Ich bin ein Recruiter

I am a recruiter. Je suis un recruiter. Ich bin ein recruiter. If you cut me, I bleed CV’s (resumes).

I recognise that is a little odd to declare a love of a relatively abstract process, but this is a very peculiar business. Some might describe us as parasite, some might claim to be the grease which oils the wheels of industry. The truth is somewhere in between, but both are equally right and wrong.

Over 33 years, I have met, employed, and worked alongside thousand of recruiters, who all have their own unique perspective on what they do, how they do it, and what they get out of it.  For my part, I am a born nosey parker. I have as much interest in those who fail to get an offer, as those who I have placed. On the other side of the equation, I have an abiding fascination with the employers I have worked with, and how their organisations are structured to do what they do. I have blogged frequently about this, so shan’t go on about it here.

Up until 3 weeks ago, there were estimated to be around 90,000 people in the UK recruitment sector, not including the many thousands of in-house recruiters embedded within employers themselves. We know now that due to the present unpleasantness, some 50% of agency recruiters have already been furloughed or laid off. For those remaining, the luxury of a salary is balanced with the jeopardy of a crashing market in most employment sectors. Hospitality, most retail, and manufacturing sectors have come to a (hopefully temporary) stop, with no date set for the ball to start rolling again. Yes, there are some sectors which are not immediately threatened, but such is the interdependency of all markets, and the breadth of the lockdown, that for all intents we can assume that no one will be hitting any targets this May. As a direct result, job board numbers have collapsed, meaning Stepstone (Totaljobs Group) have furloughed up to 60% of staff, and ZipRecruiter are reporting similar numbers.

In my three decades, I have come through several recessions, and a couple of depressions. If nothing else, the recruitment sector is specifically designed to be resilient. At its heart, recruitment agency business are very simple organisations, and able to expand and contract extremely quickly in line with market sentiment. This means that the businesses (with some exceptions) can survive, but does not guarantee employment for those recruiters at the coal face.  As a former agency owner, I always knew that the very best recruiters were those who have the entrepreneurial talent and determination to set up their own firm, and my job was to find a way to hold on to them.

Every time there is a traumatic market event, good people are shaken up and a sizeable chunk decide to go out on their own. In such a cyclical business, this is the circle of life. I did this very thing in 1993, and people who worked for me have gone on to do it themselves. The best ones will know how to make the most of this market, knowing full well that any imbalance in supply and demand is exactly the best circumstance for skilled recruiters to prove their value. After the financial crash of 2008, employers dramatically changed the market themselves by deciding to invest heavily in their in-house teams, and to rely less on external agencies.

Again, those skilled recruiters find a way, shake the mud from their feet, and rise from the ashes.

This year’s International Recruiters Day may well be more subdued than ever before, but no less assertive. We usually have some fun with the notion of having a “day”, but the idea is simply to recognise what we are, stripped of pretence and pomp, and to know our value. We may not be curing cancer, or even COVID19, but we do each touch thousands of lives.

I recruit, therefore I am. (tongue in cheek)