Using recruitment agents

Recruitment agencies are an important tool for job seekers and most people will use an agency at some point in their lives. This blog will address how to find an agency and what to expect.

How do recruitment agencies work?

Agencies work on behalf of organisations to find the most suitable person for a job vacancy. Many employers choose to recruit through agencies to save time as they can outsource the initial sifting of CVs and associated administration.

Usually employers will send a job description to their chosen agency and the agency will send them a shortlist of candidates sourced from their pool of candidates. The employer will choose its preferred candidates to interview and ask the agency to arrange this. The employer pays the agency a fee for this service. This is usually a percentage fee based on the starting salary of the candidate or an upfront fee.  There is no fee for the job seeker.

Some agencies will specialise in a particular sector or geographical region while others such as Reed and Hays will cover lots of different sectors and regions.

Why use a recruitment agency?

Using an agency can give you access to roles that are not advertised elsewhere. A good agency should have inside information on an employer and the market that they can pass to you before an interview to help you prepare.

How to find a recruitment agency

  • Use the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s (the professional body for recruitment) members list
  • Through agency central’s directory
  • Look at a jobs board (e.g. Totaljobs) specialising in your sector and the names of agencies advertising jobs there
  • Word of mouth

Applying for a job through an agency

It is important to build a good relationship with a recruiter that you trust. Recruiters should not send your CV to any companies without informing you first or asking for your permission. They must send you a job specification unless you agree for them to send your CV directly.

Ideally, you will see a job that you are qualified for and you should send your CV and cover letter followed by a phone call to introduce yourself. Recruiters will receive potentially hundreds of CV’s for each role that they advertise so it is important to read the job specification carefully and not waste your time and their time.

If you are working with a specialised graduate recruiter, you may send the agency your CV and covering letter explaining what sort of position you are looking for. It is advisable to follow up by phone if you do not hear back from the agency. The agency may wish to meet you for an informal interview before putting you forward for any jobs.

Agency etiquette

  • Treat the initial interview with your agency seriously, dress smartly
  • Keep in contact throughout your job hunt to ensure your consultant remembers to put you forward for roles. Let them know if you have found employment so they can take you off their books
  • Ask your consultant to tell you when your CV is put forward for a role and keep a record of the employer names and dates
  • If you get an interview ask for as much information as you can about the employer so you can ensure you prepare effectively
  • Listen to their advice on your application/interview
  • Ask for feedback after an interview
  • When starting work ensure you arrive on time and act professionally in order to create a good impression and be considered for future work.

Final tips from Damian Mullins, Unitemps Recruitment Manager

A great candidate is someone that is prepared well. They have read the job specification in detail and sent a cover letter that reflects the requirements of the role. There is no problem calling the recruiter to introduce yourself and to say that you have applied and look forward to perhaps meeting with the recruiter at a convenient time. You will be blacklisted from an agency if you contact companies directly having been given details by a recruiter. The company may also blacklist you as it shows a lack of trust as they are paying the agency to carry out the recruitment process. The key is to build a relationship with a recruiter and recruitment company that you trust, so do you research and you will be successful.


Amy Townsend

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