Is Age Just a Number in Recruitment?
Of the 103,000 recruitment consultants employed by recruitment agencies in the UK, what is the demographic split of those who are over 40, like me?
I go out and meet outstanding business owners all the time; those who are growing their recruitment companies across a number of sectors. An increasing number of these incredible and inspiring leaders are younger than me, some by a good 10 years or so. They have made impressive achievements in their early careers and have leap-frogged some of their peers to the top of their tree.
Punching above my weight as a 21-year-old
Age has never been a barrier to me. I recall that at age 21 I was managing a small property consultancy in (what is the now the Northern Quarter of) Manchester. I was responsible for a maintenance team, 2 admin staff and a property portfolio worth millions. I pretended I was 30+ when I spoke to people, and I did this to make myself seem more credible and trustworthy. When I look back at pics now, even though I definitely looked only 21, somehow I got away with making people believe I was indeed 30! (Well, it was the early 90s so some rather attractive shoulder pads and big hair back combing did the trick).
As I moved into the recruitment world in the late 90s, I behaved in a similar way; acting much older than my 20-something years, especially when speaking to senior decision makers and candidates. I genuinely thought that if they knew how young I actually was, they wouldn’t take me seriously or trust me with their brief/job search.
The UK recruitment market continues to grow as the economy strengthens, with reported sales in our industry at over £30billion in 2015. We are growing year on year and the predicament a lot of firms have as they try and hire the best recruitment talent (it is the same in most sectors) is that there isn’t enough to go around.
Recruitment training academies are becoming the norm. The idea is to hire apprentices or graduates, then train these young people into the finished article with the aim of keeping them employed beyond their learning years, to when they become profitable. Apparently the average recruitment consultant billed £96k in 2015; great return if you are paying a trainee £18k. Although, the general consensus is that for every 5 grads you hire, only 1-2 will work out as some will get out of recruitment and the others will move to another company.
You get what you pay for…..
There lies the problem facing ageing and older recruiters. With new blood constantly being fed into the industry, hiring recruitment companies seem less inclined to want to pay £35/45k for an experienced, older recruiter who should be able to bill far more than a trainee. That’s the theory anyway…
However, an older and perhaps more mature recruiter has a lot to offer a recruitment business: stability and life experiences, other than just recruitment. Older recruiters are more likely to have responsibilities such as a family and a mortgage, perhaps making them less likely to want to go out and get drunk mid-week as they probably have to pick Rosie up from ballet or Bobby up from football.
I still have the same amount of passion and energy as I did when I sat in my chair on my first day in December 1998. Okay, I have a few more wrinkles and war wounds since then, but am I that different? Well yes. I can bring a wealth of experience in how to deal with most situations as I have probably faced every possible scenario in my 18 years! I still get the odd one that even shocks me, but if I was employed in an office just think how much value that would bring to my employer. I would be able to make suggestions and offer advice to more junior people, who don’t know how to deal with a particular issue.
Age is a barometer of where someone is at with their life, however it is not guaranteed that just because someone is over 40, they WILL be these things mentioned above. You can meet some exceptionally arrogant and ignorant people who are 40+ and behave like obnoxious overgrown teenagers.
We want YOU
So I guess my supposition of writing this is to offer reassurance to those in my demographic. The thousands of recruiters aged 40+ who will continue to work in our ever changing sector offer a certain gravitas to the recruitment industry; we have testimonies, anecdotes, advice and ideas. We have the energy and the strategy to be able to deliver. We are motivated, and above all we are loyal.
What do you think? Is age a problem/factor in recruitment? Would you dismiss an application from a recruiter if you thought that they were ‘over the hill’? Is a balanced demographic and office culture beneficial to all employed in that office?
Credit to: Lysha Holmes (Undercover Recruiter)