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Using recruitment agencies

More than 70% of organisations engage recruitment agencies to help fill job vacancies.

Recruitment agencies (also called employment agencies) assist organisations in sourcing candidates for temporary and permanent vacancies.

They are profit-making organisations – employers pay a fee for the service they provide. Good agencies will have an established contact database of employers and can give you access to job vacancies which may not be advertised elsewhere. But don't rely on agencies alone to get you a job – they should only be part of your job seeking strategy.

However, there are many things to consider when selecting and using recruitment agencies which can help you to make the most of the services they provide.

Advantages of working with them

The benefits of working with an agency are having all the interviews arranged for you, just having to turn up on time, getting them to do the leg work and bump up the salary negotiations.

Jessica, English Literature graduate

An agency searching for vacancies on your behalf can widen the scope of your job search and save you time. They can help to match your skills, experience and work interests with suitable job opportunities.

They can also help you find temporary or holiday work whilst studying for your degree, or a way to earn some money without having to commit to a permanent position after graduating.

Temporary employment agencies can help you find work in a range of roles and environments enabling you to gain valuable, varied experience whilst you’re looking for a permanent job.

Recruitment consultants may give you a realistic view on your skills and offer advice to suitable career paths. However, you should always seek careers advice from an impartial source, like our team. Book an appointment to see a Careers Adviser.

Making the most of their services

If you build a successful relationship with your recruitment consultant, it can lead to placement in a job that matches your skills and career aspirations

Check that the agency you are working for is reputable. Personal recommendations are often the best way to find good recruitment agencies, so ask friends and family who they have worked with agencies. If the agency is a member of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), this can be a useful indicator of the company’s integrity.

Do your research. Not all agencies cover all types of jobs, so check on sector-specific job sites (Agency Central is one example) to see which agencies deal with the jobs or sectors you're interested in. There are also dedicated graduate recruitment agencies.

Select a few agencies to work closely with rather than registering with many. You're likely to have better results if you build a good relationship with a few consultants and check back with them regularly. You may need to shop around to find the right agency for you.

Get relevant experience

Bear in mind that many agencies will want some relevant experience, particularly for certain occupations eg administration, HR and marketing (even for temporary roles).

This is normally six months and can be frustrating for new graduates with little work experience. If this is the case for you, try doing a couple of short work placements before applying.

Agencies may ask you to register online and computer software will match you to potential jobs instantly. When you register with an agency, be clear about your career goals and the type of work you are looking for.

Have a strong CV ready to send them, or upload, which highlights your skills, experience and career aspirations. Ideally your CV should include the skills and any relevant work experience required for the sector or role you're looking for.

Arrange a meeting

Where possible arrange a face to face meeting. This will provide an opportunity to discuss in depth what work you want and build a good rapport with your Recruitment Consultant. Be clear about what opportunities you are looking for so that they know what opportunities to contact you about.

Take note of any advice they give you about your CV, salary expectations or how to improve skill gaps. They probably know the job market better than you and have experience of placing candidates successfully

When meeting with a recruitment agency, treat it as you would an interview with an employer. It is an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths and abilities and convey why you would be a valuable employee. Dress smartly, be professional and polite at all times.

The recruitment agent’s reputation with their client is dependent on you being punctual, reliable and enthusiastic about your work. Show them that you will be likely to behave in this way.

If you've registered online, follow up with a phone call – a voice is more memorable than an email address.

Find out the details of the organisation before agreeing for your CV to be put forward for a job. However, be aware that some agencies will not divulge the name of the client until you have agreed for your CV to be submitted.

Always attend the interviews or assessment centre you are sent for. It does not reflect well on the agency if their candidates are unreliable, and it will make them reluctant to work with you again.

If you're not getting results

Ring your recruitment agency every 10-14 days if you're not seeing results. This will remind them that you are still available and interested. It will also give you the opportunity to ask for feedback if you are not being successful. If you are not getting the results you expect, look for alternative agencies.

Make sure that the recruitment agency has your up to date mobile number and email and respond quickly if they contact you as it shows your commitment to your job search

Don’t expect a personal response to each application you make. If your CV is appropriate for the role, you are likely to get a call. If it isn’t, you won’t.

Go and visit them in person and get to know the consultants. They only want to send candidates that are personable and are going to make a good impression for them. So if you can go in and sell yourself as much as possible, I think that they’ll be able to use you to make them look good. If they offer you placements that you aren't interested in, be upfront about it, but reiterate that you are keen to work for them, just in something that interests you.

Susanna, Geography (Human) graduate

Find out more

For advice on working with recruitment agencies, please contact us:

Careers and Employability