A Recruiter's guide to managing stress

A Recruiter's guide to managing stress
A Recruiter's guide to managing stress

posted 20 Dec 23

Although stress may not be classed as a mental health problem, it does play a part in fuelling anxiety and depression, which often results in low motivation and productivity. Recruiters are certainly no strangers to the fiercely competitive and reactive nature of the industry which, if left unchecked, increases the risk of elevated stress levels and subsequent mental health problems. 

We show you the possible triggers of stress, and what you can do to tackle them head on! 

Potential stress triggers for a recruiter

According to Mind, the Mental Health Charity that worked with us in our nation-wide Mental Health Management series: ‘Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.’ 

Although recruitment can be a very rewarding career with a lucrative remuneration package to compensate for the long hours consultants face each day, there are triggers that may cause a negative stress spiral. The good news is that by identifying the causes, you can then learn to implement coping strategies that enable you to direct your energy towards what is within your control, whilst learning to take a step back and let go of what is not. 

Below are some of the most common stress triggers a recruiter faces on a daily basis: 

Desk: Running a desk is in itself a pressure. Hitting targets, whether that is KPIs, financial targets, head-hunt calls or new business contacts can also trigger stress level spikes. 

Team/Environment: Recruitment is competitive by nature! Although healthy internal competition should be actively encouraged, there is a fine line between banter to encourage elevated performance and putting negative pressure on members of the team who may not be performing at an optimal level. A lack of collaboration and team spirit is not only divisive, but also an unpleasant trigger of stress. 

Management: In cultures where top performers are promoted to management roles, they can become autocratic and unsympathetic managers themselves, which may lead to a bullish and often unbearable management style that in turn increases stress. 

Candidates and clients: When dealing with human beings, they are unpredictable and therefore can change their minds, alter their requirements, not return calls, accept a counter offer or retrospectively negotiate. This is perhaps the most stressful aspect of recruitment, because the will of others is beyond our control. 

In short, work-related pressures can either lead to positive stress that drives you to rise up to challenges and deliver positive results, or it can lead to negative stress resulting in decreased motivation and productivity often resulting in a burnout. 

Steps to minimise stress

While it may be impossible to alleviate stress completely, there are ways to minimise the negative impacts of it. A wise person once said that managing stress is like getting the butterflies in your stomach to fly in synchronisation. That means that stress is not necessarily bad in itself, but rather a tool that can take a positive or negative turn. 

Here are 6 steps you can take to use stress to your advantage, and minimise the risk of a burnout: 

1. Set goals, plan and take action

Set goals and understand what you need to do to achieve your goals. It is vital that you manage your personal expectations and have a realistic plan in place, otherwise you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and despondent. Prioritise your plan, but be flexible enough to re-prioritise when situations change. Take action, review progress, amend your plan accordingly and keep focused on your goals. Break down larger tasks and projects into smaller more manageable chunks. 

2. Actively manage your work and time

Actively manage your work and build in time to step back from the day-to-day and reflect on your progress and what tasks still need to be completed. Tune into the outside world and be aware of changes affecting your work. Know what is happening in your company by monitoring key performance indicators, regular communication, feedback and meetings with staff, colleagues and key stakeholders, and listening to customer feedback. Adopt time management strategies that work for you, get organised, delegate or outsource work, minimise distractions, stop procrastinating and improve your productivity and efficiency. 

Effectively streamlining your day whilst maintaining flexibility for more reactive tasks, will increase your sense of control over your workplace processes, while enabling you to have a handle on your stress levels when unpredictable circumstances arise. 

3. Accept what is beyond your control

Recruiters invest in people, and people can be unpredictable. A candidate who flakes out on an interview can be just as risky to your credibility as a client who changes their mind about a vacancy after a candidate has flown in from another city to meet them. While it’s perfectly natural – and even cathartic – to explosively react in the moment, fixating on what has changed for the worst will not solve your problems and may cause a ripple effect on your day and lead to emotional distress. Instead, you should accept change, regroup and reschedule. Focus on what you can control, and think of ways that you can adapt to, and amend – within reason - the situation, even if it means making an unpleasant phone call. 

4. See the humour in situations

Laughter is the best remedy, and this is especially applicable when turning a stressful work situation into an opportunity to laugh. Whether you’ve been stood up via a passive aggressive email from a cheeky candidate or hastily stumbled into your first day meeting with your shirt inside out, it is possible to see the lighter side of situations at the office. Laughing at stressful situations will make the workplace more relaxing and create a better sense of calm around you. 

5. Be assertive and set boundaries

Take responsibility for your actions, be assertive, set boundaries, and be prepared to say no. Focus and celebrate what has gone well, value what you have and what you have achieved. Look at what has not got well as learning and change things accordingly. Consider the best and worst that could happen and accept that issues have arisen and find satisfactory resolutions. Be decisive, don’t panic, draw on your resources and trust your knowledge, experience and intuition. Calm down, think about how you have overcome similar situations in the past and move into a different space to think things through. Be realistic and control perfectionism. 

6. Ask for help and support

We are all human, and nobody has the superhuman capability to shoulder all the weights of the world. Build a support network of trusted contacts and ask for support from someone in your organisation or from a third party – such as a friend, family member or a social group outside of work. 


We want you on our team!

Are you an experienced recruiter looking for your next role within the industry? Search is a nationwide recruitment agency that offers a wide range of  jobs from a variety of specialist industry sectors. If you feel you would be an ideal addition to our team, please do not hesitate to contact our internal recruitment team on [email protected] or take a look at what it's like to work for us