I was now looking at minimum wage level entry jobs into finance. The rejections still kept coming.

Lesson № 1: Don’t ever lose hope on what you want, keep striving to get it regardless of how many setbacks come your way.

Throughout my search for my very first finance role, job advertisements for a Recruitment Consultant were everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. There wasn’t a single job board website that didn’t have these role offerings. I didn’t understand what the role entailed at the time, but it promised a lot of money in a short space of time and, at the time; naively, that’s all I wanted.

Lesson № 2: If something sounds too good to be true — especially when offering huge amounts of money — it’s probably a load of B.S.

Just like anyone else, I researched the role at great length on Google and looked for those ‘day in the life’ type videos on YouTube. I’m an ambitious young lad with a lot to give so thought I’d start applying to them. I went into my interview, whether on the phone or in person, with the view that these firms would have clients lined up and needed a ‘consultant’, like myself, to find the right person to fill a job role. I imagined busy mornings filled with interviews and conference meetings and even saw myself, albeit in a dream, wearing a Bluetooth earpiece negotiating fees with our clients with a fancy suit on.

Lesson № 3: If something is ever too easy to obtain, there is always a catch!

Some shoddy interviews meant I didn’t quite make the cut for some of the larger firms but I managed to interview and get myself a job at a small(ish) firm, it all seemed too easy. The following Monday was my first day so I went in suited and booted, at 8:20 am — 10 minutes early. Met the Managing Director, who called me ‘Amigo’ and said I can expect to make £40,000 this year, £60,000 in my second year and I should be well on my way to make £100,000+ in my third year — I was excited. All my colleagues had a laptop that they would work from, no desktop, and also no additional screens.

This was my first time in an office environment and I had never spoken to anyone of status in a company before so I was a complete bag of nerves. To add to my anxiety, the office was completely dead — no phones ringing, no small talk, nothing. I was given a script to sort-of use whilst speaking these companies on the phone, but it was crap and robotic sounding. I was expected to trawl through random LinkedIn profiles to find the people who seem to manage recruitment at their company and contact them directly for any position they were looking to fill.

Lesson № 4: Cold calling sucks!

I made hundreds of calls to all kinds of businesses across the UK, only to find that they had either already been approached by another firm or had no time to speak with me. It quickly dawned on me that this wasn’t going to be easy. What worse is that there was no fixed salary, it was 100% commission which meant if I didn’t close any deals, I wasn’t getting paid. The reality was that recruitment is a big sales game where the candidates are your products and the clients are your, customers, it’s as simple as that. Some were making good money but barely anything they could shout about, not at this place anyway.

Lesson № 5: Sales peeps are rude and arrogant.

A sales environment is one with a lot of energy, optimism, and those important targets. The only problem with surrounding yourself with these kinds of people is that you quickly realize how petty, self-centered, and fake they can be. It saps every last inch of energy you have in your body until you can’t take anymore. Constantly clock watching until its 6:00 pm so I could drive home and enjoy some real people in my life.

Lesson № 6: Estate agents, recruitment consultants, Development managers… type roles all have a heavy sales aspect to them.

The whole ordeal was a dreadful experience, but I learned a lot. I spent the next six months meeting with random people I came across on LinkedIn who were in similar roles. I came to the quick realization that any ‘agency’ type role has the same sales-y type setup and their whole business foundation is purely set up on the fickle belief that they will hand over some money. The bottom line for all of these guys is money. The service they provide is very rarely anything more than what you and I could conjure up in our living rooms at home.

Ultimately, the job wasn’t right for me. Some people make a ridiculous amount of money from this game and they are very good at what they do, I’ve seen it first-hand. It appears that I had a terrible experience and it was mostly down to the poor firm that I worked for; that recruitment company has since filed for insolvency. The lack of training and development meant I never had a clear direction.

Lesson № 7: Education is key!

Ask yourself: Does your employer deserve your time if they aren’t willing to invest in you?

I made some money, learned some incredible lessons and overall it made me a stronger person. It also meant that because I was self-taught; the whole recruitment process from hiring to firing comes easy to me. I’ve used all the skills I learned in all my jobs ever since, but maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps recruitment just isn’t for me. The ultimate take away from my first experience in the big bad world was that you should never compromise on your dreams and ambitions. Once you have a goal in mind for what you want to do, never stop working towards it — and don’t settle for anything less — regardless of how long it may take.

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