Market confidence pushing recruiter salaries higher

Managing recruiters

With competition for recruitment talent showing no signs of cooling, some salaries are ballooning to unprecedented levels, according to rec-to-rec specialists.

There's been significant movement in salaries at junior level, says Greenbridge Recruitment director Adrian Carty.

"Even a couple of years ago it would be normal for a trainee recruiter coming from a sales background to be on a base of $55–60k plus super. We've seen placements of people coming from non-recruitment at $70k plus super, and people with one-year experience getting $80–85k plus super. They're significant jumps from what they were a year ago."

The market is very confident at all levels and sectors, he adds, including trainees and more customer-service-oriented candidates. "Even internal recruitment roles are quite difficult to fill at present."

Carty is also positive about how changes to the visa program have played out, in contrast to initial industry reactions. "Even with the visa changes in place, we have placed recruiters with less than one year's experience onto a visa, so the bar for moving jobs isn't as high as what I think was initially feared when the changes were made in the first place."

For the most part, he says, 360-degree consultants remain those most in demand. "Where the market is more skills based, you see more business development and resourcing being split out."

Business development takes a back seat

Hamilton Professional MD Paul Hamilton agrees the 360-degree model is still popular, but says "there's more delivery and resourcing-type roles that are available for candidates now that weren't available in the past".

This is because clients can't find enough recruitment consultants, he says. "There's more pure delivery and resourcing roles, without the business development component, because of the talent shortage."

Demand has never been greater for experienced recruitment consultants, he says, particularly in specialist areas. "IT, civil engineering and construction are far and away the hottest areas right now for consultants."

And clients are far more willing to take on people without recruitment industry experience, if they have a B2B sales background, for example.

"There's much more pressure on salaries now for experienced recruiters," he says. "Agencies really need to wake up to the fact that there is pressure on base salaries and they will miss out on good recruiters if they're not prepared to up the base salaries.

"We're seeing people now with six months' experience getting $70k base salaries. They would have got $55–60k 12-to-18 months ago."

Mid- to senior-level salaries have also gone up, although these recruiters are more realistic about thresholds required to earn commission, Hamilton says.

Talent staying put

The hardest recruiters to entice out of roles are temp/contract specialists with large desks who are billing big money, Hamilton says. "It's very hard to get them out of their existing roles purely because their desks are worth so much money on a month-to-month basis."

It's also very hard to get current visa holders to move because they're waiting for a path to permanent residence, he adds.

However, recruiters are prepared to move for better commissions and greater work-life balance, Hamilton says, with many leaving big agencies in favour of the flexibility and commission structures on offer at boutique firms.

At the same time, a number of recruiters have been looking to leave start-ups that haven't delivered on promises around working environment.

"We've seen a relatively high staff turnover at a lot of these start-ups because the pressure's been on, they've found it harder to crack into new markets or existing markets; a lot of recruiters have had non-compete clauses, making them slower to start billing."

Recruiting for potential pays off

To keep up with demand in Brisbane, agencies are looking outside the sector, says Lime Resourcing director (Queensland, WA and Victoria) Andy Hardaker.

"Because demand is so high and supply of experienced recruiters is so low, we've definitely seen an upsurge in the last six months of businesses that are hiring more junior talent, and really working hard to spot potential in less obvious candidates than they would have done 12-to-18 months ago."

Unlike other markets, Hardaker says this isn't having much impact on junior-level salaries, at least for now. "If competition for that type of person continues, then inevitably it probably will."

More experienced recruiters are commanding greater salaries, however. "We've certainly seen clients willing to pay high base salaries – and much higher than they normally would have – to secure that talent."

That said, remuneration is not as important for recruiters to change firms as it was, say, two years ago. Instead, there's now a growing awareness of the importance of culture, he says.

"The confidence that's been given to them by doing well and billing a desk might then make them think about moving somewhere else where they might see their career progress and take on management and leadership opportunities," Hardaker says.

"When you take that financial element out, people are more driven towards by finding businesses with cultures that are more aligned to their values or opportunities for career progression, personal development, flexibility."