Not one of us dreams of becoming a Recruiter, let alone plans a career that will span our entire professional life. But it is possible. As a Recruiter who recruits Recruiters we see it everyday in the backgrounds of the business owners, managers and executives we deal with. The career path for a Recruitment Professional is well established, just not well documented.


For the first three years in a Recruiters professional’s career, they spend most of their time learning the core tasks of sourcing, interviewing, and presenting. Large organizations are a great place for new recruiters to start their careers because they have a well-defined process around teaching, measuring, and rewarding individuals who perform the core tasks constantly. In addition to the process these environments instill, they also offer the new recruiter access to a high volume of requisitions, which increase a Recruiter’s chance of making a fill and furthering their career. The excepted overall compensation during the first few years starts in the low $30k range. When the core tasks are accomplished with ease the compensation will cap out around the $60k mark.


The end of the fourth year of a Recruiter’s professional career offers them a variety of choices. Some opt out of the agency side of our business to go in house for clients as either a Human Resources professional or Corporate Recruiter. Others leave the industry completely. The ones who choose to stay in the industry on the agency side move into Senior Recruiting roles.


As a Senior Recruiter moving into the fifth year of their career they bring well-established processes that enable them to run their desk efficiently. Boutique Agencies are an excellent place for a recruiter to mature into the senior role. The environment in a boutique will offer the Recruiter to take on the added responsibility of training and leading the Sourcing Specialist and less-tenured Recruiters. In addition to taking on these minor leadership roles they will be expected to move from the reactive model of account management to a more proactive model of building their own book of business. Recruiters reluctant to make the leap into the boutique agency environment will encounter their career plateau. Depending on the Recruiter’s value to an organization, they may find it difficult to progress their careers any higher because their individual contribution to the bottom line would constitute a significant loss if they were promoted into another area.


Either way, by the fourth and fifth year of a Recruiter’s career, the excepted total compensation will fall between the $60k – $70k range. The difference is the Recruiters in a good boutique environment will only stay within that range while they build their book of business. As the years for the Boutique Recruiter progress toward the ninth year of their career these individuals will be continuously tailoring their processes and becoming more and more specialized in a specific area. This adjustment to their desk will decrease their overall work load while significantly increasing their earning potential into the $150k to $200k range.


The next evolution in a Recruiter’s career is in the tenth- to twelfth-year time frame. At this point a Recruiter will have accumulated a significant amount of knowledge about what it actually takes to:

  • Make a single desk model profitable
  • Develop and maintain great relationships with clients and candidates to maximize profitability
  • Develop and manage others to develop and maintain profitability


Combine all of this knowledge and these individuals are at another crossroad in their Recruiting Career. A number of Recruiters will stay the course and continue to maximize their current situation and be quite happy. They will continue to maintain a comfortable living ranging from $60k to $200k, depending on market fluctuations and at what point they are at in rebuilding their desk. Others will take the option of Sr. Corporate Recruiter. These inside positions offer a more work-life balanced approach to recruiting while maintaining a relatively high income between $70k and $100k, depending on the organization. The career-minded Recruiter will step up into a Management role, where they can have a significant impact to an organization beyond their immediate team. The risk and the reward in the role of a Manager role can be significant, and this is directly reflected in the remuneration received, with typically ranges from $50k to $100k plus. The Entrepreneur or Business-minded Recruiters will take the leap of faith and hang out their own shingle. Income for these individual during their first year of operation ranges from flat to over $60k. If these Recruiters can tap into a successful network and weather the ups and downs, we see a significant turn at the end of the second year and steady success going forward for the next five years. Income for an Independent Recruiter can hit up to $300k…beyond that mark, the individual in no longer an Independent Recruiter. Instead, they would be classified as their own Boutique Agency.


Your career as a Recruiter can be as short or as long as you would like it to be. Just like everything else you do in your life you are only limited by your determination and your ability to take on challenges. Your skills as a Great Recruiter are not a fluke. Talent will only take you so far…it is the years and years of practice that makes a great recruiter.



Rebecca B. Sargeant

Recruiter’s Career Coach


Views: 51815

Comment by Brian Pho on August 3, 2010 at 9:16am
Great Article! One comment: Unfortunately, what is said up here is not really standardized by any governing board but I really dont think that matters.....
Comment by pam claughton on August 3, 2010 at 9:37am
Nice article, but the numbers seem unusually low to me for recruiters at an agency, especially what is listed for years 4 and 5 and recruiters making 60-70k. I can see that for corporate side maybe, but that is more like first or second year money for an agency. Though I'm just going by what I saw in the agency I worked at where the norm was 30-40k first year and then 2-3x that second year, and then again in year three a significant increase for those who continue to work hard and build their books of business.
Comment by Brian Pho on August 3, 2010 at 9:43am
Most agencies that I have found work with a 40/60 split amoungst the recruiter and the agency. (40 going to the recruiter). The split grows depending on gross revenue that the recruiter produces up to a maximum of sometimes 50/50. Throughout time (more years in the biz on the agency side), your client/customer list should grow and you should start getting steady clients which will increase the recruiter's gross revenue / production.... It is not unlikely that a recruiter that has 5-7 years of agency experience can produce up to 200k/yr (in a good year) - in which he will then take home about 50% of that -- which will make a good 100k/yr... (but it all depends on the recruiter's clients and how many of them are repeats)....
Comment by Mark Hyman on August 3, 2010 at 12:35pm
Interesting article, but I'll agree with Pam on the compensation. At my firm the first year income average is $40-60K with second year income approaching $100K and above. The structure of your firm and the support provided to each recruiter can also play a big part in all of this.
Comment by Dina Harding on August 6, 2010 at 1:21am
A good title, and a very nice progression outline on our profession, Rebecca! I enjoyed reading it, and thank you for sharing it with us :D
Comment by Olivier Coustaing on August 18, 2010 at 3:43pm
Rebecca, very interesting and acurate thoughts. The details may vary a little, depending of countries and individuals' objectives, but overall the picture is well drawn.
Comment by Ryan Harding on October 27, 2011 at 8:05pm

Great post Rebecca!  I am in my 5th year, and I stuggle with this every time I get a call about a new position.

Comment by Mitch Sullivan on December 9, 2011 at 7:41am

Rebecca, what do you think these boutique agency owners could do to stop their senior recruiters leaving to set up on their own or have to promote them into a management role just to keep them?

Comment by Rebecca B. Sargeant on December 9, 2011 at 5:17pm

Hello Mitch ~


Recruiters leave their jobs because of the WORK ENVIRONMENT!

9 out of 10 time Boutique Agency owners tell me, “I started my agency because I could it better than the SOB I was working for.”


The three best ways to keep productive recruiters is to:

1.)    Appreciate them.

2.)    Empower them.

3.)    Hold them accountable.


Here is the catch ~ most Agency Owners can’t stomach doing one of these, let alone all three. 

Comment by Venesa Klein on December 13, 2011 at 4:32pm

Thank you for laying that out!  I wanted to chime in and add that I personally started recruiting at a boutique agency with no prior recruiting experience and started out at $65K  annually. After one year I went to $75K and in my third year I went corporate to a salary of $95K. Currently I am at the end of my fourth year as a Corporate Recruiter and make $105K with a 15% bonus. 

As I consider going back on the agency side I am looking at a salary that is half of what i am making now but with a commission structure. 


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2023   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service