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The UK Bring Talent to the US Recruitment Industry

Ross Papas H2 N9 K9y9e3 E Unsplash

​Whilst. While. Chinwag. Chat. Rubbish. Trash. Draught. Draft. Does culture shock start at language? Maybe.

British recruitment agencies are entering the US market and bringing their top talent with them. But like any cultural upset, there are some major differences between the two countries’ business cultures.

Customs are different. Business etiquette is different. Yet there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both. So if you’re interested in working for a British firm in the US, here are some advantages and disadvantages you may want to consider.

Pros of working for a British Recruitment Company in the US

Investment in Growth

There are more recruitment companies in the UK than there are in the whole of the United States. With an estimated 27,000 recruitment agencies in the UK vs 20,000 in the US, is it any wonder why British firms are entering the US market? But like any country doing business in another, there are some cultural differences, not the least of which is how the business of doing business differs.

Equity-backed firms focus heavily on systems, processes, and learning and development of the consultants and staff. Investment here is made for the long haul, not to land the single big client. The top 50 ‘best of British’ companies are those who’ve found success in the US and are usually the best run with the highest growth. They also import the best leaders to trust with growing their US businesses.


Many US Firms still follow the “gold watch” mentality of longevity over merit, which can stall progress. Perhaps it’s because of the top 200 firms on Forbes. The top 2 have a long history beginning mid-20th century, and a lot has changed in the last 70+ years.

The world of work has changed. It’s about progression to leadership on merit, not longevity. The gold watch after 40 years of loyalty is a farce. Because British companies are investing in growth of their people through learning and development with structured processes. People are progressing to leadership in their late 20s, managing a team of 30 to 40, and many are earning $250k+.

This strategy allows these firms to actively progress local talent who will be the future of the business.

Niche specialization

Consultants in niche markets quickly become subject matter experts in their industries. Individuals focused on industries such as technology, biotech, and underserved areas like strategy consulting are making the sales process more consultative and warm.

As companies strive to keep up, they may not always know what they need or how to get started. Consultants with such depth of knowledge can help guide them toward the best professionals for their business. An added bonus? You’ll have the opportunity to work directly with hiring managers of some of the world’s leading companies.

International Business Management Styles

While the US and UK share many similar business practices, once you step inside a British recruitment agency, the similarities stop. From more formal, structured meetings to communication methods; everything is just a little different, and feeds back to language.

Potential Cons of working for a British Recruitment Company in the US


For all the investments toward future growth, there is one area many British firms are lacking. Diversity. In the US, there is a focus on ensuring a diverse cohort of professionals represented, particularly in the technology and executive areas. Those young leaders we mentioned earlier are usually young men in their late 20s. This is changing as these businesses develop and is not limited just to the staffing sector.

Higher risk for higher reward

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is quite different from US firms. British firms are highly focused on growth of their business. Part of the performance-related payment structure creates opportunities to shine over time versus in one big client supernova.

Let’s say a consultant’s base salary in the US is $80k plus a lower commission. If they land a single large client, their commission jumps, and the client stays on, but the company has only gained one large client. In UK firms, on the other hand, let’s say a base salary is $60k plus a higher commission. While this person may engage a large client, they don’t stop there. Recruitment consultants for British firms continue to build their portfolio and that of their company. In other words, they’re always pushing the business forward.

Getting Started Has it’s Cons for Both US and UK Firms

While many of the top US firms have been around a while, those companies just getting started may run into a few snags. Not the least of which is that start-ups don’t have established databases, and that is one of the reasons why investment in systems, processes, and people is so important.

Now, quick. What’s the first city you think of when someone says they’re starting a recruitment firm? New York? Probably. The problem with New York is that it’s expensive, especially when you’re just getting started. And most major cities will run into the same problem. But some UK firms are getting wise and opening locations in places like Austin, Nashville, and San Diego.

There are pros and cons, but what’s your experience? We’re interested to know.