Talent Acquisition

Can a Recruiter Swap Sectors and Disciplines?

As a Rec2Rec, one of the most commonly talked about subjects is whether a recruiter can cross over from one sector or discipline into another.

Having done this myself on three occasions (I started out in white collar perm engineering then moved into a new desk for advertising agencies, before setting up a R2R desk) I am naturally an advocate of recruiters having the potential to move across to a new sector if they so wish. However this seems to be a topic which literally divides opinion more than anything else in my daily job!

I want to explore both arguments and then ask you for your opinions as to which you believe is right for you/your business or just generally speaking.

Recruitment consultants CAN move into a new sector:

  • If you are a capable true “360” recruiter: (ie. you are accomplished at picking up the phone and actually creating new and developing business relationships yourself) then that skill can surely be applied to any environment if you have the essential behaviour of a “hunter”.
  • If a successful recruiter wants to leave their current role: sometimes it is because they are bored and want to develop their own skills further. So by moving into a new sector, this creates an exciting new challenge for them to replicate their success but in a new arena.
  • The relationships that you gain during the span of a recruitment job in one sector can be leveraged in other ways: for example, if you have been placing sales staff into commerce but you want to move into HR recruitment, you can utilise the existing contacts you already have.
  • If a recruiter is involved in a vertical market: and that sector begins to struggle, as we all know this CAN and does happen (look at retail, property, financial services in 2008/9!) then the previously successful recruiter can do little to change it, their skills are not the problem and they can surely return to those relationships when the market recovers- which it obviously has done.

Recruitment Consultants CAN’T move from one sector to another:

  • The added value component: Without the existing relationships and networks within a sector, the recruiter comes with a price tag and regrettably may cost a recruitment company more if they have to effectively start from scratch with no proven track record in the new sector. A costly trainee?
  • There is no guarantee that a recruiter who has been successful in one market will be in another: It can be “horses for courses” can’t it- a very technically focused recruiter, for example, one who places contract IT developers is not going to necessarily be as agile when it comes to headhunting for HR Managers or Sales Directors et al which are equally personality driven.
  • Once bitten twice shy. If a previous hire has cost a recruitment company money because the recruiter couldn’t transfer over, it’s a case of “tarnished with the same brush” and how could any recruiter possibly make the successful move.

Having done R2R for a long time (well, since 2003 and 2005 for myself…!) I can honestly say that on the whole, if the recruiter has the desire to move into a new sector and they are moving into a company that is supportive, has a collaborative culture over sharing information on clients, sector specifics (such as jargon and market drivers) and trends, then the move tends to be very successful.

Where it isn’t a successful transfer is where the recruiter in question is left to fend for themselves, with no-one taking the mentoring role in relaying their sector wisdom to them. I don’t want to use the world “selfish”………

Ultimately (and I know this may be contentious), you can dress some recruitment sectors and jobs up in lots of fancy titles etc, but we ALL do the same role and so if the mechanics are the same, or at least similar, then SURELY it IS possible to move over?!

Recruitment is not rocket science – let’s face it- and as half the battle is desire and ability, then surely the easiest part to teach someone is the industry aspect. What do you think? Have you transferred from one sector to another? Perhaps you have built your own hiring model on taking recruiters from one background and moulding them into your niche market? I would love to hear your experiences and share them with everyone.

Whatever happens, I always say, base any hiring decision on an individual basis and please don’t rule by the “one size fits all” mentality as we all know, it doesn’t!

By Lysha Holmes

Lysha Holmes is founding director of Qui Recruitment established in 2005 to completely challenge the traditionally poorly perceived service offered by other Rec 2 Rec providers. Lysha as Qui Recruitment is dedicated to representing the best talent to the best suited roles, focussing on placing recruiters of all levels in a candidate led service across the NW.