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Why working in recruitment is like running a Spartan race

29th June 2022 | Blog

By Matthew Beedle, Client Services Director

Last weekend I ran a Spartan Race, this was a 5km run with a series of challenging obstacles to complete. While running that race, it struck me that there are actually a lot of similarities between the race and working in recruitment. Confused? Let me explain.


What is a Spartan race?

Spartan races are designed to push us out of our comfort zones and beyond. If you are a seasoned runner at first you won’t see them as being so tough, the distances range from 5km to 21km which is nothing compared to doing a 42.19 km marathon. However, the issue is a Spartan race is full of many obstacles, difficult terrain, and shocks to the system. See how well you run after you’ve had to run through freezing water, carry a 20kg sack around for 500 meters and then do 30 burpees as punishment for failing an obstacle (try doing 30 burpees in a row now and get back to reading if you are in doubt!).

Your body is in constant shock, all your muscles are being tested and you struggle to get into any rhythm. This doesn’t just challenge your body, but your mind, you are constantly dreading what obstacle is coming your way next and you are questioning why you signed up for it in the first place.


What does a recruiter do?

Working in recruitment is to help companies find people for open positions. This involves building relationships with the companies themselves, building relationships with thousands of potential candidates (people with the skills the companies are looking for) and bringing the two together.

It’s a job that can pay very for recruiters who are consistently delivering as companies will pay good money for the right people. As we know, a business can’t work without its staff and having good people makes a huge difference.


I said the two things had some things in common, and maybe by now you’re starting to see some of those similarities for yourself, so let’s take a deeper look.


1. Resilience

Both Spartan races and recruitment will test your resilience. When working in recruitment, you’ll liaise with many clients, and deal with the most unpredictable asset in the world: people. All this while making sure you stay ahead of your competitors. Setbacks are around every corner and you often think things are going well then out of nowhere an obstacle comes up, for example, a candidate decides not to take the role you’ve just offered them, or a role is cancelled. The best recruiters are the ones who can pick themselves up from this and keep going.

In a race it’s the same deal, you think you are doing well and suddenly you have an obstacle (for example a rope climb) and you fail and have to do 30 burpees. You know in the gym you could have done the rope climb, you trained for it, but when you are exhausted, cold and wet, you just couldn’t do it. Your body is asking you to give up, but you just have to push through it.


2. Positive Mental Attitude (mindset)

This plays very much into the theme of resiliency I’ve just been discussing. If you get bogged down in negative thoughts in a race, you might not make it to the top of that wall, and therefore find yourself penalized with 30 burpees.

During a Spartan, you are constantly at battle with yourself to maintain positivity to get through the challenge and you’re always being put off balance by the next obstacle or piece of terrain. This over time helps build up mental resilience. Look up David Goggins’ Cant Hurt Me if you want to learn more about mental resilience.

Likewise when working in recruitment, if all you can see are the bad things (your candidate not being selected for an interview, for example), people will hear this in your voice and you could find it harder to communicate. Ultimately if you sound happy and upbeat on the phone, people are more likely to open up.

Recruitment has a similar effect, you are having to deal with rejection, surprises, and what we call the emotional roller coaster daily. This really helps to create a strong and more resilient mindset. This is crucial to success in life and it’s no surprise good recruiters tend to excel outside of recruitment as well as within. The ability to maintain a positive mental attitude is a skill you don’t always acquire in your everyday 9-5 job.

Every time you get back on your feet again, whether that be in recruitment, in a race, or really in any aspect of life, you are becoming more resilient, fighting off the negative thoughts and moving forward again! of the more setbacks you face the stronger and more resilient you will become, but only if you have the right mental attitude!


3. Getting out of comfort zone

I think by now from everything I’ve written about a Spartan Race you will understand what I mean by it forces you out of your comfort zone (off the couch and away from that bag of crisps!)

Likewise, working in recruitment forces you out of your comfort zone, especially the way we do recruitment here at NonStop: hiring entry-level people and providing all the training they need to become expert recruiters.

Each day is different and you can’t just go onto auto pilot, turning up and receiving your paycheck. You have sales to make, roles to fill, and new clients to impress.

You’re essentially always in a state of learning, which means consistently being pushed out of your comfort zone. Personally, that growth is what I find so exciting about this job!


4. Consistently learning

I’m sure you can imagine the sheer amount of mental and physical training that is needed to prepare for a Spartan race. The learning is huge too. Not just training your muscles to be comfortable lifting heavier and heavier objects, but training your mind too.

Here recruitment is the same. It’s a consistent learning process and even after 10 years as a recruiter, I’m still learning new things. It helps that the industries we specialise in, pharmaceuticals in my case, are always evolving, but so is technology and the way we can reach and communicate with people. Of course, we also have our continual professional development programme here that is available to all our recruiters to help them keep moving forwards in their careers and keep learning.

I think the ability to be open to learning and the modesty to admit you don’t know everything is something that can take us far in our careers, in races, and in life!


5. Variety

Both Spartan races and the role of a recruiter are more exciting and have more variety than other races or jobs.

For a Spartan race, you need to be strong in your upper body as well as lower body and have good cardio. Hence the training is much more variable compared to let’s say a marathon or just training in the gym. And like I mentioned above, it’s not just running for a few hours like in a marathon, it’s running through a variety of obstacles.

Here recruitment is the same, you gain a number of skills across sales, HR, communication and business development. On top of this, you are rarely bored, you get a great variety of work thrown your way and ultimately, if you have the guts to get past the finish line, the feeling is great and financially top recruiters make bank!

In conclusion, if you are feeling too comfortable in life, my advice is to do something about it. When you are on your deathbed, you won’t care or remember the comfortable times, it’s the times of challenge, victory against adversity and success that will come to mind. Seek these out and live your life.

Matthew Beedle is NonStop’s Client Services Director and has 10 years of recruitment experience, primarily in the Swiss pharmaceutical industry.

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