The industry needs to balance two sets of competencies, says Gillian Hyde, director of Psychological Consultancy

In the December 2013 issue of Recruiter, readers in recruitment roles were invited to take part in an online assessment to see where they lay on the personality spectrum, how their personality reflected their level of competency at work and how these might affect performance at work.

We received a total of 113 responses, which were then, anonymously, collated as a representative sample of the recruitment industry. Of the respondents, 80% were agency employees and 20% in- house. There was an even split between gender, and most respondents were at mid- to senior-level (58%), working full-time (96%).

The purpose of the study was to ascertain whether there were clear competencies that identify a ‘recruitment type’, and if so, how the ‘type’ compares with the general population.

What type of person does the industry attract, and are there any differences in terms of in-house or consultant, age, or length of career?


A ‘recruitment type’

Some of the competencies that we identified probably bring few surprises. Recruiters score significantly higher than the general population for persuasive communication, risk-taking, results orientation, self- confidence and creativity. These results are good news, as the demands of the job surely necessitate such outgoing and dynamic characteristics.

We found that these competencies were widespread across both in-house recruiters and consultancies, and that they occurred irrespective of length of experience or of gender.


Untypical competencies

Our sample also scored below average for other competencies, which could be considered essential for the job: project management; customer focus and interpersonal sensitivity.

Skills that are generally believed to be necessary for recruitment consultants fall roughly into these same two camps. So on the one hand, having strong sales skills, a ‘hunter’s mentality’ and an ability to start relationships are often sought after, alongside the more organised and interpersonal skills of following up, listening, and being able to offer consultancy skills and advice to both clients and candidates.

Some key gripes from clients and candidates about recruiters were a lack of empathy, attention to detail and too great a focus on chasing the commission, rather than nurturing the relationship between candidates and clients.


Effect on performance

The question therefore is: is too much expected from our recruiters? In these times of fierce competition and the need for an agency to offer a unique service that sets them apart, consultants are required to win business in a cut-throat industry, while also building long-term relationships, sensitively managing client and candidate expectations, and meticulously following through.

How can the industry get around this dichotomy? If it wants really excellent salespeople, it is unlikely to get excellent relationship nurturers. If fulfilling both requirements becomes the guiding principle for selecting recruitment consultants in the future, then there is a possibility that the skill set of successful applicants will be watered down. Those selected may well be all-rounders, but likely to be average at selling and average at relationship management.

This dilemma also poses an interesting question for the future of recruitment agencies and the path they choose to take. The recruitment industry will get more competitive, the industry is moving towards sector niches, and there is a greater emphasis on key performance indicators (KPIs) and meeting business targets for growth.

At the same time, there is a danger of candidates becoming more commoditised, and the use of social media to find suitable candidates is growing. So is the number of people who lose the opportunity to develop a more personal relationship during their career transition.

All these factors lend themselves to the way our ‘recruitment type’ likes to work, but at what cost? Is this how clients and candidates want to work? Probably not.

Recruiters may need to take a good look at whether their working practices are serving their personality type, or whether they are serving their customers’ requirements.


Getting the right balance

So what might recruiters do to balance their ‘type’ with job criteria? It could be argued that if an agency wants to offer a more personal and committed service to their clients, then they need to either: hire a different breed of recruitment consultant who brings softer skills to the job, but with a danger that sales may fall; or they need two different types of people for two roles — a hard-hitting, dynamic salesperson to bring in new business, and a more interpersonally sensitive, nurturing client and candidate account manager type.

All too often, employers draw up descriptions of ideal candidates for jobs, listing myriad combinations of knowledge, skills and abilities that would be virtually impossible to find in just one person. Recruiters need to think carefully about what they really need from their employees, and whether the criteria are realistic.


Power Points

Recruiters score above average in the following competencies:

  • Persuasive communication • Risk-taking
• Results orientation
• Self-confidence
  • Creativity
These all suit a sales-driven, fast-paced environment. Recruiters score below average in:
• Project management
• Customer focus
• Interpersonal sensitivity

All of the above are essential for relationship-building, working with potential candidates, and seeing a placement through to completion.

Possible effects of the ‘recruitment type’ on the industry

  • Strong adherence to KPIs and targets
• Over-reliance on impersonal tools — online CVs and social media
• Commoditisation of candidates
• Loss of long-term client relationships
Action points:
• Recruit an all-rounder, but be prepared for just satisfactory sales and account management
  • Recruit an outstanding salesperson and, separately, an effective account handler who can nurture relationships and see through a project from start to completion.


Published June 2014, Recruiter Magazine.

To read the original article, please click here.