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How to build a long-term career in IT recruitment

Posted on 7/03/2018 by Gary Fay


We’re often asked about what working in recruitment is like. The answer is inevitably some variation of ‘recruitment isn’t easy - but the rewards are huge.’

Plenty of other jobs offer an altogether smoother ride. But for some – the sort of individuals we’re interested in here at identifi Global – a job is all about the challenge. Nothing is given to you in recruitment, but the opportunities for success are bountiful.

So how do you get your start? And, more importantly, how do you know IT recruitment is the right path for you?

With decades of experience between them, we pinned down our two directors, Gary Fay and Pete Sanders to get their views. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering moving into our industry.

What does a modern-day recruiter look like?

Pete: At a fundamental level, a recruitment consultant is an intermediary between organisations wishing to recruit (the client) and the individual seeking a career move or temporary assignment (the candidate). And our job is twofold: First identifying and developing client business relationships, and then finding the most suitable talent for those businesses.

But the role isn’t just about finding someone a job: It’s a consultative and advisory post - we build long-lasting and trusting relationships with clients and candidates alike. On the candidate side, we are at the heart of a personal life change and that’s a huge responsibility.       

Gary: Put simply, a recruiter is a salesperson. Recruiters present top talent to leading organisations who are looking for the missing piece of their puzzle.

If that sounds a lot like supply-and-demand, that’s because it is. Many business’ key challenge is finding the right individual for their team. The best candidates are so rare, it’s often described as ‘finding a unicorn’ when we identify the perfect person for a role.

This said, don’t let the sales element of recruiting fool you. We aren’t selling used cars, we are dealing with people and their emotions, it’s so important that we are aware of the high levels of stress associated with a career change.

Recruitment means dealing with highly qualified professionals and top-tier businesses as well as dealing with the emotional turmoil a job change can bring. We are dealing with individuals who all need a high level of personal advice, knowledge and management, this is why our candidate charter explicitly outlines the commitments we make to our candidates and the companies we work with. Finding these individuals and filling these roles takes research, understanding, patience, expertise, dedication and hard work.

Starting out in recruitment

Gary: Once you’ve found your IT recruitment role, there’s no reason to feel intimidated. Everyone starts somewhere, and no recruitment firm will (or should) expect you to fly from day one. At identifi, we prize attributes like sales and people skills above qualifications, and we’re willing to train employees without recruitment experience.

We encourage learning and development and always push the consultant to ask for help. We don’t expect them to know everything about getting into the recruitment industry. We encourage curiosity; new recruiters should ask questions of people.

An entry-level position within a recruitment firm should offer you an opportunity to shadow a recruiter who specialises in your area of interest. This experience will allow you to learn a style that works for you and the company. It’s also vital that you identify and begin to master the basics of researching, screening candidates and conducting phone interviews – as well as shadowing the client interview process.                     

Pete: Marketing yourself is more important than ever, too. IT recruitment is highly competitive. We encourage our consultants to make their expertise and knowledge available through their online persona and profile and social media activity. An individual’s online presence is now seen as a place to present their expertise and their credentials.

Once you’ve identified your niche, you’ll need to cultivate your online persona diligently. We teach our consultants how to showcase their expertise and personality to position themselves as credible recruiters.

What does the day-to-day look like?

Gary: Working in recruitment is a rewarding experience. You’re essentially in the business of helping people get their dream jobs and, in turn, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for facilitating the process. The thrill of filling a difficult and complex role never goes away, and the relationships you build with your candidates is a great part of the role.     

That said, an exceptional job requires exceptional commitment. Recruitment isn’t 9-to-5. Especially at the start of your career, doing the extra homework on your specialism is going to make the difference between you and your competitors – and it’s going to make demands on your time.

If you’re looking for a job that just requires you to clock in and clock out, then recruitment isn’t for you. Taking work home is required since your working hours will be filled with meeting people. While emails play their part, phone conversations are the staple of the job. We continually drive phone activity to ensure we stay front of mind and are not reliant on emails alone. The quicker we can personalise the relationship with candidates and companies with a 1:1 conversation and meetings, the better.

Pete: Agreed. While LinkedIn and career pages make it much easier to apply and learn more about available positions, nothing replaces the power of an in-person intro and exchange - nothing builds a relationship better than meeting in person, really understanding the candidate, getting a feel for them and being able to present that person’s characteristics, skills, personality and background to a client. Your instinct becomes an important part of your tool set.

We can and do apply technical assessments and personality assessments but being able to present your own personal opinion is invaluable. Even more so when the client trusts your opinion.

Away from the desk, recruiters will regularly attend meetings with clients and candidates and at networking events - it’s so important to ‘be interested’ and keep learning.   

What skills do you need?

Pete: Modern recruiting isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about throwing the proverbial against the wall and seeing what sticks. Instead, our job is solely focused on the quality of the candidate. The right candidates are hard to find, the skill is understanding what makes them the ‘right’ candidate.     

That’s why the best recruiters share common traits. They’re strong-willed, personable, and above all curious. When we’re hiring, we always look for a few key indicators: professional, ethical, bright, career-minded, driven, money-motivated, and competitive individuals but crucially they must be able to show empathy.

IT recruitment will require you to speak to people constantly and get to the heart of their needs. This level of understanding necessitates an insatiable curiosity.

Gary: Without candidates, we don’t have a business, being able to find candidates and talent is now the key skill required to be a successful recruiter. For those who watched the recent ‘Hunted’ series on Channel 4 where professional investigators tried to find 10 different contestants who’d run to the four corners of the country to hide, recruitment is much the same, finding people using different techniques, social media, intelligence and research. This is how we find the best talent, and you must be curious and determined.   

Modern recruiting is increasingly specialised. Industry-specific knowledge is, therefore, an absolute necessity to succeed. All wannabe recruiters need to do their homework beyond their 9-to-5 workday. The phrase “mile-wide but inch-deep” is often used to describe superficial knowledge on a subject. This is in direct contrast to what modern recruiting is all about.

Permanent recruiting or contractors?

Gary: IT recruitment also has one more key factor at play: the split between recruiting for permanent and contract roles. As a rule, recruiting for a permanent job will be a slower-paced, more delicate process - we are changing people's lives and helping them to manage their career is a big responsibility.

This is because permanent roles have a lower turnover rate and understanding a candidate’s motivations to move roles must become a primary focus. Whether it’s career progression, pay and reward, work-life balance, responsibility, location, their manager, opportunity, learning and development, the company culture, the sector, the technology, every candidate is different. You need to be able to cut to the heart of a candidate’s reasons for their job search, and that takes empathy and emotional intelligence.   

Placing contractors is naturally more frenetic, and candidates will repeatedly return to the recruitment stage - they are not typically making such an impactful life change. But they have many choices of who to work with therefore building trusted and long term relationships is crucial - having access to the best clients and roles become an important part of the contract recruiters role.                

The bottom line

Pete: Recruitment is not a normal job. Who wants normal, anyway?

Today, finding jobs with real opportunities for development is rare. But not in recruitment: There are always new roles, new clients, and new knowledge to learn. Recruiters have the privilege of witnessing – first hand – talented professionals changing their lives for the better.

Whether your aim is to become an industry expert, build a new career or make your every day more exciting, there’s something for you in IT recruitment.

Gary: Many years of experience have taught me that there is no exact formula for success as a recruiter, but I can be 100% sure in saying that it takes hard work, dedication to your sector and specialism -– and of course, you have to earn it. This is a job where hard work has a direct correlation to reward.

After 20-plus years in recruitment, I still jump out of bed each day and I can't wait to get to work. It’s 100mph and stressful coupled with some of the greatest ups you can have. I still learn something new every day and I get to work with incredibly talented candidates, I get to understand their lives and to know them personally. I work with companies who do the coolest things and are terrific organisations, some and small and new and innovative, some are large and well known - I work with private sector client and the public sector  - I’d encourage anyone who’s curious to find out more.


Are you a professional recruiter based in Beds, Herts or Bucks? identifi global are based in Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, the home of the National Computer Museum, identifi global are raising the game in IT and technology recruitment. Getting creative with our incentives in keeping with our roots, identifi are a fun-loving bunch who are looking to grow. Learn more about our company here.