Talent Acquisition

What are the Challenges of Being a New Recruiter?

I was watching the highlights of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge on Sky Sports which entailed 16 teams from around the world attempting to row 3,000 nautical miles from La Gomera to Antigua. It has been described as one of the toughest challenges on the planet.

While I was watching, it occurred to me that many of the highs and lows the teams were facing throughout the challenge can be attributed to other tests we face in everyday life.

The emotional rollercoaster they were going through also reminded me of the trials and tribulations and ups and downs of being a young recruitment consultant. Here are my thoughts:


The initial training is tough and the learning curve is incredibly steep for new recruiters. Not only is there much to learn in terms of identifying candidates, interviewing, qualifying clients, writing job adverts, writing job and person specifications, canvassing new prospective clients and all other aspects of the recruitment process, you also have to learn how to communicate confidently with professionals many years your senior and learn to deal with rejection regularly.

But like all aspects of life the more you practise, the easier it gets and, eventually, you will be able to achieve things that you would never have dreamed possible.

As a young recruiter, with less than a year’’s experience, I recall the sharp intake of breath I took when a prospective client advised me they were seeking 3 Sales Directors (1 group, 2 divisional). The training kicked in:

  1. I qualified the requirements, timescales and decision making process.
  2. Having asked the right questions, I was well positioned to prescribe the right solution.
  3. Approximately 9 weeks later I concluded the successful placement of 3 Sales Directors resulting in considerable fee income and bonus, which ultimately allowed me to purchase my first property.

This had come through considerable hard work and a huge amount of rejection beforehand, but would not have been possible without it. Neither would it have been possible without the training and coaching I received, particularly in the first 6 months of my recruitment career.

Often during this period I doubted my ability, the process and the potential. When it gets hard and it feels like you are never going to make it – keep going. The horizon may be the next call/ interview away!


How do you get the recruitment ball rolling with no network to speak of?

How do you get people to trust you who have never had any contact with you before?

Like with the Atlantic challenge, preparation is ultimately the key.

All businesses are seeking to improve their business and if you can present them with the opportunity, through the introduction of an appropriate and excellent candidate, they will engage with you. Taking the time to thoroughly research the businesses you plan to target is time well spent and will ensure your credibility.

It is also critical that you take the time to meet and understand the candidate (their skill set, their ambitions, their values etc…). In doing so, you will be confident that you can handle any questions that are thrown at you. You should know your candidate well and should not need time to reflect on their location, salary, why they are planning to leave their employer/why they have left.

You should also have a detailed understanding of their role, goals and achievements and why they stand out as someone you have taken the time to work with. If you don’’t have a thorough appreciation of your candidate, the market and the target client then don’’t make the call.


Especially earlier on in your career, it is easy to get emotionally invested in a company or an individual when you have been working with them for a significant period of time. So it can be devastating when a storm sets in just as you think it is about to be plain sailing.

A young recruiter described to me recently how he had taken a candidate to market, guided them right through the interview process, which included a meeting with the Sales Manager and then the Company Director, for the candidate to inform him that he had agreed to take a job with a ‘mate’ during a game of golf, just as the contract was about to be agreed.

He said it felt like he had been punched in the face!


During the first few weeks it can sometimes feel like you are fighting against the tide and there is no end in sight – your first lead just isn’’t going to happen, but then all of a sudden something unexpectedly appears over the horizon.

A young recruiter recently told me his experience of a long process which eventually led to his first placement: he rang a Managing Director speculatively who initially showed very little interest in the candidate. Following the call, the MD asked for the CV. After the CV had been sent the H.R manager for the organisation called (almost immediately) to agree terms and conditions which seemed strange given the Director’s lack of interest, regardless terms were agreed.

Due to challenging timescales and busy diaries of all concerned the process was challenging and seemed unlikely to be concluded. However his training had taught him to qualify, qualify and qualify again – he did and eventually this resulted in the candidate being offered the job, accepting and starting the position. It was jubilation, celebrations and champagne all around when his first placement finally came to shore.


Working in recruitment is a rollercoaster of emotions. It is exhilarating striving to surpass monthly targets, but there can be many disappointments along the way. It is exciting trying to find clients exactly what they are looking for or placing an exceptional candidate in an organisation where they didn’t think it would be possible.

The sea can be extremely choppy for an experienced recruiter, never mind someone starting out, but if you are determined, resilient and can get through the initial few months without getting ship wrecked, then there can be many high points and the rewards can be great.

By Newman Stewart

Newman Stewart is an Executive Search and Management Selection company who helps excellent businesses employ excellent people. We are experts in our field and proud of the results we achieve for our clients. With a vast proven track record of success, nationally and internationally, we are the retained, recruitment partner of choice to many national, multi-national and small businesses.