Talent Acquisition

How Can Recruiters Manage the Stress of the Job?

Within the role of a recruitment consultant, there are plenty of contributing factors to potential causes of stress and anxiety. I would like to explore what these trigger points can be, how recruiters can spot them and act before they scale up – becoming a serious health issue, and also how employers of recruiters can also take precautions to ensure their staff stay healthy mentally as well as physically.

Having worked in the recruitment sector for 17 years, I have had my fair share of stressful encounters to cope with and it amazes me how even the smallest thing can trigger a stress reaction. I am very self aware and capable of dealing with stress.

Personally, it has taken years to become wise to what triggers true stress in me: I am a “talker”, so often talk it through with appropriate people: I walk my dog to get physically away. I also write blogs to reflect on how things have made me feel.

In this article, I will share some advised coping strategies to ensure you too can face another day in recruitment and maintain good mental health too.

Trigger points:

Recruitment is a very rewarding job to have, with a lucrative remuneration package to compensate for the long hours and stress we face every day. However, is a high OTE and the status, symbols that enables us to have enough compensation versus the potential damage we are causing to ourselves from the stress we may face from those surrounding us?

Potential areas that stress can come from for a recruiter:

  • Desk – Running a desk is in itself a pressure. Hitting targets, whether that is KPIs, financial targets, headhunt calls or new business contacts. Daily targets can create a permanent state of tension in some people. However, without these targets in place there is no measure and it is nigh on impossible to actually be a recruiter. So these stress points necessary to succeed are within our control.
  • Team/Environment – Working in recruitment is very competitive and whilst healthy internal competition should be actively encouraged, there is a fine line between healthy banter to encourage better performance and the trip into unsavoury and dubious cultures, where “bottom drawing” can happen. A lack of collaboration and team spirit is very unpleasant and can create a silo effect.
  • Management – In cultures where top performers are promoted to management roles, they can become autocratic and unsympathetic managers themselves, which leads to a bullish and often unbearable management style.
  • Clients – Candidates and clients. When dealing with human beings, they are unpredictable and therefore can change their minds, alter their requirements, not return calls, accept a counter offer, retrospectively negotiate- the list is endless. This is the part of the job that I would summarise is the biggest cause of stress as very often, this aspect is out of our actual control.

All of the above factors are manageable as they are within our control…to an extent.

How can you spot you have a higher rate of stress or anxiety than is acceptable or deemed as normal? I personally think, you work well when under pressure in recruitment; however, once there are symptoms of stress becoming out of control, you have to take stock and make some changes. So what could these signs be?

Anxiety can cause physical changes, such as:

  • sweating
  • tension
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness or fainting
  • difficulty sleeping
  • more frequent illness, due to lower immune system
  • irritability

The signs and symptoms of stress are less “physical” and harder to spot:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

How should recruiters deal with stress?

There are external places you can turn to. You can speak to your Doctor about what is best for your particular symptoms and I would recommend exploring the following:

Meditation and mindfulness – A large number of global businesses now employ specific professionals to promote mindfulness – with its fundamental basis based on ancient Buddhism, Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.

Take care of yourself – 

  • Eat properly
  • take regular breaks during the day
  • Know when to WALK away from a situation, learn to say “NO”
  • Delegate tasks where appropriate
  • Take holiday entitlement
  • Avoid perfectionism and be pragmatic
  • Connect to others, you are not alone

How can employers ensure the good mental health of their recruitment staff?

  • Implement a buddy scheme, appoint mentors and champions
  • Have regular meetings and appraisals to understand HOW your staff are feeling
  • Make improvements and changes if there are common themes of stress in your workplace
  • Encourage breaks, holidays and time off as an inherent part of your culture
  • Employ an external mindfulness or meditative partner to come in periodically

Recruitment firms invest millions of pounds in training, support, development, media, advertising, databases, telecoms, offices, branding and so on.

It is about time recruitment firms realised that the strong mental health of their recruiters is just as important as their brand. I hope that our generation are less likely to stigmatise mental health issues that our predecessors, then we may start to see a growing trend of recruitment firms pioneering mindfulness and meditation within the work place.

I certainly hope so. It is far healthier than turning to the alternative…

How do you cope with the stress in recruitment? What advice would you give to others? Is stress and anxiety in recruitment a stigma in your opinion?

Noone is immune from stress, not even me and I think we should be talking about it more openly. What do you think?

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.