The role of the recruitment consultant

16 November 2012 by
The role of the recruitment consultant

If you're serious about a career in hospitality, you need to plot your route to the top. So what can a recruitment consultant do to help? Rosalind Mullen reports

There are many ways to secure a great hospitality job nowadays. You might land the perfect role by networking, or trawling around the web and firing out your CV. Then again, you could find you are sending your CV into a black hole, getting no feedback and wasting a lot of time.

That's why it can sometimes be more effective to use the services of a recruitment consultant. A good one can fast-track your job hunt by targeting your CV at the right employer for your skills. This is particularly helpful for those of you with management ambitions.

The other benefit of using a consultant is that they can identify where your experience is lacking and give you advice on how to address the shortfall. That's invaluable in a climate where the economy is depressed and where employers are choosy, looking either for good candidates who can deliver or talented individuals they can train.

Read on to find out how an experienced recruitment consultant can make your job search less time-consuming and more rewarding…

NICK CLAYPOLEWhat? Operations manager for London and the South-east
Where? Berkeley Scott Group

At what stage can you help young hospitality professionals? Ideally, from the outset of their career. They can even come to us straight out of university. That way we can help to plan what experience they need and move their skills set forward.

What roles do you concentrate on? We tend to focus on managerial or craft-level candidates, so they may come to us with a degree, City & Guilds or another qualification. Our clients expect a track record, even if it's educational.

How can they benefit from using a recruitment consultant? We are abreast of what's going on in the industry and are fully consultative, so we can give the jobseeker feedback and advice. If we can't help straight away we'll advise a candidate on what they need to do in terms of further education or gaining more skills or experience. Then when they come back we can help them.

What practical services do you offer?We offer advice on presenting a CV, how to write a covering letter, how to present to a client and so on. Our sector knowledge means we can help, for instance, a restaurant worker to move to a different sector.

What is the lead-in time between coming to you and getting a job? It can be as short as 48 hours or as long as four or five weeks. If we can't help them in the short term but another consultant can, we keep in touch and may come across a job that would suit them a year or so down the line.

How do you match the candidate to the right job? We screen candidates on the phone and try to meet them if geographically possible. Our aim is to see if they would be a good match for the client. We would only send a candidate to a client once they have expressed an interest in the package and the company brand.

It's important to confirm that the candidate is interested in the role, because it's frustrating if we get them a job offer and they then decide it's not the right company for them.

Does the candidate pay a fee? No. The client pays a fee when we find the right recruit.

What do you expect from the candidate in return? We expect transparency and integrity. If they're going for other jobs, I need them to keep me abreast of developments. I also need to know they are available for an interview, do their homework on the company and give me feedback.

Do you coach the candidate before they go for an interview? The client wants to see the candidate as they are, so it's not wise to over-prep them. We might give them generic tips on whether the interview will be one-to-one or a group interview and so on, but it would be wrong to spoon-feed them. We will debrief them afterwards.

Could you give us some idea of the jobs market? Well, it's obviously not as buoyant as it was. Chefs are always in demand, however, and most of the casual-dining market and branded pubs are resilient.

WILL DAVIESWhat? Principal consultant
Where? Portfolio International

Can a jobseeker talk to a recruitment consultant at any stage in their career? Yes. The candidates who contact me might be straight out of hotel school or they could be in senior management with more than 20 years' experience.

What should candidates look for in a consultant? Different consultancies cater to different types of hospitality professional, often at varying stages in their career. At Portfolio, we specialise in middle to senior management positions, while other agencies will have a broader reach at a more junior, functional level.

That said, we also aim to build relationships with the next generation of managers, so although the majority of our assignments are in the £40,000-plus bracket, we can sometimes recommend candidates for entry-level vacancies.

Should they stick to one consultant? There's no harm in candidates working with two or three key consultants to ensure they get a good spread of the opportunities in the market. However, they should always know where their details are being sent. There's nothing worse than applying for a role only to be told that the employer has already received the CV from another source - especially if it has been rejected.

What services do you offer? Job opportunities, support and advice. We can help candidates to tailor their CV to a particular employer, job function or specific role. Most importantly, we can offer insight into the culture of a particular employer and help determine if the job is right and whether the company ethos is a good match.

Incidentally, most senior candidates feel more comfortable being represented by a consultant because of the professional distance this affords.

How quickly can they expect to find employment? In some cases, employers recruit within a few days. However, the interview process can move slowly for a number of reasons, including the fact there may be online tests or assessments, or client holidays and so on.

What do you expect from a candidate? Honesty and openness. Nothing will sour a relationship faster than a candidate who is not upfront about their background, reason for leaving an employer or even whether they have already been put forward for a role by another recruiter. It also helps if candidates are:
â- Specific about what jobs and employers they are interested in, or whether they are open to a variety of roles or sectors.
â- Able to stay in touch with their chosen consultant regularly to ensure they stay at the forefront of the consultant's mind.
â- Quick to inform us when their job-search criteria change, such as location or salary expectation, and swift to let us know if they see a job advertised that they like.
â- Open about what other jobs they are interviewing for, as this helps us identify similar opportunities for them.

Give us your view of the jobs market It's buoyant, including at senior level. There are more jobs than qualified candidates and many clients are demanding more relevant experience and skills for leaner salaries - a good example are roles such as sales, revenue and marketing.

Nevertheless, in this economic climate, competition between hotels for market share is fierce and successful commercial managers at overperforming properties are highly sought-after. When a key commercial position arises at a hotel, the client will often only look at candidates doing the same job at a competitor hotel deemed to be doing well.

What sort of candidates are most successful? In this market they have to try harder and prove themselves. Those who perform well are those who research the job and the employer thoroughly and come across as passionate about their role. Over and above all, good commercial acumen and creativity is important - whether the role is commercial or operational.

GARY KINGWhat? Director
Where? Collins King & Associates

Who can you help? We place all levels from commis chef up to group executive chef; from floor manager to operations director. Some 90% of our clients are London-based fine-dining, branded or contract catering restaurants and include Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Gaucho, Jamie Oliver, Harbour & Jones, Admirable Crichton, Compass Group and so on.

How do you see your role? Our role is to sort out the CVs and save our clients' time and hassle by finding the diamond in the rough. In these economic times, the client wants to see candidates with drive, ambition and energy, and we find them.

What services do you offer jobseekers? We've all worked in hospitality in the field we are recruiting for. We meet everyone face-to-face and do research on where they have worked. If we can help them, we provide a formatted CV to help our clients get the relevant information.

A CV is the window to the client, so in this competitive market it is important to get it right. If the client wants to see them at interview, we bring them in and give them press articles about the company, maps and so on.

Can a recruitment consultant guarantee a job? It's not possible, but we have a good relationship with our clients built up over years and we can put forward the most likely candidates that suit their criteria. For instance, we know Gaucho, its managers, training programmes and so on, so they know they'll be interested if we send someone along, because it will be a Gaucho type of candidate. We don't fire off 30 CVs.

Give us your view of the jobs market It's about to turn. I'm feeling confident about next spring.

â- Talk to people in organisations who you admire or want to work for and find out who got them their job.
â- Find out which recruitment firms your aspirational employers work with.
â- Look at jobs boards and websites to see which recruitment firms are advertising the most relevant jobs for you.
â- Talk to colleagues and industry contemporaries and ask for referrals. Note names that crop up time and again.

â- Remember your relationship with a consultant goes both ways, so clear and regular communication is key.
â- Try to meet your consultant in person as this ensures you are more memorable when new opportunities arise.

â- If the candidate doesn't feel comfortable.
â- If the consultant doesn't seem to have a thorough grasp of what they are looking for.
â- If the consultant refuses to meet or have an in-depth conversation over Skype or telephone.
â- If they send the candidate's CV to an employer without their consent.
â- If they send a candidate's CV to a wide variety of clients, as this could potentially damage their reputation in the market.

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