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Is recruitment consulting the most stressful job in the world?

According to a study by the unlikely combination of Siemens and The Stroke Association, people who work in recruitment are particularly stressed – more so than lawyers, teachers, marketing professionals and bankers.

The study doesn’t explain the precise source of recruiters’ angst but, according to the recruiters we spoke to, it’s partly attributable to the pay structure.

“This is a sales job,” says one. “You’re working on commission so it’s bound to be stressful.”

“It’s no more stressful than being a trader,” says the head of another recruitment firm dismissively. “There’s stress with any well-remunerated City job.”

Phillip Hodson, a counsellor known for his work with disconsolate white-collar workers, doesn’t have too many recruitment consultants on his books, but says some of his best friends are recruiters: “Recruitment isn’t like selling a joint of lamb or two pounds of apples – you have to manage people, who are inherently unpredictable. It can be very hard to meet someone’s expectations of the perfect job.”

But rather than recruitment consultants, Hodson says it’s bankers who are currently queuing up for psychological modification.

“The whole world of investment banking and financial services is an emotional mess,” he muses. “Enquiries from bankers are up around 10% on last year. People are increasingly exploring the notion of getting out of the industry, but if you’re a 40-year-old investment banker on a six-figure package, switching to become a primary school teacher on 26k a year is a hard move to make.”

Comments (46)

  1. Softies.

    Duke of Lancaster VI Reply
  2. I have to agree that any job where you are being rewarded a considerable amount of money is bound to be stressful. I work in Recruitment and am stressed pretty much 24-7 but I feel thats justthe environment I work in. My boyfriend works in Investment Banking and he is also stressed pretty much all the time. Maybe its just the City that does that to you?????

  3. Yes I absolutely agree. As a recruiter I am totallly aware of the daily pressures, targets etc. You are dealing with people whose decision making is totally unpredictable – after all its not an exact science.
    On point I would like to add is that the successful closing or non closure of a 50k fee/placement can be the difference between promotion or redundancy

  4. Rubbish! Try working in a role where you have the stress piled on to you every minute of the day, so much so that you don’t even have time to go to the toilet or get a drink of water. My first job was at the airport, dealing with stressed passengers, delayed flights and terminally irate managers. All that for less than 1k a month. Now that’s stressful!

  5. There is lots of pressure, especially now when there are so many candidates and not much in the way of a jobs boom.

  6. Darren I totally agree. Managing people is the hardest thing to do when really you have no control over their decision. Plus If you dont bill you dont have a job. End of! So I would say that it is a different type of stress that we have to deal with. Cant complain about the pay though :-)

  7. Recruitment consultants are the worst form of parasite in the city. I hope their job gets even more stressful, so we see alot more of them dropping off.

  8. Compared to what British soldiers are going through in Iraq and Afghanistan, all for negligable pay recruitment is a doddle!

  9. There are more stressful jobs out there for certain. Mainly those where you paid badly and face off against the general public and don’t get an opportutnity to change things. A Mcjob would be far worse.

    However it can be a very testing environment. Recrutiment is allways going to be stressfull job – you are constantly put under pressure from candidates, clients, colleauges and your boss. Its a target driven environement. If you don’t make revenue there is nowhere to hide. Something that all the candidates who post inane and ill informed comments on this website should remember when they are slagging off our industry.

    The up side is that it’s a lot less stressful now there are more candidates around. In this market as a recruiter you actually get to do all the aspects of the consultancy job – ie asses and select a shortlist for your client and make more informed judgements as to who not to send as well as do the business develoment and touchy feeley.

    Much better than having to bend over backwards to accomodate candidates that you know are NOT very good and are only going to tell you they are staying with their current firm when you finally get to an offer stage.

    Messerfreezone Reply
  10. Brent, there is very little difference between the worst Investment bankers and the worst Recruiters, at least with Recruitment though we are trying to help people get work rather than make money out of other peoples losses………. I do agree that the down turn should hopefully get rid of some of the worst recruiters.

    Anti-Banking Bod Reply
  11. Brent

    Yet another gross generalisation from an idiot with very little idea of what a proper recruiters does.

    Am guessing you’re struggling in the current market? Remember we’re recruiters not magicians – a bad candidate is a bad candidate.

  12. Hmmm, brent when was the last time you were headhunted? Hit a soar spot have we?? You have no idea how hard we work and to be honest with you your comment about recruitment consultants being “parasites” is not only naive but damn right rude!!!

  13. Anon and Kerry’s posts crack me up…actually I work for a large US bank in commodities (Hint: the one with the least writedowns) so am certainly not struggling in the current mkt. I stick by my earlier post, and it’s a reflection of my experience with rec consultants,

  14. There are some awful recruiters out there. As a recruitment consultant we know who they are, and unfortunately clients and candidates do not. The one man bands who spray CVs all over the market, fail to meet candidates, return phone calls etc but still make a lot of money, they’re the parasites who give the industry a bad name. The ones who sacrifice short term cash for the long term interests of client and candidate, they’re the ones who ought to stand out. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of room for one man bands to carry on.

    Anti-Greenwich Reply
  15. Sure you do Brent, sure you do… Sitting around playing on websites at Goldmans… Joker.

  16. To Brent the person who thinks that Recruitment consultants are Parasites – How did you get your current postion? Like us or loath us you need us and there will always be a place in the city for us.

  17. I work in recruitment for financial services and it’s a doddle compared to some jobs. While not totally stress free, it’s close to it and there aren’t many jobs where you can earn over 100k simply for sending emails and speaking on the phone. I am lucky enough to work for a fantastic company that really looks after it’s staff AND I’m good at my job which helps. It’s true that dealing with people can be unpredictabe and sometimes annoying, but that’s part of the job of being a recruiter. The day to day work of a recruiter isn’t in itself stressful if you manage your time properly and actually understand your market and clients’ needs. It’s crap recruiters, the twats that run most recruitment firms and the environement they engender within those firms that creates stress. For the record, I comfortably earn a 6 figure salary and I have over 10 years experience in both large agency and niche players so I do know what I’m talking about. I’d like to add that I’m loving the chaos in the market and find it’s actually making things more interesting. Also, the industry is overdue a shake up and I’m keen to see who will still be standing when the dust settles.

  18. The stress of recruitment made me very ill. I was once a good looking, but fairly average headhunter, the constant pressure caused me all sorts of intestinal problems, and I went from looking like Jonny Depp to a drowned rat. I have moved out of town now and my bowls are back to normal.

  19. I’d be very intrigued to hear what the consultants who found Brent his last 2 or 3 roles have to say on his nasty and down right ignorant comments? In every walk of life and in every industry you will have people who are less experienced and starting out… those who are keen to make a quick buck, those who don’t give a damn… this is not exclusive to the recruitment industry… it’s ****s like you that make our job nigh on impossible! And YES – we do lose sleep at night when our candidates don’t take the roles that we have busted your a$$es 3 monthsd over!!

  20. Doing well or not – Headhunting is an increadibly stressful profession as we deal with the most complex, unpredictable, frustrating and demanding commodity on the planet – The Human Being! And as an industry we are generally very poorly managed by sub-standard reptiles who exist only to exploit the value we do create. I know – my last company was and is like that! But now I’m in a happy, successful, well managed company and much of the stress has ebbed away!

  21. Brent – find a good one and you’ll reap the rewards. Keep wasting your time with the bottom dwellers and you’re going to have a tarnished view of the industry.

    I’m in recruitment and have a very close and every expanding network of highly skilled consultants who look after me and I look after them. We’re all doing very nicely out of it thankyou very much.

    And no not particularly stressed – I can think of worse ways to make this money!

  22. Brent, you work in commodities do you? The industry that, through relentless speculation, has driven up the cost of the basic commodities forcing millions of the worlds poorest people into even deeper poverty by making food so bloody expensive they starve and I bet you do not give a flying f about any of them. Recruiters may be parasites in your opinion, but commodities traders are an altogether more odious type of scum.

  23. Brent, basically you’ve had some bad experiences, that result in you having some negative feelings about recruiters.

    To make such a huge generalisation based upon a few personal experiences which weren’t pleasant doesn’t seem particularly bright or accurate.

    It’s the same mental process as being dumped by your girlfriend and then saying “all women are b*tches”, or being beaten up by someone of a different race, and then becoming a racist.

    Smarten up and resolve your own personal feelings before making irrational generalisations.

    N.B. I work in retained search and so far it’s the best year for our firm on record, with the average consultant making at least $1,000,000 for the firm.

  24. Anti- Greenwich is funny. Your jealousy is so transparent. Everyone has different ways of working. I am a recruiter and I work for a big firm and we all work in our different ways. There is no one method of making money in recruitment or one rule book.

  25. Have an routine, uninterested interview with a candidate (if you meet them at all). Have a Pret. Copy their CV onto your own headed paper; send to selected likely takers. Wait a while (depending on the level of receptiveness of the recipient). Have a lunch at PC to give an impression of being swamped with work. Take a few phone calls from clients who are interested. email candidate with possible interview times. Arrange interviews. Confirm with both parties. Evening at Corney & Barrow followed by a late supper. Wait for interviews to take place. Follow up feedback to both parties with some confection you think will be paletable. Confirm appointment. Wait for start-date. Send exhorbitant invoice for services rendered. Book a holiday. Check lastminute.com for trips, move onto new candidates that are on the face of it, placeable. Continue to ‘pull the stops out’ in your own inimitable way. Plan next life-changing event (date, marriage, divorce, new lover, house purchase, new car, holiday home). Slag off a few of your competitors (internal and external). Complain of stress. Read eFinancial to reinforce you as you. A lot more of the same. Die. Wait for placement.

  26. Brent- I think that you are really boring product controller. …I reckon that you must have people queing up to speak with you down the pub at the weekend! or maybe you’d prefer a quiet night in with your xbox

  27. Stress in headhunting? Try my day-job latte-making at Bank Stn, and night-job bus-driving route 87 Wandsworth to Aldwych.

    Pretty wife’s still at her parents’. Kids won’t recognize me anymore, Resume’s still uploaded at EFCS drawing laughs, Brain’s too old to go back to school, Can’t diversify to sandwich-making until 2010 due to current latte-making contract terms, All Big Issue slots taken, Boss found himself a job, Peers trading carbon now, CDO column-writing job at EFCS already taken, Vodafone increased rates on a personal contract for the BlackBerry, Landlord’s agent querying employment status & refusing rental contract renewal, Busking spots all taken, Securitization/ABS tag not wiping off, …

    Stress?? Surely you’re joking Mr F!

    ABSolutelyCONvinced Reply
  28. Those deriding Brents comments by foisting their assumption that he got his job through an agency on us, may be missing the point.

    As a labour market economist it is clear that there is a long term trend of corporates reducing their agency spend year on year by using different sourcing channels. Globalisation is meaning that UK arms of Globals are looking at their US offices where agencies play a tiny part in the overall market, and asking why they have a seemingly avoidable overhead.

    It is increasingly likely that Brent got his job himself, as employers are becoming more and more accessible to direct applications. The days of a de facto career path into the tethered mullets and loafers world of agency recruitment, for those that cant get into the professions, may be on the wane for good.

  29. Doug if you work for a big firm, shouldn’t you be hitting those KPI’s rather than writing on walls? ;-)

    Smile and Dial Reply
  30. Why is it that any post on this site about recruitment attracts the most monumental amount of comments from recruitment consultants; clearly recruitment consultants have got nothing better to do. If you can’t take the heat…………

    By the way I have been a recruitment consultant for over 21 years so I can take the “stress”. What a load of rubbish; just get on with it!

    Anon Headhunter Reply
  31. Anyone who is any good in recruitment gets paid exceptionally well.

    The rest of rubbish out there can resign themselves to the fact that they can slog themselves to death on the thankless task that is finding Brett his next job in “commodities”

  32. Recruiters rock

    Pally McPalpal Reply
  33. Some advice for RCs, be more considerate,treat all candidates with respect, tell them the truth, know your market, give all candidates some truthful advice, do not take on candidates you feel you cannot place, keep candidates you take on up to date.

    I have come across COUNTLESS useless RCs, but the few goods one finds you opportunities that you want.

    Candidates also need to be specific and realistic, you need to know how to get to where you want to be. For example if you are second tier candidate with back office experience, you would not get a FO job straight from this. You cannot blame the RCs.

    In my case, I worked my way from the BO to MO to FO, finding my own route without any help from RCs, and I wish | had some more advice from RCs as it would save me time and stress. Perhaps RCs could have given me better advice, told me the truth on more occasion rather then simply dismissing me. If they acted in a way, less to make a quick buck, but to faciliate candidates placements, then perhaps there would be more respect for RCs. If there was a way to weed out that bad RCs from the good that would improve your industry significantly.

  34. Parasites of the world, unite!

    The rallying call of the recruitment consultant manifesto…

    Some of the comments on here are hilarious. Friends of mine always say how rec consultants are too busy to take their calls, but i know the truth, there all on EFC posting little comments…

    Charlie – I personally would have no shame in being a product controller ( though thats not what i do), alot better than being a rec consultant.

  35. Professional networking sites will be the death knell for the overpriced (non)service offered by many headhunters. Once hiring managers build a mature network they will be posting their vacancies there, knowing they will only be getting useful leads from their network. This will just a natural extension of normal “network” hiring. Hence managers will lever their electronic network and eliminate the headhunting cost, or pass it on to the candidate as a bonus. The economics for today’s style headhunting will drop to a generous $1000 per head. This reflects the circa 10min work per head and one-in-sixty random placement probability. You can do the math to find the implied hourly rate (beats flipping burgers though…)

  36. Getting back to the topic at hand, recruitment consultants are the most stressful employees in the world.

    Is this due to the general quality of employees in banking, law and recruitment consultancy? Look at the barriers to entry:

    Investment banking:
    2:1 (or better) degree in numerical subject from top 10 university, psychometric tests, many rounds in interviews

    Corporate law
    2:1 (or better) degree in Law from top 10 university, LPC, psychometric tests, many rounds of interviews

    Recruitment consultant
    GCSE Maths & English?

  37. Brent – the reason we are on here is because we regularly receive news updates from sites such as E-financial Careers on the industry, updates on what’s new, etc. to keep abreast of what’s going on out there. It just so happened, as I’m sure is the case for most of the contributors on this thread, that this topic was posted just the other day to which an email alert was sent out straight away… it’s a topic of major interest… it gets responses… that’s the way these things work… again… people in every industry will be doing the same! Not just recruiters… p.s. the only reason I am on here at 9.07 am is because I hadn’t switched all of my programs off and this was still running so I was curious to see what the update was… before you say anything :)

  38. Sarah – I get your point and its only understandable for a recruiter to check EFC…Maybe you could enlighten me more over a drink or two!!

  39. Brent get on with your bl**dy work…if i catch you posting on this again im going straight to the boss

  40. Not proud of people knocking re consultants but it just seems this has become a bit of a joke in terms of every week there is somebody knocking us down in an article so I do not think we should knock how our colleagues work. People work in a way that suits them. Everyone is trying to do their best and earn a living. Live and let live.

  41. A personal question to recruiters.
    Where do they believe they add value?
    Coming from an environment of direct applications where you apply for the jobs you want, you present your CV the way you want, you schedule the interviews as you like it, you get your feedback directly and freely…

    Sorry , so far, recruiters:
    – Always put me in the box they believe I am going to pass and get their fee.
    – Chop my CV the way they like it.
    – Push the interviews in the way the client wants, not me.
    – Give the feedback they want.

  42. I have been in recruitment for almost 30 years. The real stress comes when a recruiter runs his own business, not when s/he is employed someone else. This will be the third recruitment recession that I have worked through and it gets tougher every time, but that is because my monthly expenditure is higher by the time the next recession arrives. Those that are young, sub 30, really are not stressed, they have just had a really easy time of things so far.
    In the last 9 months I have personally had several candidates reject offers from clients, a sure sign of a recession when candidates would rather stay with the devil they know than be the last in first out victim.
    The recession is here for recruiters, especially in Banking, but that just means cut costs, reduce expenses, visiting more people, networking harder. The usual things, oh and don’t tell the wife that the house is being used as security yet again.

  43. Recruitment is an astonishingly stressful job.The sheer unpredictability and constant changing managing of people means you can never leave it at work. On top of that the hour by hour pressure to keep the volume up cvs, calls,interviews can be overwhelming

    And to top it all, have a couple of bad months and you could be out.

  44. I’m a recruiter, but I agree with everything Brent says. The industry is clogged up with parasites who are kept in a job by incompetent and often corrupt HR professionals who make little effort to forge useful partnerships or weed out the bad eggs.

    The wide boys spouting their bitterness and insecurity make me ashamed to be part of their profession.

  45. The key to success and weeding out the parasites is to work for a niche industry, market leader, who are small enough to keep it personal and big enough to have a real importance in the market they operate in. Our head office has 18 people in it and you can see who’s crap and who’s not – it’s a very transparent environment… and YES… we can also see the difference we make in people’s lives becauwse we work extremely closely with your candidates – it’s a small market we operate in and EVERYONE knows EVERYONE! I have worked for both of the major players in ‘mainstream’ recruitment, one who I would term “the old boys network” and the other who is so heavily US regulated it makes it almost impossible to do your jobs properly for spreadsheets and reporting getting in the way….
    Keep things simple… work with candidates you truly believe you can help… don’t lie… be honest… only promise on what you genuinely CAN do… simple simple simple…(God it sounds so cliched)

    I love my job… yes – it’s diffciult and stressful at times but only cause I let it get to me… got to keep ahead of the game and work smart

  46. A lot of recruiters I speak to say the only reason why they do it is for the money. But the good thing with agency recruiting is once you have your solid pipeline, you just re-submit the same top candidates over and over again, which not only fills your quota, but fills your pocket as well. Sr. Recruiters are far less stressed than junior ones who have no one in their hot books and have to resort to the dreadful job boards that are filled with bad, or outright dishonest resumes.

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