Skip to main content

Your Guide to Using a Recruitment Agency

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 3 Nov 2021

The thought of using a recruitment agency in your job search can be controversial. Many people have their own opinions about using a recruitment agency to help them land their new job, but have you had a good look into both the advantages and disadvantages before disregarding it?

There are going to be pros and cons about anything but depending on the new role you are looking for, using an agency or specific recruiter can really help you reach your job seeking goals. So why not give it a go?

This guide tells you pretty much everything you may need to know about working with a recruitment agency from how to start using one to landing your first interview through them. There is a lot to know, so keep this guide handy for whenever you may need it.

Recruitment agency - guide

Recruitment agencies are firms that work directly with companies looking to employ new staff. Often, employers go to agencies because they are trusted and can sometimes fill the vacancy quicker than if they were to just post online. (Not always the case) A lot of the time, recruiters are trying to fill vacancies that haven’t been displayed online or shared on job sites, this can save them time and the effort of having to go through the applications themselves.

So, where do the recruitment consultants come in? Their job is to find the right candidate, give the candidate all the information they need, get them an interview and hope that they are offered the role. They build relationships with their candidates and try to really understand what they want from a role. There is a lot of work to be done, so wasting time isn’t an option.

The main goal of a recruitment consultant is to get you a job. So, if you are thinking of using one, make sure you get to know them because they won’t hesitate to ask questions about you.

Understanding what a recruitment agency does is a key element to you job search. You want to know that they can help you reach goals and won’t waste time. Research the agency. Do they specialise in one industry? Or do they have individual consultants that specialise in roles you are searching for? Make sure you are talking to the right person and get all the information you need before agreeing to add yourself to their candidate data base. 

How to get noticed - recruitment guide

There are a number of different things you can be doing to get the attention of a recruitment consultant. The first thing you should do is to make yourself noticeable online. Upload a recently updated CV to job sites, like LinkedIn or Reed. You can also change your settings to allow recruiters to find you and let them know you are open to new work. This is an easy way to get recruiters to come to you and more often than not, they will contact you very quickly. (It’s their job to find you!)

Another easy way is to apply for jobs through the agency’s website. If you have done your research and found a recruitment agency that might be good for you and your job search, then why not have a look through the jobs they have on their site? If you can’t find a role that suits your specific needs, contact them directly. They are usually quite responsive and more than happy to have an introductory chat to find out what you are looking for. Most recruitment agencies will also have a section on their website where you can sign up or create a job alert. So, look out for these resources.

However, once you do these things, it is likely that multiple recruiters will contact you. Agencies like this have Resourcers on hand that spend their days looking for professionals like you. Be prepared to receive calls and emails from different recruitment agencies and don’t be afraid to say no if you feel like they can’t help your job search. They are salespeople, so will try and persuade you, just keep your head strong and your eye on your goals.

Advantages - recruitment guide

Recruitment agencies aren’t for everyone, so if one person has a negative experience, it doesn’t mean you will. Sometimes they can have negativity surrounding them, so make sure you do your research and even talk to someone at the agency, before you make up your mind. They might be exactly what you need to move your job search forward.

A more tailored job search - Some may say that recruitment agencies can offer you a more tailored job search. They ask you exactly what you are looking for and try their best to get near perfect job matches for you. This may sound like a lot of work but it’s their job and more often than not, they get paid commission for placing candidates. So why does that matter to you? Recruiters tend not to like having their time wasted, after all, time is money. So, they will only recommend and put you forward for roles that they believe would fit you and you would be accepted for. Consultants spend a lot of time getting to know candidates, so have a chat with them and see what kind of jobs they currently have.

They are there for support – When you work with a recruitment agency, they put a lot of effort into getting to know you and how they can support you through interviews. If you have questions about a role, want to know more about interview techniques or simply want to talk more about the job in question, they are usually more than happy to go through it with you. They probably have a lot of resources at hand ready to send and share. All you have to do is ask.

They are an extra pair of hands – When job seeking, there is only so much you can do. You can search the job sites, use LinkedIn, and attend recruitment events, but recruiters are always going to have some jobs that you simply cannot find anywhere else. Some companies ask specific recruiters because they are industry specific, or they are just well trusted. If you are having trouble, an extra pair of hands to help you search may not be a bad thing.

Feedback – As I said above, recruitment consultants want to help you. Without good candidates, they have no business. So, it’s likely that they will provide feedback on interviews, your CV and even help you with question-and-answer prep. Feedback can be invaluable, so if they don’t give it to you, ask for it.

There are of course, more advantages, but these are ones we feel are very important for a job search. Everyone has a different opinion and different needs when job searching, so think about both the pros and the cons, despite some recruiters having a bad name.

Disadvantages - recruitment guide

Depending on the way you work and the way you want to conduct your job search, there are some potential downfalls when it comes to using a recruitment agency. Always take these things into consideration when starting out in your job search.

There are going to be gaps – When job searching, I highly recommend using more resources than just a recruitment agency. (Or multiple) This is because they don’t have access to every job on the market and there will be some gaps. You may be looking for a specific role in a specific industry that is very competitive. If you are solely relying on recruitment agencies, this can take a lot of time. You can spend a lot of time on the phone talking to a lot of different recruiters and never actually finding anything you feel worthy of applying for. So, bare this in mind and keep your options open.

They can sometimes stretch the truth – Now I’m not saying that recruitment consultants lie to you, but they can make a job seem better than it actually is. They are a type of salespeople after all and it’s what they are good at. Sometimes, they may call you with a job opportunity that almost sounds too good to be true. They will big-up the company, the responsibilities and end the call with you feeling excited. Only for them to email you a full job spec with some additional details. It might not be the right sector; the salary may not be too good, or the location is further than you would like. Either way, they are there to persuade you the job is right for you, even if sometimes they know it isn’t perfect. Wait until you read the full job spec to make a choice!

You may be talking to more than one consultant at a time – The thing with recruitment agencies is that they usually have a lot of jobs and a lot of consultants working in different industry areas. So, you might get more than one person at a single agency sending you jobs and calling you. It can sometimes be a little confusing, so ensure you are aware who you are talking to and what job you are talking about!

Everything can have negative aspects about it, it depends how the positives outweigh the negatives for you! Think about it.

Interview with the agency - recruitment guide

Depending on how the agency works, most recruiters will want to get to know you a bit better before they start recommending you for jobs and sending you to interviews. This may be either in person or over the phone, either way, be prepared to spend around 30 minutes discussing your job search plans. This is also a great time for you to ask any questions you may have about their agency and how they can help you. It’s a two-way relationship, so ensure you are getting the most out of what they can offer you.

Introduce yourself – The start to any good conversation is a good introduction. The recruiter needs to know that not only are you a good fit for the role, but that you are a person that’s easy to talk to and can fit in culturally for the company they are recruiting for. They are not the actual employer, so they won’t ask technical questions about the role (unless the employer specified these). They want to get to know your skills. Introductory interviews with recruitment consultants are more about you rather than the job, so you won’t have to give a long-structured answer that you would usually give in a formal interview. If you do have a job spec, analyse it, and see what skills you can pick out to focus on.

Show your interest – Much like in a regular job interview, they want to know that you are genuinely interested in the role. Remember, time is money, so they won’t want to waste their time with someone that might be on the fence. Let them know exactly what you want and if the current job you’re discussing isn’t it, make them aware of what you are looking for. Your time is valuable too, so don’t feel like you are being pushed into something you don’t want to pursue.

Ask your questions – If there’s something you don’t understand about the role, now is the time to ask for it. If you want more answers around what this particular agency does, ask it. They shouldn’t be hiding anything and most of the time, they have all the answers surrounding the roles they are hiring for. You don’t have to be left in the dark and being prepared helps. They are likely to know the interview process for a company, so ensure you are happy with this as well.

Just enjoy the chat! Initial conversations with consultants are about you. They are there to aid your search and should be used in such a way. It’s a casual conversation, so don’t feel too much pressure. This is also a good way to prepare for the actual interview with the employer and they can help you with other things like answers to typical questions and your CV as well.

You're in control - recruitment guide

Sometimes, working with a recruiter can be overwhelming. There are some agencies you may use that may only put you forward for one job at a time and then there are others where you could be talking to multiple consultants at one time. An important fact to remember is that you are the one in control. If everything seems like it is becoming too much or you are finding it difficult to distinguish between the different consultants and roles, then it might be time to take a step back.

Recruitment agencies are on a time crunch most of the time. They are trying to get employees good candidates in a very short space of time, so they may throw different roles at you to see what you think. However, just because they work this way, doesn’t mean you have to. You can say no.

Consultants have the ability to be very persuasive, it’s their job. But you need to remember that your job search is for you and not them. They are simply a resource you are using to reach your goals and like anything else, if it stops working or hinders your ability to reach said goals, stop. They shouldn’t be upset at you saying no, if anything, it means they can move on to another candidate.

Take things as fast or slow as you need. Especially if you are using other job seeking resources, it can become too much. Push back and only take on as much as you can handle. You’re only one person after all. Your job is your choice and agencies are likely to be happy you are giving them honest feedback.

Get all the information - recruitment guide

It can be exciting when you get the call from the recruitment consultant saying you have been accepted for the interview round of the application. Most recruiters will send you a follow-up email with the details of the interview, however it’s always good to ask the important questions whilst you have them on the phone. (Just in case)

  • What type of interview is it? (Video, phone or in person?)
  • If it is video, what kind of software are they going to call you on?
  • How long will the interview last?
  • Do I need to have anything ready for the interview?
  • Who will I be talking to?
  • How many stages are there in the interview process?

The above are just a few examples of what you should know before you attend the first interview. You want to be as prepared as possible and knowing these things can ease your nerves a little, knowing you have everything you may need. It can be easy to get excited, accept the interview and hang up the phone. So, try and remember these! Although, you can always call the consultant back for further details)

Ending the relationship - recruitment guide

There can be multiple reasons why you want to end your relationship with a recruitment agency, but like anything else, it can be important not to completely cut ties in case you want to use their services again in the future.

You got a job ­– Whether you obtained a new role through them, another agency or from your other resources, it’s important to let them know when you have accepted a new job offer. This is so they can update their system and they can stop sending you alerts and new job opportunities. Otherwise, you may find they’ll simply keep calling or emailing you.

You decided to end your search for now – If you have decided you no longer want to find a job right now then let them know. You may want them to keep sending you job alerts, but not want to be actively searching. Whether it’s because of a change in your life or you want to take an extended break. Let them know you are staying with your current company and will look to them for opportunities in the near future. Again, letting them know can stop any confusion.

You no longer want to use a recruiter – Sometimes it’s simply just not right. If you feel like you are getting no where using a particular recruitment agency, just tell them. Either they can adjust their approach, or you can end the relationship and let them know you no longer want communications from them.

Recruitment agencies are a sticky subject for some job seekers and each individual will have their personal preference. But don’t say no before you’ve explored the idea of using a recruiter, what’s the harm in trying?