Why Recruitment ISN’T a sales job!


I’m going to be honest, when I first got into recruitment I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.  I’d been made redundant from my role as a German Speaking customer service agent and was desperate to find something that would help pay off the student loan.

“Recruitment pays well” said one friend.

“Will I have to speak German anymore?” I questioned

“Nein” he replied (he thinks he is a comedian).

“Sign me up!” and that’s when I started applying.

During my interview process at my previous company, I had 3 interviews, all of which pushed me on the fact that recruitment is a sales job, do I have the tenacity, am I prepared for the long hours, can I negotiate the deals etc?  I was more than confident I could do the job, even though I never thought I was a salesman.

In the second interview, the cliché was put to me.  “Can you sell me this pen?” (remember, this was 14 years ago now)


I fell in to the usual trap and started extolling my perception of its virtues, rather than information gathering first.  Luckily they were desperate, and so didn’t eject me from the process and eventually appointed me.

Now, 14 years on, I still don’t think I’m a salesman.  I don’t see myself standing out on a metaphorical forecourt, trying to persuade people to buy something that they’re not sure they want, just because I have sales targets to hit.

My role does involve making sales, but that is a by-product of my role as I see it.  My role is a relationship development role- building understanding and trust with my clients and candidates, so that they can entrust me to either find them the RIGHT role, or the RIGHT candidate, rather than just any old role or candidate that suits me.

My best clients used to be my candidates, and often when many of my clients decide to move on or face redundancy, they will seek my advice or assistance.  If I treated my role as a pure sales role, I’d be approaching my role as a more transactional process(usually the one that will make me the most money!)  Do you think those clients and candidates would remember me and bring me future business?

The problem is that many recruiters out there do still see it as a sales role and are peddling their wares on that basis.  Using their candidates like a commodity rather than people on a career path.  Clients will receive relentless approaches from numerous agencies (often from a different consultant each time), pushing forward a faceless candidate who could be anyone, rather than discussing a personality with ambitions and aspirations!

So, if you just look at recruitment as a pure transactional sales role, go for it!  You’ll make money, certainly in the short term- the more muck you throw at the wall, the more will stick.

But, if you want longevity, repeat business and more importantly job satisfaction- remember that your job involves people, not products.  Get to know your customers-clients and candidates- give them your time and interest.  Develop the relationship.  Develop understanding.  Develop Trust.  Then the sales will come …


Know your audience…and where to find them!

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet for the past few weeks (or equally, you probably didn’t).  However I know a couple of you did (thanks Steve and Sue for checking where the next blog was..!;)

I have been away on my first 2 week holiday in I don’t remember how many years and it was lovely.  Admittedly, I had to keep checking in on work but that’s what happens when you are running part of a business.


We went to Turkey.  We often go as we have friends over there, and I would definitely recommend it, despite the bad press it has at the moment.  It was as wonderful, friendly, hot and enjoyable as it always is.  Nothing has changed.

Except one thing.

It was quiet.

Really quiet actually.  Apparently, tourism is down by 40% this year.  And it’s not looking much better for next year!

Now, I’m not emailing to brag about having been on holiday, but some of the behaviours over there got me thinking about my clients (I love you all that much!).

Tourism is down and all the restauranteurs, boat owners, sea sports owners are all down about it.  They complain about how tough it is at the moment- they rely on the summer season to earn money for the rest of the year.  So what are they doing DIFFERENTLY to overcome this issue?


Well, not nothing exactly.  They are doing what they have always done- which is try and tempt people in from the streets, use holiday reps to bring them business etc.  But that’s not going to increase their business, as that’s not really their problem.  They need to get people to their country in the first place!

And it’s the same as many of my clients.  When I ask them how they are recruiting their next role, they’ll often say they are advertising on their own website, local press or putting it in Inside Housing (other Housing publications are available).  And then when I ask what type of person they are hoping to find, the answer is often,

“oh, we want someone a bit different, someone who is a little more commercial, who can bring some fresh ideas and challenge how we currently operate”.

But you’re advertising for that in the same way you always do?

I have just worked with a Housing Association who had created a brand new role, unique to many Housing Associations to help them adapt to this new environment we find ourselves in.  They had advertised themselves in their usual routes and had a disappointing response.


So I met with them and we looked at what they wanted to achieve and tracked back from there.  What we did was actually a targeted Linkedin campaign, approaching people from an entirely different industry, but one that would bring in the right ideas, behaviours and processes.  We ran a targeted Twitter campaign.  We also attended a couple of networking events in the area aimed at private sector companies to find some referrals.  Within 3 weeks, we’d had a really great shortlist of 4 people, all of whom were appointable, so they were spoilt for choice!

So when you are recruiting, think about the following:

  • What does our ideal candidate look like (experience, background)?
  • Where would that person look for work? Also, where does that person go/what do they read/how do they communicate or interact?
  • How can we access that? And how do we need to present ourselves to attract them?


Don’t just do the same old, same old.  There are so many options out there now- use all of them at different times, as long as they are the right ones, for the right audience.

I’d be interested in hearing of any similar experiences, especially any success stories of what worked for you, as it could help me find solutions for other clients in the future!