How to deal with recruitment agencies


With over a million people this year expected to find jobs through recruitment agencies then, love ’em or hate ’em, they will invariably form part of your job hunting strategy.

Recruitment agencies work by acting as a filter for employers by shortlisting candidates they recommend for interview to save their clients time and money. Often their fees to their clients (the employers) work on a sliding scale and if you decide the job is not for you then they will have to refund their client a percentage of the placement fee. Therefore it is in their interests to place the right candidate. However, be wary of those unscrupulous agencies that try and fit a square peg into a round hole to hit their sales targets. If you don’t feel the role they are putting to you is suitable, then don’t be pushed into it.

Put keywords in your CV: Agencies receive many CVs from prospective candidates which are entered onto their huge database of candidates and coded up using keywords. When a recruitment consultant receives a vacancy from an employer they then search the database using  keywords e.g. engineer+manager+cambridge specific to the job requirements. This produces a list of potential CVs. If you want yours to be one of these, then you need to ensure that it contains all the relevant keywords you might expect a consultant to use in his or her search.

Meet the agency: As this CV logging process is so impersonal it’s vital to become a human being and not just a reference number lurking on a database. So, make sure that you phone the agency to check they have received your CV (or walk in to deliver it personally and ask to speak to someone) and get the name of the relevant consultant. They are sometimes difficult to get through to (unless you are a client with a vacancy then suddenly they are rushing to the phone!) so having their name really helps get past the administration staff screening calls.

If you can arrange to meet the consultant then you are more readily borne in mind for vacancies that come in. At the agency I used to work for, for every candidate we met we had to canvass call three prospective employers to “sell them in” while the candidate was still there. That may be three more employers than you otherwise would have been able to approach, so meet your consultant!

Be persistent: It may not be in your nature to be pushy, but in order to get noticed and keep your CV on the consultant’s desk you need to phone them regularly to see if there are any suitable vacancies. That way they immediately think of you before trawling the database.

Dress to impress: You should treat an interview with a recruitment agency as you would an interview with a prospective employer. Don’t forget they are the first line of interviews – if they don’t think you are right for the role they will not put you forward. So, dig out your smartest suit, clean your shoes, and sort out your nails! You need to sell yourself to the agency so they put YOU forward. (See the Personal Marketing article on what to wear for interviews)


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