*Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the facts have been changed to protect the guilty

I was sitting with one of my first mentors (In recruitment) in a pub last the other night (This took longer to write than expected) catching up and lamenting our life choices, as you do. We got round to the topic of blogging, and my current role in a start-up agency.

“You should write a effing blog about how hard recruitment is, all this bashing of Recruiters on LinkedIn and people don’t understand sometimes how bloody hard it is to start out.”

I sat across from him, putting the recruitment world to rights. This article would be magnificent, we sat there hashing out all the issues over the years we have faced, and putting the world to writes. It would be a glorious blog.

Sadly this blog is not that, as I fail to remember 90% of what we were talking about… But ill give it a shot…

Where did it all go wrong?

A common question that will pop up as you progress in Recruitment is “How did you get into recruitment.” For people of my age, it was generally something you fell into, you met a recruiter about another job and ended up working there the next day. Something about a set of Aston Martin keys being dumped on the table and a shiny rolex turns a candidates head. But you didn’t really have a grasp of what you were going to be doing. Finding people jobs? How hard can that be?

If you went to work for one of the big agencies you would actually get to go on some pretty intense training courses. Mainly based around CV screening, and Business Development. Sourcing was left to a 10 minute orientation in the office. You would start out as a resourcer on between 16-20k and be berated all day, every day until you figured it out and started finding good Candidates. It was sink or swim.

The thing with the big agencies is that they have all the good accounts already. If you are lucky you will get to work on one of these accounts and you are set for life. You logon to an ATS and get sent 100’s of jobs a week. Just fill a few and hit your KPI’s and try not to upset any of the top billers.

Now say you went to a boutique firm, you are thrown straight into the world of 360 recruitment. Business Development all day long, and eventually you will find that one person who is in a good mood and will give you a shot. You then drop everything and desperately scramble around trying to find the perfect candidate to fill the job and get some juicy repeat business. Rinse repeat, until you learn any better.

You are only as good as your last deal

A well-known saying in recruitment. It doesn’t matter what you did last week, last month, last year. If you’re not billing you are a cost, and you are expendable. Some firms consultants can hide behind KPI’s and get away without billing. But boutique/start-up you have nowhere to hide. You need to make money, you need to deliver. You genuinely can end up in a bad run of luck, and be coming in every day wondering if today is the day you will lose your job, its soul destroying. It’s often why you are told to control the process as much as possible, if there are factors you can’t control then your chance of filling the role reduces.

Barriers to Entry

If you work in a market such as finance you will, at some point, try and work with one of the big banks. You get on LinkedIn and start looking up people in your chosen (Boss told you that you are expert in it) Vertical and hit the phones like a madman. Sadly they have a PSL. So you then spend, what feels like, months circumventing the network of Internal Recruiters who are not actually direct employees but part of an RPO. The PSL is generally up for review exactly one year from the date of your call. You are informed it is very rare it is actually changed. You are also informed if you try and pitch to managers off PSL this will not go down well when they review. However even if you get on the PSL you are told not to speak to line management without permission, if you do you will be removed… Even though nobody is ever removed… So how exactly do you tender for the PSL? You need to know someone, but you are new… The person in your local Costa still doesn’t know your usual order.

Speaking of PSL’s…

I suppose I am lucky to have worked for an agency with an RPO element for a few big companies… And I worked on one of the accounts. Most of the agencies on the PSL have been on their since they came to meetings on penny farthings.

PSL’s are a mythical beast, nobody knows how it was decided, you can basically call the Hiring Manager of a role, and the RPO a “Bunch of useless morons,” and launch into a much longer diatribe of why the Manager is an idiot, on a tube… Whilst standing next to that Manager and still not be removed from the PSL purely as the company is too big (True story. You know who you are.) Bet that 2 week “suspension” hurt though…

Even if you find out the PSL (All 3 tiers of it), has not filled a role that has been outstanding for 3 months. The Manager is going mad, screaming for CV’s… They will not release to Agencies off PSL… Because “It sets a precedent.” For what? Getting the job done?

It’s not what you know, it is not even who you know, it can just be dumb blind luck

Been working on a client for 3 months, you have an org chart on the wall of your office. The receptionist puts you through to whoever you want, when you want. You even sent terms across, and a Manager said she will call you next time they struggle.

You take a day off to watch the notebook to have an emotional clear out. Come back in the next day, and you find out a Manager from that company called in and gave a position to one of your colleagues. You didn’t know the manager, he wasn’t on the system. The client is now your colleagues.

Motherfu…. I need another day off.


We work some crazy hours, especially in the first few years. Nobody gets overtime because: “The more hours you work, the more chance of billing you have”

Uhh thanks.

People look at you like you have the Plague

Whenever someone asks what you do for a living… I used to actually be vague about what I do. Even my Opticians has me listed down as a “Consultant.” When strangers find out you work in Recruitment they suddenly remember they left Kevin at home and he has a knack for destroying the house when left alone, and puff they are gone.

There is a stigma about Recruiters, we are always looking for clients/contacts. In most cases its true. We have to be.

Starting out is fricking tough. It’s good that less people are falling into Recruitment these days. I see a lot of people on LinkedIn who are genuinely interested and researching the market before jumping into it as a job. You will make so many mistakes as you progress in your career, and some of your best work will be done before you understand all the problems and barriers you will hit in your career. Just remember there are a lot of us in the same boat.

Tim Chattaway – Recruiter, probably never getting work from an RPO again.