“That isn’t proper recruitment …..”

“I will look at a recruiter coming out of any sector, but not Office Support. That isn’t proper recruitment”

These were the words of an agency owner that I met recently. His business was relatively small, recruiting across a number of vertical specialist sectors, and he was looking for someone for his Accounting & Finance team.

On the one hand I applauded his flexibility to look outside of the tiny pool of recruiters currently operating in that sector, in his geographical region that had existing networks. This sort of brief, whilst I understand it, is limiting because the pool we are fishing in is so small. So, it was refreshing to have a brief that allowed us a bit more leeway.

“Not proper recruitment?” I asked

“Well, we are recruiting professionals and that is a whole different ball game to recruiting secretaries or kids doing customer service jobs. Whilst I can teach them about Accounting, I haven’t got the time to teach them how to recruit”

This took me back to early in my career when I ran an Office Support desk in a large multi-national.  The company also had specialist divisions and it was very much pitched to us in the Office Support team that, if we work hard and were successful, one day we might be lucky enough to join one of the specialist teams!!!

******

There is no doubt that in some corners of the recruitment industry, Office Support recruitment is looked down on. For some, it is viewed as easy, where you might start your recruitment career before graduating to proper recruitment, or stay in the space if you are not particularly ambitious.

But take it from someone who has worked in Office Support – it isn’t easy.  Sure there are some differences to what we class as specialised recruitment, and each have their unique set of challenges. But it is definitely not easy – and it is absolutely proper recruitment.

You still need to develop business (and the office support sector is probably more competitive than any other sector).  You still need to take an accurate client brief. You still need to find hard to find candidates, because funnily enough good PAs do not grow on trees. So you need to map the market, network and build a talent pool. And you still need to interview well, shortlist accurately, manage the recruitment process, reference candidates properly, negotiate, persuade, deal with tough clients… oh, and of course bill! The fact that you may be dealing with a slightly different profile of candidate, who can be less career orientated just makes it more challenging.

So, to automatically assume that because a recruiter’s background is Office Support they won’t be able to recruit for a Finance Manager, or for that matter an  IT Manager, Sales Manager or Engineer is wrong. Sure, not every consultant in Office Support will be able to make the transition, but then every Engineering recruiter won’t automatically be able to transfer to Finance for example. And what makes you think they want to move away from Office Support recruitment anyway?

*****

Obviously I meet recruiters who run a variety of different desks but quite often the best ones, work in Office Support space. Sure they don’t bill as much as their counterparts in sectors where salaries and therefore fees are higher, but you have to compare apples with apples.  Sure they probably won’t have the technical knowledge or networks that some speciality sectors understandably require.  And I appreciate that moving straight from an Office Support desk to a pure retainer led, executive search desk might be a jump too far for many.

But to  have a blanket rule to close your door to all Office Support recruiters…well I invite you to spend a week running an Office Desk and then see how you feel. At the moment, you are ignoring some of hardest working, most tenacious, commercially focused and skilled recruiters out there.

Luke Collard

16 thoughts on ““That isn’t proper recruitment …..””

  1. Well said! As a now ‘specialist recruiter’ if I hadn’t cut my teeth in Office Support I would be rubbish at my job! I learned how to be disciplined and organised and still use every technique that I learned in OS in my current ‘specialist’ role today.

  2. I did a six month stint in office support recruitment a long time ago and it’s a place I hope never to return to! I have much appreciation for recruiters who work in this space, having to deal with flaky candidates day in and day out, and clients with some rather special – and not quite legal – demands (I had one client tell me that he would only hire a blonde female in her early 20s!)

  3. I have worked in Office Support or Business Support space for almost 12 years now and view myself as a specialist recruiter in this space, I am proud of my work and achievements made lots of money and have turned down many opportunites to recruit more senior or “specialist” roles. I think office support is the foundation of any good recruitment company and not only provides a steady and consistant revenue stream but you will get more internal leads and business opportunites from the office support recruiters in 15 minutes than trawling linkedin for days on end.

    Due to the femlae dominated nature of the roles, the fact that women “gossip” and the increased contact with HR and internal recruiters as opposed to line we have our finger on the pulse and tend to hear about changes and job vacancies first. All you head hunters and executive search recruiters should spend 30 mins with your office support teams and look at their client lists you never know what leads you might find ;0)

  4. Thanks for the comments. Claire sums it up best for me – OS is not just a sector that is lucrative, it is also a rich source of leads that (I agree) are often ignored because of the stereotype some associate with OS recruiters. I recruited an OS Consultant for an agency that specialises in Engineering who wanted to add a new revenue stream into their balance sheet. That consultant is now the best performer, not just in terms of billings, and the core business has been indirectly impacted by piggy backing off her success.

    Not hearing much from non OS recruiters though….

  5. Great post, Luke. Having managed, trained and coached hundreds of office support recruiters I can say with confidence that it is is easy to be average (ie $200k p.a.) in office support recruitment and very hard to be excellent (I.e. $450k + p.a.).

  6. I have not been an O/S Recruiter but i have known many who were, and you are right, they have a sense of urgency, strong commitement, a competitive spirit and an ability to put quick dollars on the table. Many have gone on to be leaders in the Recruitment industry without stepping outside their comfort zone.
    Others have used that ability to close quick turn around placements as a springboard for other disciplines

  7. I spent 15 years in office support recruitment and it made me the recruiter I am today! It’s fast paced, cut throat (more so than most of the sectors) because there are 1000’s of companies who think they can recruit office support candidates (and believe me, they can’t) and just as challenging as any other recruitment role. I never made 100’s of 1000’s of dollars (I guess I just worked for the wrong organisations) so I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but it taught me discipline and gave me the sense of urgency many recruiters don’t have today. I’ve moved into an internal role now, but I don’t regret my time in office support.

  8. I spent a couple or more years in office support and contact centre recruitment, it sure did set me up with some of the main skills I needed in my career. The biggest lesson I learnt was resilience, especially when it came to delivering and meeting your clients and candidates expectations in such a fast paced environment.
    It was this resilience that propelled me into where I am now as a specialist IT Account Manager.
    It is a bold statement this manager has made and one which might well in fact limit their access to some of the most skilled professionals in the market.

  9. Sorry, but this is a very bad post. One person told you this about Office Support Recruitment and you write a post about it? Pretty sure everyone knows that it’s a highly competitive market and you’ll have about 200 candidates to look through on every job you post. This post is an open door that did not need to be written.

    1. Hi Nick – thanks for your feedback (I think!). I started my recruitment career in OS and worked in it for over 5 years so I feel pretty comfortable talking about the subject. In addition, now that I work in R2R I speak to recruiters all day everyday – and I can assure you that not ‘everyone’ knows what the OS market is like to work in. Not sure what my post is meant to be ‘an open door’ to … but the fact it has been shared on LinkedIn over 200 times and been viewed over 500 times would suggest that, whilst it did NEED to be written, many enjoyed it. You obviously felt compelled to respond so what does that say ? Thanks Luke

  10. Hi Luke,
    Here is a project for you, you say you speak to Recruiters every day find me a job, not necessarily in Recruitment but as a Business Developer via the phone, i have some good experience in a variety of portfolios with a strong telephone approach and have never missed whilst doing a face to face or Telephone presentation in getting the business..

    I retired some 3 years ago and only just finished a short 8 month contract doing medical and mining B/D. You are quite welcome to search me out on LinkedIn to help you evaluate me, my email details are geerinkevin@yahoo.com.au, my mobile is 0421 838 392. Over to you.

  11. I have briefly work in OS (admittedly only covering a desk for a month) and was challenging, but not really on a technical level. I am not suggesting for one minute OS are not able to make the transition to a more technical field. Certainly anyone with good billing figures should be considered regardless of the sector they are coming from; but the fact remains when choosing between almost identical candidates I would choose the consultant with the technical experience.
    The reasons are simple, the people you are dealing with are different, the type of conversations you are having are different. OS was easy in many ways, like business development, screening/sourcing candidates, compared to ‘specialist’ desks; but it was far more difficult in terms of organisation, juggling several completely different jobs, I found the workload challenging to say the least. Ultimately I was doing far more ‘dog work’ (for want of a better phrase) to get the same result as I could achieve by just filling one single role in my other desk.
    Essentially the core skills needed are somewhat different, you can’t really compare having to fill a PA role (usually given a matter of days, if not hours at best, to get CVs over) against a subject matter expert where perhaps 50 exist in the entire world, and having 6 weeks to complete the task. I have gone from one extreme to the other I know, but the type of preparation and execution needed in both tasks are so far apart, is why I always feel far more comfortable hiring the consultant with the proven technical background.

  12. I recruited for warehouse staff and office admin staff. The best lessons I learnt about recruitment – and also about business – happened in that dim old office.
    Learning to work hard and smart is as important as being able to learn the technicalities of a specific industry.
    Great blog.

  13. As always Luke Collard, your blogs are a ‘breath of fresh air’… we are all somewhat specialised in our own little irky quirky way, however I would employ an Office Support Recruiter any day! Thanks for keeping our insane industry somewhat ‘normal’!!

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