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Get The Most Out of Recruitment Agencies

01/01/09 Martin Crapper Managing Partner

Looking for a job takes time, effort and energy, so surely anything that helps with the process has got to be a good thing, right Of course, but how do you know who is going to take the hassle out of job-hunting and who is going to make it more difficult? Just as you have to read between the lines when deciding which job adverts are right for you, so you need to choose carefully which recruitment consultancies you sign up with.

They’re not all the same; it is a matter of doing your research and making them work for you. Andrew was just starting out in his career in Engineering after leaving university. He had already done a month work experience within an Electronics company and was now looking for proper paid work, preferably in the telecoms or process control sector. He registered with three recruitment agencies that specialise in technical recruitment and was invited to interviews with all of them. His experiences were very different in each case.

“The first agency I went to were quite laid back. The interview was at 5.30pm, everyone was desperate to go home, so it lasted about five minutes. At my interview for the second agency, the consultant tried to put me off my chosen career, and had I thought of going into electrical engineering or facilities management? That really dented my confidence, here I was starting out on what I thought was my dream career and I was getting knocked back at the first hurdle. I began to question whether I thought it through properly, whether this was indeed the right career path for me.”

Andrew pushed ahead and was invited to several interviews. “Some I knew weren’t right for me they were miles away from where I lived, in a sector I had no interest in. But still I went to them because I felt obliged. I didn’t want to let the consultant down, and there was always a niggling voice at the back of my head that said if you don’t go you’ll never know one of these could be the job for me.”

The third agency did in fact land Andrew an interview with a job that he felt he could have done, and, although the employer liked Andrew, the position was much too senior for him. All he was left with after three months of dead-end interviews were costly travel expenses, extra stress and a huge dent in his holiday allowance.

A week later, Andrew applied for a position that he saw advertised on a job board with a company that really excited him. He was called for an interview and was offered the job. “Looking back, I was a bit naive with my choice of recruitment consultants” he says. “I should have been more selective about which interviews I went for and I should have stood my ground. I was grateful for the support that the recruitment consultants gave, because psychologically it was reassuring to know that that I wasn’t the only one looking for my job, but at the end of the day, I had more success on my own. I could target the companies I wanted to work for, and I didn’t have the worry of having to impress the middle man to ensure I was put forward for interviews.”

Not all experiences of recruitment consultants are the same, however, and there are huge benefits to be had by using them. According to a recent report conducted by, a quarter of recruitment consultants can actually help to increase a candidate starting salary and 35% have placed candidates in jobs within a month.

"It really comes down to how you choose your recruitment consultant" says Nick Livingstone of Redline. A good recruitment consultant should be able to demonstrate a mix of professional knowledge of the markets and empathy with the candidate. A good network of contacts in your skill and geographic area is the first consideration, but also consultants need to have the personal touch - an appreciation that candidates are people, not commodities, and that looking for a new role is a big deal for most people and something that can be quite stressful.

Far from being a passive way of looking for a new job, getting the most out of working with a recruitment agency requires input from your side too. For this, you should be rewarded with access to industry knowledge, a bank of jobs with great companies that aren’t advertised directly, as well as support in CV writing, interview techniques and other related topics. Not a bad pay-off when you think about it!

How to get the most out of your recruitment consultant

  • Send an email and follow up with a call. Always clearly reference which job you aree interested in or which types of jobs, if you’re not applying for a specific one
  • Keep your CV format simple so that the company can integrate it into their systems easily. Ask for feedback on your CV and follow up on any suggestions to improve it
  • Have a succinct pitch of what skills and ACHIEVEMENTS you have that are marketable and be clear on what types of role you want. However, also be willing to take advice as a good recruiter may suggest roles that you hadn’t thought about and that could be ideal for you
  • Try and establish a rapport with a consultant who will then be happy to vouch for your integrity and professionalism if any of their colleagues or clients are considering you for their roles
  • Be aware of companies you have approached directly and ensure that no duplicate applications are made
  • Be available, either via phone or email and respond promptly to any communications. This can sometimes be tricky if you’re still employed elsewhere but let the agency know the best times to contact you and always be available then
  • Do your research before any interviews that the agency arrange for you and deliver a professional interview. Make sure the agency provide you with a job spec, map, company literature. Click here for more info
  • Call the recruiter after any interviews to give feedback on how you view the opportunity
  • Keep in contact if things change on your side, for example, you have an offer or you’re decided to change your search profile.

In summary, show that you value the service that your recruitment consultant is giving you and be a good ambassador for them whenever they introduce you to one of their clients. If recruiters have doubts about how well you will perform in an interview, they will not introduce you to their client.