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How to start your recruitment career at Robert Walters

With over 13 years experience working in the recruitment industry, Liz Boston joined Robert Walters in 2016 as talent acquisition manager.

Liz previously managed our UK, Middle East & Africa Talent Acquisition team, and has recently transferred to the San Francisco office, managing Talent Acquisition for our North America region.  

We caught up with her to find out what life at Robert Walters is like, what you can expect from the interview process, and why you should consider a career with us.

#RealRecruiters from the San Francisco office answer: What’s one quality that makes a great recruiter?

What qualities are essential to succeeding in recruitment?

A strong work ethic, natural sales ability, and self-motivation are all common traits that you’ll see in the most successful consultants who work for our business. You’ll need to be able to handle the pressures of targets whilst working collaboratively as part of a wider team. Excellent communication skills and the ability to build long term relationships both internally and externally is paramount. Being driven to succeed whilst maintaining a certain level of humility will see you go far in the Robert Walters business. We all work very closely together towards a common goal and this is a huge contributor as to why we have such a fantastic culture that everyone enjoys being a part of.

What makes Robert Walters different from other recruitment agencies? 

The culture is the biggest difference here, and the emphasis is on output rather than input. Robert Walters is not your typical “staffing agency”. Unlike other recruitment companies, we avoid setting our consultants weekly KPIs. Instead, we give quarterly revenue targets which gives our consultants more time and encourages more of a consultative approach towards their relationships with their clients and candidates. Our consultants are 360 (or full cycle) recruiters, meaning they handle the entire process from start to finish, identifying new businesses, managing account relationships, and sourcing candidates. We nurture strong relationships with each candidate so that should they come to a point when they need to hire their own teams, we are there to fulfill that need. The events that we hold for clients and candidates are also a huge differentiator for us. The chance to network by offering something different to our clients and the freedom you’re given to build relationships is unprecedented.

Describe the working environment at Robert Walters

Fun, collaborative and encouraging. We work on a team-based profit share bonus model that ensures the sharing of information from both a candidate and client perspective is there from day one. This way of working gives everyone who joins the business a strong and supportive start to building their own success, leveraging existing relationships and working from an up-to-date and relevant candidate pool.

What types of businesses do recruiters in the US offices work with?

California (San Francisco and Los Angeles) works with high growth startups, venture capitalist firms, and small to medium enterprises focusing on leadership roles within design, marketing, finance and operations, engineering, product, and sales. On the East Coast we have offices in Toronto and New York. The teams over there focus on Finance & Accounting, Risk, Legal & Compliance, and Sales. Due to the larger presence of Financial Services businesses they service these clients as well as commerce and tech organizations. As mentioned before, many of our candidates are in leadership positions and frequently turn into clients, which in turn develops further opportunity for business development and growth.

What can a candidate expect from the Robert Walters’ interview process?

We keep things pretty fluid to ensure each candidate is given the best opportunity to meet the people that will be relevant to them in their role. The first stage of the interview process is just a relaxed conversation where I like to get to understand a candidate’s motivations and understand their career aspirations. This approach helps me to ensure that we’re as good a fit for them as they are for us.

I don’t always look for individuals with recruitment experience, choosing instead to identify those individuals with personal drive, natural sales flare, and resilience. Those who are passionate about their current industries can also find success as recruiters, lending their industry knowledge to hiring managers and job seekers.

Following a face-to-face meeting, candidates are given the opportunity to pitch the Robert Walters brand, and complete a task that will give them a real life insight into the life of a recruiter by identifying three candidates suitable for a role.

What are some of the misconceptions people have of the recruitment industry and how does Robert Walters help dispel these?

Many people assume that recruitment is highly transactional— a mix of cold-calling, endless KPIs, and ruthless inter-office competition to place candidates in roles as quickly as possible. On the contrary, our office is a supportive environment, as we operate on a team-based profit share bonus model. We encourage face-to-face interaction over phone calls, and much of our business is generated from networking and marketing activities (not cold-calling). Additionally, our long-term relationship strategy means that we take our time doing things the right way, rather than focusing on quick wins. Our consultants are trained to find the best role for each candidate we work with, and the best candidate for each company we assist in hiring.

Each new consultant is set up for success from the very first day, thanks to our structured training and mentorship from high performers in the market. We encourage autonomy, so it’s up to you to win business and build relationships with your clients and candidates how you feel is best. Consultants are expected to be out meeting clients face-to-face, hosting happy hours, and taking people to lunch.

Describe a typical day for a recruitment consultant at Robert Walters.

No two days are the same, as consultants have the ability to structure their days as they wish. The start of the week typically involves a review of the previous week and goal setting for the remainder of the week over team lunches. The remainder of the week is focused on candidate head hunting and business development which means much of a consultants' time is spent out of the office grabbing coffee or lunch, rather than chained to their desks or on the phone. 

Our consultants also organize various events for networking opportunities within different industries, and are supported by our internal marketing department, which produces content and thought leadership to assist in generating new business leads. Variety is key to keeping our consultants engaged and everyone’s style and approach is different, which is refreshing for the industry.

What’s the progression like at Robert Walters?

Robert Walters is a meritocratic company so your progression is down to you and how successful you are - it’s not time bound. People have been known to receive promotions within six months of starting in their new role. A successful consultant can expect to see themselves progress quickly with promotions coming every 12-18 months or so. We are proud to say that in the North America region our management team have progressed from junior positions. Not only that, but due to the continued investment in this region we will be looking to expand into new markets, providing the opportunity for our leaders to step up to the challenge and open up their own office in years to come.

Why should someone make the move into recruitment?

You’ll constantly be learning and developing. After 13 years in the recruitment industry, I still find myself learning something new because the industry and market conditions are forever changing, which consistently provides new challenges without having to change careers.

Our recruitment consultants come from a vast variety of backgrounds, including finance, legal, sales, fundraising, and other staffing firms. Industry knowledge is highly valued here at Robert Walters, and recruitment is a fantastic route to take if you’re at a crossroads and looking for a rewarding challenge. Robert Walters also encourages international careers, and many individuals find a fantastic career abroad.

If your aspirations are to work in an environment that encourages entrepreneurialism and gives you the opportunity to meet and work with industry leaders, then you should make the move.

Interested in a career at Robert Walters? Search and apply for our latest opportunities.

Alternatively, please contact Liz Boston at Liz.Boston@robertwalters.com or for a confidential discussion call +1 415 549 2035.

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