Is a Recruitment Consultant the Ultimate Sales Role?

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recruitment consultant

Since joining my company a number of well meaning clients have said to me ‘you’re quite good at this, have you ever considered a career in sales?’   It always surprises me how many people don’t realise that recruitment is indeed very much a sales role.  In fact, I believe recruitment could be the ultimate sales role.

In a traditional sales environment, each day is spent selling the attributes of your product to a customer.  For example an IT sales person will know the features and benefits of their piece of software and will be able identify and analyse the needs of their clients, matching their solution’s benefits to those requirements.  After ongoing negotiation this will hopefully result in a signed contract and successful sale.

In recruitment, the process is exactly the same.  The recruitment consultant identifies the needs of the client and then matches the skills and requirements of relevant candidates to meet that need.  However, there are a number of fundamental differences which makes recruitment even more challenging than the traditional sales environment.

Firstly, as well as consulting with and identifying the needs of the client company, the recruitment consultant additionally needs to sell the job role, working environment and potential for future career growth to the prospective employee.  In other words there are two clients: the recruiting organisation and the candidate.

This dynamic is intensified by skills shortages across many industries.  Today’s buoyant economy has led to a situation where there are many more job vacancies available than suitable, quality applicants.  For those looking for a new role this means they can be far more selective when choosing their next employer and expect multiple job offers.  On the other hand, for firms trying to hire and retain good staff the task is more challenging as not only do they need to attract the best potential applicants to interview, but now pro-actively persuade them to join the organisation. This is where utilising a recruitment consultant who has really taken the time to understand a candidate’s professional and personal drivers comes into its own.

Every time, the recruitment consultant needs to operate on two levels identifying and fulfilling the requirements of the company and secondly clarifying and appeasing the evolving aspirations of the candidate.

The recruitment challenge is further compounded by the fact that the candidate is also the so called ‘product’.   However, unlike a piece of software, this is a ‘product’ that thinks for itself.  Its performance during a demonstration (interview) can be variable and most challenging of all, it also changes its mind.  This makes the sales recruitment process particularly fluid with numerous aspects potentially influencing the outcome of the closure of the deal.  With such rapidly changing dynamics, progress of the sale can change by the minute.  It is the recruitment consultant’s role to try to manage these variables and ensure all parties are kept on track.

However, one difference compared with traditional sales is that sales cycles are generally much shorter within the recruitment industry.  This can have both advantages and disadvantages for recruitment consultants.  

The typical time period for a complete interview process should be under three weeks.  This makes it easier to assess – on a daily basis – if team targets are likely to be met.  However, for staff this can mean there is no respite in pressure compared with roles where the sales cycles are much longer.  This results in an environment where only the most consistently motivated staff will succeed.  

Many people believe recruitment is all about simply having the right role or candidate at the right time and indeed with any corporate sales role ‘product meeting opportunity’ is an important aspect.  However, recruitment – exactly like sales – is all about identifying and satisfying the needs of customers.  
The only differences lie in the fact that recruiters have two sets of clients and a product with a mind of its own, making recruitment the ultimate sales role.

Mike BettsMike Betts is Director at recruitment services company STR Sales
STR delivers cost-effective recruitment services built on quality, professionalism and trust.  The company works closely in partnership with clients to ensure smooth, consistent and targeted recruitment.  Clients include Azzurri, Haymarket Publishing, Accenture and the BBC.


Published On: 29th Jun 2007

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