Why Recruitment ISN’T A Sales Job!


I’m going to be honest, when I first got into recruitment I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.  I’d been made redundant from my role as a German Speaking customer service agent and was desperate to find something that would help pay off the student loan.

“Recruitment pays well” said one friend.

“Will I have to speak German anymore?” I questioned

“Nein” he replied (he thinks he is a comedian).

“Sign me up!” and that’s when I started applying.

During my interview process at my previous company, I had 3 interviews, all of which pushed me on the fact that recruitment is a sales job, do I have the tenacity, am I prepared for the long hours, can I negotiate the deals etc?  I was more than confident I could do the job, even though I never thought I was a salesman.

In the second interview, the cliché was put to me.  “Can you sell me this pen?” (remember, this was 14 years ago now)


I fell in to the usual trap and started extolling my perception of its virtues, rather than information gathering first.  Luckily they were desperate, and so didn’t eject me from the process and eventually appointed me.

Now, 14 years on, I still don’t think I’m a salesman.  I don’t see myself standing out on a metaphorical forecourt, trying to persuade people to buy something that they’re not sure they want, just because I have sales targets to hit.

My role does involve making sales, but that is a by-product of my role as I see it.  My role is a relationship development role- building understanding and trust with my clients and candidates, so that they can entrust me to either find them the RIGHT role, or the RIGHT candidate, rather than just any old role or candidate that suits me.

My best clients used to be my candidates, and often when many of my clients decide to move on or face redundancy, they will seek my advice or assistance.  If I treated my role as a pure sales role, I’d be approaching my role as a more transactional process(usually the one that will make me the most money!)  Do you think those clients and candidates would remember me and bring me future business?

The problem is that many recruiters out there do still see it as a sales role and are peddling their wares on that basis.  Using their candidates like a commodity rather than people on a career path.  Clients will receive relentless approaches from numerous agencies (often from a different consultant each time), pushing forward a faceless candidate who could be anyone, rather than discussing a personality with ambitions and aspirations!

So, if you just look at recruitment as a pure transactional sales role, go for it!  You’ll make money, certainly in the short term- the more muck you throw at the wall, the more will stick.

But, if you want longevity, repeat business and more importantly job satisfaction- remember that your job involves people, not products.  Get to know your customers-clients and candidates- give them your time and interest.  Develop the relationship.  Develop understanding.  Develop Trust.  Then the sales will come …

Barry Forsythe is Manager of Greenacre Midlands Division,  overseeing the Executive/Senior Level candidacy and vacancies across the East & West Midlands region. Barry has worked in recruitment for over 16 years and works alongside organisations to deliver advice, insights and experience to housing and associated industry professionals throughout the UK.

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