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The Recruiter Two Year Itch

By September 12, 20134 Comments

For some reason or other the (lack of) tenure of recruitment consultants staying with one firm keeps cropping up in conversation recently.  I blogged about job hopping recruiters back in June.  The post was conspicuous by the absence of comments, almost as if this has just become an undeniable fact of recruitment that we are all resigned to.


I met with a client in Wellington this week for who we had conducted a market mapping exercise of the Auckland region for the specialist area they recruit within.  Looking through the lists of names and LinkedIn profiles for each recruiter he was startled at how short a time most of the recruiters had been with their current employers.


Later in the week I met an HR Manager who was bemoaning previous candidate experiences he had had from recruitment consultants.  He wasn’t demanding we change though, far from it.  He had adopted a far more pragmatic viewpoint that recruiters work for the clients, not the candidates, and as they are all planning on jumping ship at any moment they don’t see the point or value in providing a good candidate experience!



I thought I would put the theory to the test and had a look back through all of the candidates I have interviewed for recruitment consultant roles over the past two months.  I looked at how long each had been in their current recruitment role before they had decided to come and meet with me to discuss new opportunities.  This is what I found:

  • 33 candidates interviewed for recruitment consultant roles
  • Average tenure in current role before meeting me was 1.97 years
  • 17 of the 33 candidates (pretty much half) had been in their role for one year or less


The reasons varied wildly.  Unavoidable reasons such as relocating, contracts ending and redundancies were mixed in with other reasons ranging from dislike of management, poor morale, lack of promotional opportunities and *ahem* wanting more money (would you credit it?!)


The immutable conclusions we can draw from this mini-assessment of recruiter behaviour is this:  Most recruiters are always looking for future opportunities and are open to having career conversations.  It’s just in our nature.  Some of the 33 were directly approached by me, more of them came to me directly though.  But the Wellington client who proclaimed I must be making a ton of placements as a result of this was wide of the mark.  3 placements out of those 33 interviews (with some still going through interviews currently, admittedly) suggests a severe bout of tyre-kicking is also going on in our industry.


The other unavoidable truth is that recruitment company owners and managers need to reassess their stance on recruiter loyalty.  If you have a team of recruiters who have all stayed 2 years or longer then great, you obviously have a culture of success that encourages them to stay.  But bear in mind that, if recruiters who are under-performing are also just cruising along, this also needs addressing.  They’re taking advantage and probably lack the drive and ambition of the ones who look around elsewhere.  Recruitment is an industry where the mantra of “hire fast, fire fast” applies more than most others.


Some advice for those recruiters looking for new roles, who have been in their current role less than a year (half of all interviewing recruiters by my reckoning), here is a useful article to help you explain your itchy feet in the best possible way:


“…criticizing the pay or management of your current employer isn’t going to impress them. Focus instead on the real reason: you fear you won’t be marketable in the future if you don’t proactively move your career forward now.”


The whole article is hugely relevant to us in recruitment actually, have a read, especially if you’re planning on jumping ship.


Finally for today I’m turning The Whiteboard into a bulletin board, to make all of you in our wonderful recruitment community aware of some upcoming events to get involved in:


24th October sees @Greg_Savage visiting Auckland to deliver his newest presentation: Remake. Remodel. Future-Proof Recruitment.


#RHUBNZ tickets selling fast.  Great line up of speakers and some opinionated Pom as MC.  NZ’s best recruitment conference by far, get involved.


#RicePowWow is back, as usual, at the end of this Quarter.  Free bar, networking and a rapid fire presentation from Rory Walker about onboarding (hey maybe there could be some tips there that will stop recruiters looking to leave so soon after joining a new company!)


And last but not least….from 5.00pm this afternoon at Jack Tar in the Wynyard Quarter… It is #Sumner40!  Yes the man, the social recruiting legend, Mark Sumner is turning 40 and there’s a shindig for all of #NZRec to get involved – hopefully see some of you there later!


My poor liver…


Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Amanda says:

    Could recruiters generally be more transient due to interacting with people who are looking to move jobs, prompting them to continually questions their own career path?

  • Peter H says:

    I think that the ”average of 1.97” of the 33 is interesting but seeing as you have the data, I’d be interested to see this mapped against other criteria. While I know you’d never ask age, maybe you’d be able to take a guess ( these are anonymous applicants ). Maybe <30, <40, <50 ,<60, Because I have a feeling that maybe the older applicants are more settled? But I could be completely wrong.
    It comes to mind because a group of us (from different industries), had our usual Friday 13 lunch which we've been having for around 15 years & 2 of the members were unemployed recruiters ( at the right hand end of the above scale ) & who had interviews but couldn't get a job offer & we did have a robust discussion around ageism in the job marketplace. It's kinda funny because I've had lots of discussions with clients trying to convince them that my 50+ yrs candidate is the perfect match to their position, but maybe when it comes to our own staff, we don't see the same value?