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Next step - How do I become ... An educational recruitment consultant?

If you have a talent for getting people together in the right situation, this could be for you. Only matchmakers need apply

If you have a talent for getting people together in the right situation, this could be for you. Only matchmakers need apply

Non-smoker and GSOH? A dating agency will help you find love. First-time buyer looking out for a nice flat? An estate agent will have just the thing. Want a role in a Hollywood blockbuster? Get yourself on the books of a good casting agent.

There are some people who have the knack of making the right match. If you think you may be one of them, the job of educational recruitment consultant could suit you nicely.

When schools have a vacancy, of any kind, they can ask a recruitment agency to find someone suitable. The job of the consultant is to act as matchmaker.

"You have to know the teachers on your books," says Mary Knock, operations manager for Verity Education in London. "It's no good just looking at their CV. You have to talk to them, dig down deep, find out their strengths and weaknesses. You also need to know the schools you do business with and the way they like to work. There might be a brilliant teacher on your books, but that doesn't mean they're right for the job."

For most recruitment agencies, the bread-and-butter side of the business is providing supply. Last year, the Conservatives estimated that there were as many as 15,000 teachers off sick each day in England. This means schools often need cover at the last minute and the recruitment agency phones start ringing at 7.30am, if not before.

"Being a consultant isn't a 9am to 5pm job," says Aaron McCluskey, of Foxsearch, which specialises in recruiting consultants for agencies. "If you get a call two minutes before the end of the day, then you have to stay until it's sorted. But there's a real buzz that comes with the job. You're solving people's problems - and that's satisfying."

When recruitment consultants are not answering calls from desperate heads, they may be visiting schools or trying to find new teachers to fill vacancies. Ms Knock, for example, has recently been to careers fairs in Canada, Ireland and Australia. The job also involves a lot of administration work, including asking for references, ensuring Criminal Records Bureau checks are carried out, and looking over CVs. "You've got to be thorough," says Ms Knock. "It only takes one bad case to close a company."

However, a good reputation can bring excellent rewards. Agencies pay consultants a basic wage and, on top of that, there is usually a commission for each teacher successfully placed. It makes for fierce competition between companies, and sometimes even between colleagues.

"You won't get very far without honesty and integrity," says Mr McCluskey. "If you haven't got anyone that's right for a job, then you have to say so. You're only as good as the last teacher you sent out."

It is this commercial cut and thrust that appealed to Emily Townsend, who gave up her job as a secondary science teacher to become an executive consultant at Axcis Education Recruitment. "I just fancied working in an office right in the middle of London and experiencing a different kind of life," she says. She is not alone: most of her colleagues at Axcis are former teachers.

"An education background is a definite advantage. You know the jargon, you know what it's like in the classroom and schools feel comfortable dealing with you," she says.

"I like the fact that we're providing a service to teachers and schools. If there's a school in a dodgy location but we know it's well run and a good place to work, then we can encourage teachers to apply who wouldn't otherwise consider it. It's satisfying when you get the right match."

Next week: Diploma teacher

Where you stand

- Salary Basic Pounds 18,000-35,000. Commission can take earnings over Pounds 40,000.

- Qualifications None specifically. Most consultants come from either teaching or other areas of recruitment.

- Key qualities Customer service skills, flexibility, an understanding of what schools need.

- Next steps Get your CV out to agencies or check websites for vacancies. There are education recruitment agencies throughout the UK. See, www.axcis. and

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