High Turnover Recruitment

The high turnover elephant in the recruitment room

Posted on 29 August 2019 by Shefika Hasan

High Turnover Recruitment

The high turnover elephant in the recruitment room

Posted on 29 August 2019 by Shefika Hasan


​If you have had any exposure to working in the recruitment industry, you would have been bombarded with either

  • Materials on how this is the best industry to work for – pictures of recruiters in glamorous resorts or on a yacht happily enjoying a drink/meal, or

  • Materials on how recruitment is soul-crushing and gut-wrenchingly difficult.

If you work in the industry, then you know that recruitment can be both. More often than not, though, it's somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

The truth is, where you land on that spectrum and the experience you have depends on a huge number of factors. How resilient are you? How equipped are you to work under pressure? How strong is your internal drive? Do you have a particularly persuasive communication style? Are you willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone? Do you have a strong work ethic?

But it's not just a case of how you act or your attitude towards your work. There needs to be a good relationship between yourself and the company you work for, a passion for the industry you're in and a match between yourself and your manager's leadership style.

If you're reading this and you've been working as a recruiter for more than nine months - you're in the minority. A whopping 57% who give a job in our industry a go have quit by the nine-month mark. It makes recruitment sound like a bit of a career gamble, doesn't it?

Well, yes and no.

A lot of our recruiters will tell you they fell into the industry. It happened by chance. SEC were just paying a decent basic, and the rest sounded fine. But whether a hire is successful or not shouldn’t be a gamble, and addressing the issue starts with the recruitment process.

Let’s make one thing clear – there's no magic formula that guarantees successful hires. Not even the slightest. If there was, it'd be bottled and sold… There are, however, things you learn you can do better in the recruitment process to minimise the chances of an unsuccessful hire.

Addressing high turnover starts by asking the question: ‘Why do our recruiters leave?’

A) Are they leaving recruitment?


B) are they just leaving us?

Leavers in that first category are more often than not, junior-level hires in their first or second recruitment role. Somewhere along the way, category A leavers realise that recruitment is ‘not for them’, which essentially means that their expectations of what recruitment is were not met or they simply changed their mind about what they want to do with their careers. Fair enough. There is very little that can be done to predict such changes of heart, other than making sure that during the interview process we get a solid understanding of the intrinsic factors I mentioned earlier affecting the candidate’s possible longevity in the industry.

So how do we influence the attrition of category A leavers through the recruitment process?

As obvious as it sounds, the answer is by setting the right expectations early on. You will be surprised how many candidates that I have met have been ‘sold the dream’ of recruitment. Recruiting recruiters is a highly competitive gig- there are plenty of options for talent to choose from, so selling the role you work on is, of course, an important part of securing a candidate, but being realistic about what recruitment is doesn't mean underselling or undervaluing the actual opportunity.

This doesn’t always apply to people new to recruitment either. I have spoken to consultants who were considering leaving their agencies because someone did not deliver on their promises and failed to mention that winning the competition to go on that Ibiza trip is actually quite a lot of hard work. The risk of being brutally honest about the challenges in recruitment is that you may lose some candidates in the process, but surely that’s better than the alternative?

Leavers in category B on the other hand, could have a particularly negative effect on a recruitment business if they are performing recruiters. Needless to say, if that is the case then it is imperative that we investigate the reasons for this person to want to leave the business.

So how do we influence the attrition of category B leavers through the recruitment process?

Frankly speaking, the reasons why those people would leave are often a product of personal factors that employers may have little influence over. When this is not the case however, you may find that some of the earlier mentioned factors may have a part to play in that decision. The good news is, by tweaking the recruitment process slightly, we can increase the chances of getting the company, team/manager and industry/desk fit right.

Let’s take the team/manager fit for instance. When hiring new people a lot of the team/manager fit decisions tend to be made on the basis of whether there is a vacancy there. In an ideal world, that would make perfect sense, but in such a personality-lead industry like recruitment, things are not that simple and making sure candidate A is the right fit for team B could have the effect of ‘make it or break it’ for a specific hire. That’s why at SEC, when possible, we have a more flexible approach to recruitment; we focus on getting the right person into the right team as opposed to trying to fit a candidate into a vacancy. A lot of our consultants will confirm having met more than one leader in the business during the hiring process to make sure the fit is just right.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that recruitment is a two-way process and this is true for any field. Both parties should enquire, engage, test, and promote themselves professionally to increase positive experiences for all, regardless of the outcome.

The bottom line is, recruitment as an industry that does have a high turnover. Now, we could all agree with that and continue to hire in the same way we always have, or perhaps we can start scrutinising the way we do our own hiring and ask ourselves ‘how can we do this better?’ and make a difference.