How Much Do Recruiters Make in the UK?

When I used to work in the recruitment agency industry, I had this question all the time. Whilst I could give an indicator of how much I was paid, that didn’t tell much of a story. However, this seems a good place to start. Below are my earnings from years 1 to 4 in recruitment. Everyone’s journey is very different and some will far exceed me (as many of my closet colleagues did!) and some will not.

There is also a lot of luck in how much recruiters make, I don’t mind RNG in someone taking a job, I mean market positioning, mentorship, and client growth etc that are completely out of your hands as a recruiter. If your biggest client furloughs everyone during covid, you aren’t going to be that busy (of course you can find more clients and you should never be too reliant one, but anyway, I digress).

How Much Do Recruiters Make?

Here is how much I earned over 3 years in recruitment:

Recruitment Consultant – Year 1: £18,000 + £2,000 commission

  • Worked for a small boutique agency in London recruiting for a very specific part of an investment bank. It was a 6-person company with a range of salaries on offer. My job was to find “source” candidates for our more senior consultants to place
  • When they were placed we would bill on 20% of the consultant’s fee
  • IE we place someone on £100k, the agency would bill out a £20k fee, and I would have £4k in billings attributed to me
  • Once you have your “billing” number, it depends on the agency how much you’d be paid, in this instance, I was paid 20% or £800. Not bad for the industry, but you’d need a lot of volume to make a reasonable amount of money especially considering the low salaries

Year 2: Base £20k, commission £16k total: £36k

  • After feeling like I was being ripped off for about 10 months I started looking for somewhere else to work. I had a random phone call from my future boss whilst I was in work. They were a technology recruitment agency (technology recruiters tend to make some of the best money in recruitment)
  • I joined after spending 1 month travelling around Europe with my best friend as employee number one of a new office in one of Europe’s hottest markets
  • Here, everyone was paid 20% flat on all billings without any restrictions, so although I could have been paid a higher base salary the potential earnings here were far above most other local competitors
  • One thing to consider when choosing the agency you want to work for is their client based and compensation scheme, I will come onto this later

Years 3 and 4: £55k and £65k respectively (with a small bump to £22k base salary…)

  • After a reasonably successful first-year things heated up, we won some big accounts and the money came easier than ever before
  • Of course, I was also much better at my job than I had been before
  • The above is an indication, I was good but also quite lazy at my job, I could probably have added £20k or so to my earnings but for me, the trade-off of my life was not worth it, for you it may be!

I have now left agency recruitment and I work “in-house”, in-house recruiters can make anything from £35k to £75k in the UK, with much higher salaries on offer for management and potentially in large tech companies with large stock. I know folks who are making £125k base salary for managing a relatively small team of people. But given the amount of money agencies spend on fees, it’s quite easy to justify paying better salaries to get the best in-house recruiters in the UK.

How much does a Recruitment Consultant Make?

From the varying data I have seen, I expect the average recruiter to make around £35-£40k, but the average is brought down significantly by those just starting, and those that quit in the first year (a huge amount). It’s a lucrative, but a lot of the time soul-destroying industry. If I needed the money I would go back in a heartbeat, as it’s as simple as turning on the old cogs and getting to work. It’s also an industry that is easy to set up your own company. You don’t need much start-up capital, and all you need is a phone, a laptop, and a small amount of software to get you started. Instead of billing £300k, you can bill £100k but keep most of it after tax and expenses. It’s one of my backups, however, I find it less fulfilling than a lot of other things I could do with my time.

Frequently asked questions:

How do recruiters get paid?

As you will be the example above recruiters get paid a percentage of the starting salary of the person they place. Typically, this is around 20%, it can be much higher and can be much lower for faster-moving areas (like temps). However, how much the recruiter (not the recruitment agency) gets paid is based on what you negotiate, or what the agency’s standard compensation plan looks like. Some will give you a flat percentage of your billings, and some will make you reach a threshold (say £15k a quarter) which pays for your seat. Everything above that should be paid at a higher percentage e.g. 30-40% because it is pure profit for both the agency owner and for the recruiter (since they have covered their costs).

How much do recruiters make per hire?

Typically an agency will be paid 20% and the recruitment agency will get 10-20% of that fee. Sometimes this is broken down on a quarterly or monthly basis, sometimes it’s annual. Recruiters typically make 50 to 80% of their income from commission, depending on a wide variety of factors such as their compensation plan, billings, and base salary. Some companies will pay their recruiters higher base salaries and lower commission and vice versa.

If you have any questions, feel free to submit them below. I hope this has helped those entering the industry understand how recruiters get paid, and how much recruiters get paid in the UK. 

What industry should we cover next?

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