Jobs & Careers

How to find a job using recruitment agencies

Struggling to land that dream job you've been after? Teaming up with a recruitment agency could be the perfect solution! We'll show you how…
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Whether you're on the hunt for a part-time or temporary summer job, or on a mission to kick-start your career after graduation, there's no denying the fact that finding a job is tough!

Although putting together a kick-ass CV and engaging covering letter is a hugely important part of the process, there's also a secret weapon waiting to be taken advantage of: recruitment agencies.

You might think these agencies are only really suitable for people at a more advanced stage in their career path, but in reality if you're looking for full-time, part-time or temping opportunities – recruiters are interested in hearing from you!

Whether you decide to go ahead with contacting a recruitment agency or not, it's well worth knowing exactly how they work, and how best to get the most out of the service they offer, so you can keep your options open.

Why use a recruitment agency?

hiring jobSo what's so great about recruitment agencies? Why should you bother spending time reaching out to them, rather than just searching for yourself?

Well, there are a few reasons why agencies trump our own personal job hunts…

  1. They have jobs you won't find elsewhere

    Many companies choose recruitment agencies as their only method of sourcing new employees. This is because they would rather pay recruitment agencies to do the hard part of sifting through hundreds of CVs and potential employee profiles to put together a short list of candidates for them rather than doing it themselves.

    Therefore, you're likely to hear about vacancies from recruiters that you haven't seen advertised elsewhere – despite watching every job site like a hawk!

  2. You can tap into the knowledge of an expert

    When contacting an agency, you'll be allocated a recruiter who should know everything there is to know about the job market you're interested in (try testing them if you want to be sure!).

    They'll be able to give you loads of information, including where the best jobs are that fit your profile, what particular employers are looking for, and even whether your experience and qualifications are up to scratch for what you're looking for (if not, get working on pimping up that CV!).

  3. Most only get paid when you get the job

    The way most recruitment agencies work is that they get paid a commission on every person that they successfully put into a job.

    This means that you can rest assured that they'll do their very best to make sure that you at least get an interview, because that's the only way they'll end up getting paid!

    Also it's worth knowing that you don't personally pay for recruitment agencies' services (bonus!)– they're paid for by the companies searching for new employees, not those searching for jobs. You're also never obliged to move forward with any leads that an agency finds for you, so you can duck out at any time.

…and the drawbacks!

thumbs downCredit: Juhan Sonin
Don't get us wrong, agencies aren't completely pitfall-free – they also have their downsides, and over the years the industry has gotten a bit of a bad rep.

It's worth knowing that if you get hired through a recruitment agency, they'll receive a commission of around 10-15% of your hourly wage or entire salary from the company that hires you.

Some companies who choose to fork out for agencies to do their recruitment for them often complain that they're not getting their money's worth, buuuuuut you could also argue that if that's how they feel, they should just do the recruiting for themselves in the first place and quit complaining!

You should be taking advantage of what agencies offer, but we wouldn't recommend relying on them as your only form of job search. Here's why…

  1. They don't cover every job and industry

    Some businesses prefer not to use agencies – if you've been doing a lot of job searching yourself, you'll be used to seeing the ‘no agencies please' message at the end of job postings.

    This is because some companies prefer to do their own thing, and grudge paying out extra to agencies for work they're happy to do themselves. It's true that some also see recruiters as only in it for themselves, and as a result don't trust their judgement when it comes to finding them the right candidate for the job.

    So, if you're using agencies as your only job source, you could be missing out on a job that would be perfect for you.

  2. They have a lot of top talent on their books

    The UK job market is more competitive than ever before, so it's fair to say that you'll be up against candidates with some serious skills and experience.

    This doesn't mean you won't be successful; it just means that you should spread your wings a little bit and look into all options that are available. If you're feeling less confident, why not spend a bit of time gaining more experience to improve your prospects.

  3. They've been know to bend the truth a little

    So we're not saying that recruiters lie… well, I suppose we are, kinda. This is by no means the case for every recruitment agency, but it's worth being aware that some will bend the truth a little in order to gain your interest in a position (as this makes them look like they're doing a good job).

    For example, a recruiter might draw you in by mentioning a high salary for a particular position, only to tell you after you've had your interview and been made an offer that the salary is much lower due to your “lack of experience as a graduate”. They do this in the hope that you'll have come so far by this point that you'll accept the lower salary offer anyway, which is pretty horrible.

  4. Most only get paid when you get the job

    Now you might be thinking – wasn't this in the positives list? You're correct on that one, but that's because this point is both good and bad for job hunters.

    The fact that the recruiter only gets paid when they place you in a company can also have its drawbacks. The flip side is that it can also mean they focus too much on making that ‘sale' (this sounds terrible, but essentially you are sort of like a product they're trying to sell to companies) that they might try and throw you into any job possible without taking the time to see if you're the right fit. Be weary of this!

How to find a good recruitment agency

dog workingThe high streets are chock full of agencies, and as with any competitive environments, some agencies are better than others. A few bigger names include Graduate Recruitment Bureau and Office Angels.

Monster and Reed are also good online jobs boards that collect multiple positions from agencies and companies directly, so often if you apply for a job on one of these sites, you'll be automatically put in touch with a recruitment agency.

It's definitely worth contacting all of the main agencies to get the ball rolling, then in order to pick the ones most suitable to you, ask the following important questions:

Ask how their processes work

question markAt the very least, you should expect an informal telephone interview or a chat with your recruiter – if not a face-to-face meeting to discuss your skills and goals.

If all you get is a suspiciously generic email (aka auto reply), there's a chance they'll just shove your CV onto a pile and never get to know you.

These kinds of agencies see candidates as numbers rather than real talent, and aren't worth your time.

Ask what they know about your industry

knowitallSome agencies specialise in certain areas, whilst others might cover a bit of everything. For example, one agency might be the best shout if you're looking for a job in the advertising industry, whilst another might be good for helping you source temporary admin work.

Your best bet is to do a little bit of research with our good friend Google before deciding who to reach out to!

If you want to work in a niche role, make sure your recruiter understands that area. If they don't, they'll have a hard time matching you to work that you're interested in, so just move on to the next one!

Make sure they're open to students/graduates

Unemployed-GraduateThere are some agencies out there who cater solely for students and graduates, whilst others are open to them but don't exclusively cater to younger people.

However, there are some recruiters that won't take on students or graduates at all, so check the specifics before getting in touch with them!

How it works: What to expect

jobMost agencies will differ in how they do things, but the general process will usually follow the same (or similar) path.

These are the four basic steps that your experience with a recruitment agency will probably take:

  1. Submit your CV

    Whether there's a particular role that the agency is advertising for that you're interested in, or you're just applying to see what your options are – you'll need to submit your CV.

    If you need a bit of help on getting it ready to impress, we've got a great guide that will point you in the right direction.

    If you're still not totally sure if you're on track with your CV, try submitting it to an agency that offers a free CV review.

  2. Interview with the agency

    interviewAs we've mentioned, any recruitment agency worth their salt will want to meet you before they start punting you to potential employers. Therefore, treat this like you would any other job interview: Dress smart, prepare your answers to key questions and be professional at all times.

    They may not be the employer, but they have a big say in who gets the job, so you need them on your side! If you give off bad vibes to the recruiter, they'll see this as the same vibe you'll give off to employers, meaning they're not likely to put much effort into helping you as it'll be hard to fight your case.

    Use this interview as an opportunity to ask questions about the role, too!

  3. Interview with the employer

    If the agency thinks you're a good candidate for a particular role, they'll put you forward for an interview with the potential employer.

    Again, treat this as you would any interview, and make sure you're well prepared! There's a chance you might get a fair few gigs lined up within a short time, so take care not to get companies or roles confused, or this could reflect badly on both you and the recruiter.

  4. Win the job!

    igotajobWith any luck, the next step will be you being offered the job! The agency will normally be the ones to contact you to let you know either way, and they'll also arrange all the details such as start date, etc. If any salary negotiations need to happen, they'll also act as the middle man there.

    If you're not successful, try not to let it knock you back too much. Ask the recruiter if they have any feedback for you (as there's a middle man involved here, it's easier to get some genuine answers in that area so this is extremely useful), and get straight back on the horse!

Some final top tips!

Recruitment Agencies for Students
Hopefully, you'll now be raring to go when it comes to getting in touch with recruitment agencies and will have an idea of what exactly you want to get out of them.

Here are a few final tips from us to think about before you get started…

  • Apply to two or three agencies to increase your chances of success
  • Don't be afraid to chase things up! If you submit your CV and get no response, drop them an email or ring them up to see if they need anything else from you. Sure, recruiters are busy people, but this is their job so don't let them keep you waiting!
  • Whether you're successful or not, always ask for feedback from interviews – you're entitled to know your strengths and weakness either way so you can learn from them
  • Relax! It's easier said than done, but you'll perform a lot better if you try to take the whole process in your stride. Use the recruiter interview as a practice run, and maybe even ask the recruiter if they have any tips before heading to your interview with the employer.

Finding a job with a recruitment agency can be fairly simple when you know what you're doing. It's just a case of familiarising yourself with the process and being ready to really sell your skills.

Show 'em what you got!

Have you ever used a recruitment agency? Share your experiences in the comment box below – good or bad, we want to hear them!

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