A day in the life of recruitment manager Abi Howell from Expectations! Recruitment Services…

‘People, people, people’; not quite as catchy as the infamous ‘location, location, location’, but recruitment really is the most people-focussed industry in the world! Someone once badly summarised recruitment to me as ‘finding someone for a job’, but done properly, it is and should be so much more than that! We’ve all seen The Apprentice and the rigours of weekly challenges candidate face; and yet often Sir Alan still doesn’t get what he is looking for (ahem Katie Hopkins). That’s where a recruitment agency comes in, and outsourcing the recruitment process to experts can save businesses time, money and a lot of grief!

Sitting down to write this ‘diary’ feature, I pondered how best to summarise an exciting, challenging and multi-faceted job; how do you capture the fast pace, fascination, frustration, hilarity and tears in just 1000 words? It’s not simple I’ll tell you that, but hopefully I’ve achieved it in the next few paragraphs!

Perhaps the most expected and understood skill of a recruitment consultant is our responsibility as a ‘matchmaker’. Excuse the cliché, but you can’t put a square peg in a round hole and expect it to fit properly! Expectations underpin everything in this industry; you have to get under the skin of the client identifying not only the skill set, experience and qualifications they require from a candidate, but also what personalities will match their existing team and what ‘soft skills’ they want and need as an employer. Then, you need to apply the same principles to the candidate. Not quite the same as “Millionaire Matchmaker” I grant you, but that doesn’t make it any less important to the job!

Recruitment is a people industry; I work with people, finding people, for people, and it means that every single day I meet someone new! When I first entered the recruitment industry many years ago however (too many to admit to given my youthful appearance) I didn’t realise that less expected elements of my job would include coach, juggler, wise old owl and counsellor. I know that might sound like madness, but honestly, this is how my job gets described – by my team, candidates and clients anyway!

The most fascinating and at the same time frustrating attribute people have is their unpredictability; people often don’t behave as they are ‘supposed’ to so my role involves anticipating the unexpected and planning tactics according to potential outcomes – in fact I was once compared to a rugby coach. Winston Churchill once said “Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen” and it’s rather an apt phrasing (gender aside); recruitment requires equal measures of professionalism, dedication, devotion and loyalty, with just a little pinch of toughness and a thick skin!

The analogies don’t stop there however; I also have to make time to be a ‘juggler’; being ahead of the game and anticipating the unexpected challenges my team and clients may have to face. I start my day well organised, with a formal ‘to-do-list’ however, inevitably, something crops up which needs more urgent attention. I’ve honed my skills as a juggler and plate-spinner this way – figuratively speaking anyway – developing an ability to not only multi-task, but remember lots of tiny seemingly irrelevant factors and adapt to the situation in hand. I still work through my job list, but I’ve had to improve my efficiency, support my team and ultimately change my working methods from the fresh faced, to-do-list idealist of my past.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I could spin my head 360o like an owl; a wise old one that is! It is important that you look every which way, for every opportunity, building contacts that will help you now and in the future, remembering people’s faces and names and giving off the aura of calm and quiet, even if your brain is churning information at breakneck speed. Anyone looking for a recruitment partner expects this at minimum, and these skills help demonstrate my professionalism making me indispensable. They also form the basis of trusted, enduring relationships with my clients. At Expectations! all the Managers are hands-on and are expected to deliver billable hours as well as supporting our teams to do the same. We’re seen as the “Oracle” in the office, and are expected to know all there is to know about the recruitment industry there and then! As well as working with our own clients, others can sometimes defer to us if they need to. I work on everything from client management to candidate sourcing, credit control to staff management; when I wake up in the morning, I have no idea if something new will come up but that’s what makes it enjoyable!

Probably the least anticipated part of a recruitment role is the ‘counselling’; you have to listen to and support candidates through the trials and tribulations of job hunting, the disappointment at not getting a job, the elation of getting their dream one and even the home-life issues currently affecting their frame of mind. The art of doing this part well is finding ways to flip it around. I always work to use candidates own stories as a way of teaching and guiding them. If they didn’t get jobs before they came to us, I’ll sit down with them and consider why; are they selling themselves poorly, underqualified, overqualified, lacking specific skills, setting unachievable objectives, or were they just not the right fit for the company? A recruitment agency is only as good as the candidates they supply; taking the time to do a bit of ‘counselling’ and really getting to know the candidate, can be the difference between placing them in a role they will do OK and a role they will excel at.

Recruitment is a diverse and challenging job; there are a lot of underrated skills required and whilst you might not think they’ll be part of your job, excelling at them can help turn you into the best consultants in the market.

Abi works as branch manager for an innovative and expanding regional recruitment agency in the Midlands and South West; Expectations! Recruitment Services was established in Gloucestershire in 2003 by Directors Jo Long and Victoria Maddock, and has grown to include branches in Cheltenham, Gloucester and most recently Leamington Spa. Director Abi heads up the flagship Cheltenham branch and manages a team of seven full and part-time staff.