How Can Recruiters Handle the Stress of the Job?


Working in recruitment can be a terrifically rewarding career for anyone who’s goal-oriented and enjoys working with people. For those who take to the role, a financially and emotionally fulfilling career awaits connecting employees and businesses to each other for mutual gain. What could go wrong with that?

Unfortunately, lots. Most recruitment firms encourage their staff to hit and exceed targets, often under a commission-based pay structure. There’s a fine line between meeting healthy professional expectations and buckling under the weight of pressure, which is a balance many recruiters have to negotiate every day. As Forbes says, an IT recruiter job is 98 % communication with people, which means that in 98 percent of cases, we are dealing with unpredictability. It’s not just recruitment managers who are expecting their team to get results: clients, be they employers or employees, are also relying on recruitment consultants to forge new relationships and fill vacancies in roles critical to a firm’s success. In attempting to please these parties, recruiters often exist on a treadmill, frantically chasing down leads and trying to hit the next target just to ensure job security.

So how can recruiters change daily habits to manage these stresses in a healthy way while still staying productive at work? Let’s take a look.

What are the Sources of Stress for Recruiters?

  • Targets: For professional recruiters working on commission-basis for an agency, targets can be a necessary evil to ensure that their recruitment firm is generating a profit. However, a daily avalanche of key performance indicators (KPIs), hiring goals, and lead generation can swiftly become overwhelming. Failure to hit a target is something that can haunt us even after we leave the office at night and instill an almost neurotic tension within us in the long term.
  • Working Conditions: Recruitment is a naturally competitive industry, especially when recruiters are racing each other to see who can secure the most hires on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. While there is such a thing as healthy competition, it’s easy for a recruitment office to develop a dog-eat-dog culture where survival of the fittest is the bottom line. In such an atmosphere, it’s almost impossible to foster a collaborative spirit and a sense of teamwork among colleagues.
  • Leadership: Many recruitment managers got the position due to their high performance as recruitment agents, and sometimes this results in management that demands results with little concern for their team’s holistic well-being. Such unsympathetic and overbearing management attitudes can be a source of tremendous grief for staff who are unlucky enough to get on their bad side.
  • Clients: Both candidates and client companies can prove flighty and unpredictable, doing the delicate job of mediating their needs even more frustrating. A large part of successful recruitment involves getting different parties on the same page, but if a candidate starts demanding more money or a recruiter wants more skills added to the job posting, the HR professional trying to keep both sides happy can find themselves squeezed from every side.

What are the Signs That You’re Overworked?

While some people thrive under pressure, it’s not a healthy standard that the rest of us need to adhere to. Too much strain at work can manifest itself in three main ways: depression, stress, and anxiety. The three conditions share many overlapping symptoms, which can manifest mentally and physically.


Anxiety is a state of mental unrest severe enough to result in physical symptoms and is generally more evident than stress. Anxiety is caused by sustained tension that leaves our bodies in an almost permanent subconscious “fight or flight” mode, even if the causes are something seemingly mundane like looming work deadlines or an imminent performance review. The symptoms of anxiety might include:

  • Sweating
  • Raised or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness and irritability


While stress may be less physically apparent, it’s no less detrimental to our long-term quality of life. Stress is arguably a more insidious condition, as we believe that we can function normally under its effects and consequently don’t take action to treat it. Signs of stress could be:

  • Low energy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Acid reflux
  • Depleted sex drive
  • Habitual self-medication with drugs or alcohol
  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension
  • Poor posture


While depression can be caused by problems at work, we need to stress that its root cause could be something else entirely, and issues at work could merely be a trigger to its manifestation. If you’re in doubt, seek clinical advice about the best course of treatment. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • No longer taking pleasure or interest in the things you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

How Recruiters Can Deal with Stress

First and foremost, expert advice should be recommended depending on the severity of your stress or anxiety. Medical professionals can check on you for the specific symptoms and advise on the best steps to take. That said, here are some proven coping mechanisms that can be of use to any recruiter feeling stressed at work and could also have beneficial results even if you’re not currently under overwhelming strain.


Meditation, or mindfulness, as it’s sometimes called, is a habit based on Buddhist teachings that are increasingly practiced by business professionals to stay centered amidst the demands of their jobs. At its core, meditation seeks to calm our minds and focus us on the challenges that are immediately in front of us so we can live in the present with clarity. Even 20 minutes of meditation in a quiet space before and after starting work offers an opportunity to organize our thoughts and rationalize the sources of our concerns.


We all know that work schedules can get hectic and that it’s not always going to be possible to eat a home-cooked organic meal or go to the gym every single day. However, if we cultivate bad lifestyle habits outside of work, they will inevitably start leaking into our professional lives. Conversely, if your personal life and overall health are in balance, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the pressures of recruitment and help keep your stress markers down. Some steps to take could be:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Taking regular breaks away from your desk
  • Leaving the office for lunch
  • Walking or cycling to work where possible
  • Learning how to delegate responsibilities
  • Using your team as a support network


Whatever your chosen religion, your faith can be the source of the extra strength you need to make it through whatever challenges you face at work. Faith doesn’t start and end in your place of worship – it can be a source of respite and reassurance every hour of the day. If it feels like you can’t hit your targets and the cubicle walls seem to be closing in, realize that you are part of something bigger and that you don’t have to face these challenges alone.

Employment Practices

If you work in a management or executive position in recruitment, you have a duty to maintain the well-being of the recruiters working under you. While there will be times that staff have to crunch to help their department, their dedication to the company’s success needs to be reciprocated by management. Many HR departments in recruitment agencies employ specific professionals to ensure that the well-being of staff is a consideration in dictating working practices and could pay dividends for the culture in your own office. Look at the main sources of stress in their working environment that can be remedied, and actively solicit their feedback to find out what you can be doing to make them happier and more productive.  

Final Thoughts

Recruitment can offer a rewarding career by helping people find the perfect job in positions where their employers will appreciate their talents. However, recruiters need to ensure that their own needs aren’t being neglected. More and more recruitment businesses are realizing that working practices play a huge role in defining a company’s brand values, and as a consequence, they’re ensuring that staff members have the support they need to thrive in their roles. Are you a recruiter who’s had to overcome stressful situations at work? Are there any tips or practices you found particularly helpful for keeping stress at bay? Share them with us in the comments sections below.