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Why UK recruitment companies have an edge over their US counterparts

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With over 150mn people in the workforce, the US job market surpasses the UK’s in every aspect. However, you may be surprised to find out that there are actually more recruitment companies in the UK, with US companies even employing the services of UK agencies for their hiring processes. In this article, we look into what differentiates the recruitment sector in the UK.


Recruitment is a people business, and landing a hire is a combination of skills that ideally should be developed early-career. By investing in the skills of younger recruiters through structured developmental programs, UK recruiters are progressing to managerial roles from as early as their late 20s. Some of them are even leading teams of over 30 and making six-figures. In contrast, US firms place a stronger emphasis on a recruiter’s tenure with the business. Promotions are often given to senior leadership for their ‘loyalty’, and young hires face lacklustre progression prospects with a time horizon of years, if not decades.


Job seekers and employers may think of recruiters as know-it-alls who can place anyone in any role across any industry. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, recruitment agencies in the UK are often set up with a particular niche in mind. For example, Camino Search specialises in placing finance talents into tech and tech-enabled companies. With a clearly-defined hiring focus, recruiters ease into the ins and outs of the sector and become subject matter experts who can guide businesses as they grow in headcount. In recent years, the US market is starting to catch up in this aspect, with niche staffing agencies popping up everywhere as the sector is coming to grips with the value of a focused talent pool and long-term industry contacts.


Scratching beneath the surface, however, the fundamental differences between recruitment in the UK and US start to reveal themselves. In the UK, 57% of employers use personality tests as a key evaluation element. In the US, however, this number dwindles to a mere 27%. With 74% of UK recruiters citing character as a good means of evaluation (vs. 60% in the US), it is reasonable to believe that new hires in the UK tend to be a better cultural fit. With higher job satisfaction and lower employee attrition rates, which are all evaluation metrics for the hiring process, it is no wonder that UK enjoys better recruitment outcomes and hence stronger demand for recruitment services.


US companies tend to be larger than their global counterparts, including the UK. This is due to a variety of factors such as market size and higher profitability of key sectors such as tech. Larger companies are also more likely to hire on a frequent basis and have a dedicated in-house recruitment team. In comparison, UK firms are smaller and rely on recruitment agencies for their hiring needs. With 54% of hiring managers planning to increase their use of staffing agencies over the next few years, this trend is set to continue to the benefit of recruitment agencies.


The UK recruitment sector placed 110,000 people in more than 30,000 businesses in 2020. While figures are lower compared to 2019 due to the pandemic, the industry is forecasted to grow across all metrics including Gross Value Added (GVA). As we come out of the pandemic, recruiters and employees alike have to adapt to the new normal and thrive in an age of telecommute and hybrid work arrangements. If UK recruiters can constantly find ways to innovate their processes and value-add to business growth and employee development, they can expect to continue to outpace their global counterparts.