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Hot Recruitment Desks (And Other Tall Tales)

By April 6, 2017No Comments

This decade has seen an increase in the popularity of activity based working and hot-desking.  Well, it’s been increasingly popular among company owners and shareholders at least, who see it as a way of reducing office costs while boosting innovation and collaboration. Not so popular with the desk jockeys themselves though, with some saying it’s led to a drop in productivity.

The recruitment industry has it’s own peculiar notion of a hot desk, though.  In these times of high demand for talent, the demand from agencies for experienced recruiters is reaching fever point. Every recruitment manager or owner has budget and headcount to add more recruiters to existing teams, and one of the most favoured tactics used to attract recruiters from elsewhere is the promise of a “hot desk”.

Rather than a desk that you need to clear away each night and come back the next day to find Gary from Accounts annexing your territory, in recruitment a hot desk is one that has so much work coming in from a “loyal” or “established” client base, usually of “PSA clients”, that there is no need to pick up the phone and offer up your febrile cold calling attempts.


Very few people genuinely enjoy cold calling, or even slightly warm business developing, for that matter. Especially here in New Zealand, it seems. So the promise of getting all the benefits of a recruitment environment without the oppressive expectations around BD is attractive indeed.

The trouble is, it is always a complete fallacy. Hot desks do not exist in recruitment. Even if a firm does have a load of PSA clients, those clients are going to need some significant relationship managing to choose to use the new guy in a firm who is after all just one of many firms they probably have on their panel of recruitment providers. Then you have to contend with Sally, your new firm’s biggest biller who has already spied the opportunity to claim warm clients for herself while you were enjoying your gardening leave and getting your new haircut in readiness for your new recruitment job.

The demand for recruitment talent is so acute right now, that some are even plucking recruiters from the steady-eddie world of in-house recruitment back into the cut and thrust of agency land. Now there’s often only one way of achieving such a switch, and that is by promising a “hot desk” groaning under the weight of imploring client demands.

This is exactly what happened here in Auckland recently. One of my team came back from interviewing a high-volume recruiter who had made the switch from internal to agency, beguiled by promises of a hot desk and established client base. The reality, though, was one PSA client who had started to reduce their agency spend, and a database of account names with a succession of different consultants attempting cold calls over previous years. It took just four months for the pressure to do new business development to start to be applied by the management above.


This is a lose-lose situation. Sure, at first, the firm’s management got a bum on a vacant seat, an experienced recruiter that ticked off another of their own KPI’s. The recruiter got to make an exhilarating move back to a funky agency in cool offices.

The key lesson here is for recruiters interviewing for new roles, though. There is an onus on hiring firms to be honest about the role they are bringing someone into. But in my experience recruitment firms always over-estimate the strength of opportunities that exist in their own businesses, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. It’s bred of the positivity and optimism inherent in all recruiters, coupled with the competitiveness and hunger for growth.

But the job seeking recruiter also needs to be more accountable. Be aware (and beware) how recruitment firms will overstate the heat of your new desk. Ask more questions, get more proof, and go in with your eyes open. If you really want to get back into a commission-earning role in agency then the harsh reality is you will need to sell, you will need to do BD, and you will need to get your hustle on, no matter what you are told at the outset.

There’s really no escaping it.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.