Experience required …..why?

previous experience requiredWhy is the recruitment industry so obsessed with hiring experienced recruiters?

I don’t want to underplay what we do as recruiters but, for all its challenges, let’s be honest it isn’t rocket science. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, an outgoing personality and good communication skills can become a good recruiter …many have carved out a successful and lucrative career on far less!

So why do so many recruitment agencies insist on experience? 

When I started in recruitment I was put through a couple of in house training sessions to cover off the basics and then was thrown in to the deep end running an end-to-end desk. I picked it up pretty quickly and was fairly effective more or less immediately. Not because I was particularly talented…..I was just enthusiastic and keen to get stuck in. And I am certainly not an exception. I was talking to a guy last week that started in recruitment only 5 months ago but has already billed over $160k in a start-up business…where there was no training…just a desk and a phone and ‘get on with it’. The history of people entering the recruitment industry with no experience and being successful quickly is there for all to see…….look in the mirror.

The argument is that with experience comes a track record, and therefore a better chance of that person being successful…or less risk of them failing. There is sometimes a perceived value in the client base and network an experienced recruiter can bring with them (although how often does this turn out not to be the golden goose it appears to be!). In leadership roles it is obviously important.

I get all of that. …and I am not saying experience means nothing. But to make it the number one criteria doesn’t make sense. Especially when it means you have to wait months and months to hire someone. Would it not make more sense to hire someone now with all the right raw skills who you could have up and running, making you money and growing your business……than waiting….and waiting ….and waiting…. When you consider that it is such a candidate short market, and good experienced recruiters are reluctant to move, even if you think you are selling them something ‘market leading’ and ‘unique’ it makes even less sense to hold out for that experience.

I value experience, but I think it is often overrated. Quite often experience just equals bad habits and a burnt out attitude. And you pay a lot more for the privilege!  The perceived need for experience is actually  just a mixture of ‘that is what everyone does’, ‘that is what we have always done’ laziness, and a morbid fear of the unknown. Only in a very few situations is it absolutely necessary.

We are seeing some agencies move their hiring away from experienced recruiters and investing in fresh talent, and not just at the graduate level. What is your experience? Would you only ever hire an experienced recruiter ….how much experience is enough…..and more importantly …..why?

Luke Collard


8 thoughts on “Experience required …..why?

  1. Mark Corduff on Reply

    From someone looking to get into recruitment this blog came across very interesting. I can see both sides of the argument, however I believe a good eye for the right candidates, along with some comprehensive training and motivation would be key to increasing business.

  2. Jessica on Reply

    I think there is a rationale for both. I would be happy to consider someone with little to no recruitment experience for some recruiting roles. Often times it’s the drive, wit and fit to our culture that is more significant. But, for our higher level roles and more complex clients, I would tend to seek out someone with industry experience.

  3. Sam on Reply

    We hired a guy with a Senior sales background but no specific recruitment experience. About 4 weeks in and he’s exceeded expectations. He’s agreeing terms with clients, has several exclusive jobs on and now has interviews lined up. The soft skills are the most important in my opinion, the process of recruitment can be trained easily to most people willing to give it a good go!

  4. Julie Hamilton on Reply

    Hi Luke, even though I’m a competitor and possibly shouldn’t be commenting on your blog, I couldn’t agree with you more, this issue drives me crazy! So many agencies are screaming for staff and frequently require people for cold desks. There is such a small percentage of experienced recruiters who will look at cold desks yet I hear from literally hundreds of people who just want to break into the industry and would happily hit the phones. For the most part, they cost less and they have less call reluctance so why not take a risk?

    This has been an issue for the entire 11 years that I’ve been in rec to rec and until we look at bringing new people in nothing will change – the same pool of experienced recruiters being constantly sought after by their competitors and desks sitting empty.

  5. Rob on Reply

    I will let the big boys invest in training my consultants and then I will give them a better environment. Simple really.

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