What is a recruitment consultant and what do they do?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 November 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Finding a new job can sometimes be tough, so a lot of people use recruitment consultants to help them find the right position. The role of a recruitment consultant can be fast-paced and demanding and involves interacting with a lot of different people, including employers and job seekers. If you're interested in this type of work, understanding the role of a recruitment consultant can help you to decide if it's right for you. In this article, we look at what is a recruitment consultant and what they do in their job.

What is a recruitment consultant?

To answer, 'What is a recruitment consultant?', in short, it is a recruitment specialist who matches candidates to jobs. Some recruitment consultants specialise in finding candidates for temporary roles, for example, covering for parental leave or covering when an employee is unwell. Others focus on helping candidates to find permanent jobs. Recruitment consultants are able to build strong relationships with their clients and the job seekers they work with. Recruitment consultants work closely with clients to understand their requirements and find candidates that match these needs.

These professionals take on a variety of different tasks, including drafting job advertisements, headhunting, screening and interviewing new candidates and finding suitable potential roles for them. Recruitment consultants also give advice to both employers and candidates about salary levels and career opportunities.

Related: What does a recruiter do? (With skills and duties)

Where do recruitment consultants work?

Some recruitment consultants might work in-house for a company, but the majority work for recruitment agencies. These are agencies set up specifically to support companies with the recruitment process. Recruitment agencies can be large national or international organisations with multiple branches or smaller local companies. Often a consultant or agency specialises in recruitment for a certain industry or type of work.

Large organisations like banks are more likely to have their own in-house recruitment consultants than smaller businesses. The environment is fast-paced, with continual deadlines and targets. Sometimes, this type of working environment is similar to a sales environment. Most recruitment consultants work normal office hours, but sometimes it might be necessary to work outside of these times if a deadline is approaching.

Related: How to write a recruitment consultant CV (With an example)

Responsibilities for recruitment consultants

Recruitment consultants have a number of different responsibilities in their job. The role is diverse and can also be demanding. Most days involve doing a variety of different tasks and each day can be different from the next. Some common responsibilities of recruitment consultants include:

  • attracting new clients/businesses through sales, marketing and networking

  • visiting clients at their sites and gaining insight into their businesses and requirements

  • advertising job vacancies

  • headhunting, which involves identifying potentially suitable clients and approaching them to discuss job opportunities

  • matching existing candidates to suitable vacancies

  • reviewing job applications, coordinating tests and interviews and creating shortlists for clients

  • arranging reference and background checks

  • giving advice and support to employers and job seekers

  • meeting targets for placing candidates or generating leads

Related: How To Write a Recruitment Consultant Letter (With Example)

How much can a recruitment consultant earn?

On average, recruitment consultants earn £25,050 per year. This can vary across the country with consultants who work in London or other large areas with a lot of recruitment opportunities, usually earning higher amounts. The average salary for a recruitment consultant in London is £27,871 per year. Senior or specialist recruitment consultants can attract a higher salary because of their experience and specialism. Recruitment is sales and goal-orientated so you can also earn more depending on performance. Meeting and exceeding targets can see you earn additional bonuses too.

Related: How much does a recruitment consultant make?

Qualifications for recruitment consultants

Recruitment consultants have a variety of different qualifications and educational backgrounds. An undergraduate degree is often a requirement, but this can be in any subject. You might find it easier to get a job as a recruitment consultant specialising in a field related to your degree subject, for example, IT. It can sometimes be possible to start working as a recruitment consultant without an undergraduate degree if you have the relevant skills and experience.

You can also start working as a recruitment consultant if you have a foundation degree or Higher National Diploma. Employers often value having the right skills and experience to be a recruitment consultant over having specific qualifications. Developing the relevant skills and attributes is more likely to help you succeed than pursuing further study, such as a postgraduate qualification.

Related: Common recruitment consultant interview questions and answers

Skills and experience for recruitment consultants

Having the right skills to be a recruitment consultant is very important. This includes enjoying working in a fast-paced environment and being able to perform well under pressure. You might be very goal-orientated, capable of meeting deadlines and can meet and exceed targets. This role requires a motivated and ambitious individual with the determination to succeed. It's also important to be confident and self-motivated. The role of a recruitment consultant can be demanding, so being able to cope with this and maintain a good performance level is essential. Some of the other key skills of recruitment consultants are:

  • interpersonal and communication skills for building relationships with clients and candidates

  • sales and negotiation skills for attracting new clients

  • multitasking and prioritisation skills for handling multiple demands

  • problem-solving skills for filling vacancies with suitable candidates

  • time management and organisation skills for managing your workload

  • team working skills for working with clients and other recruitment consultants

  • creativity and writing skills for writing compelling job advertisements

Recruitment consultants come from a variety of different work backgrounds. Experience in an area like sales, marketing and customer service can often be beneficial. It's usually possible to start working in recruitment with different past work experience as long as you can demonstrate you have the right skills and characteristics.

Related: 10 essential recruitment consultant skills

Career development for recruitment consultants

Working as a recruitment consultant gives you opportunities to develop your career. Most consultants who are new to the industry start work as trainees on a small team under the guidance of more experienced consultants. Targets are a big part of the role, so your ability to progress often depends on your ability to meet and exceed targets. The possibilities for career development also depend on the size of the organisation you work for. It might be necessary to change roles at some point to progress your career. The most common positions recruitment consultants progress into are:

Senior consultants or account managers

Recruitment consultants usually progress to being senior consultants or account managers who focus on specific clients. Moving into a managerial role like a branch manager usually requires additional skills like people management or financial knowledge. If you work at a large nationwide recruitment agency that has multiple branches, it is sometimes possible to make sideways moves or gain promotions by moving to a different branch.

Related: Account Manager Job Profile: Necessary Skills and Education

Executive recruiters

Many recruitment consultants move on to specialise in a particular area of recruitment, such as executive recruitment. You might also choose to set up your own agency once you've gained significant expertise. Some recruitment consultants are self-employed or work on a freelance basis, but this usually requires a large amount of knowledge and experience. A lot of recruitment consultants use the experience they gain in the role to help them progress into other areas, such as HR.

Related: How to get a job in HR

Professional development for recruitment consultants

There are opportunities for professional development when you work as a recruitment consultant. Consultants usually receive on-the-job training when they first start the role, and this typically lasts for a few months. Your employer might give you opportunities to take short courses that help you to better understand a particular area of the industry, either as part of your initial training or to support your ongoing professional development. These courses can cover topics like:

  • employment law

  • headhunting

  • interviewing skills

  • negotiation and sales skills

  • how to run an assessment centre

  • psychometric testing

Some recruitment agencies provide career development programmes that are suitable for graduates who want to progress their careers in this field quickly. You can also gain professional qualifications whilst you work from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. You study for these qualifications whilst you're already working in recruitment rather than being an entry requirement. You can also join professional bodies like the CIPD that can support your professional development and also give you opportunities for networking and accessing useful resources.

Related: What is continuing professional development?

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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