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Careers and Employability Skills Centre

As part of your job search strategy you might be considering registering with a recruitment agency to help you find employment. Agencies can provide access to a variety of work opportunities, for example temporary placements, jobs overseas or in specialised areas such as social care, accounting, or IT. Some employers outsource all their recruitment to agencies and it can be a way of finding vacancies that are not advertised anywhere else. However, they are first and foremost a business, paid by the company or organisation that is seeking to recruit and this will determine where their priorities lie. Agents see themselves as providing a matching service between what the employer is looking for and what the job seeker has to offer. The best agents are those who consider both clients to be equally important but this is not always the case and it is not sensible to simply sit back and expect that they will undertake your entire job search for you.

Registering with an agency

Before you register it is important to know what your requirements are and what compromises you are prepared to make if necessary. Most agencies will set up an initial face to face appointment. You should treat this as the first stage of the recruitment process. This means presenting yourself as professionally as you would to a prospective employer, ensuring that you arrive punctually and have made an effort with your appearance.

Confidentiality is a big issue for both of you and the consultation should take place in a private room or space and be conducted by a trained consultant. Many agents specify the format of a CV but you may wish to bring a copy of your own with you. It is not unusual for you to be offered advice on making applications and preparing for interviews as well as feedback on your performance. This can be invaluable but some companies will charge for this so make sure that you ask if this will be the case.

Building a relationship with the agency

You cannot expect an agency to help you if you do not treat them with respect. You should keep in touch with them on a regular basis and notify them of any change in your situation. If an interview with a client is arranged for you make sure that you attend and if you have to cancel advise the agency and the employer. Always insist that an agency contacts you before submitting your CV to a client. It can be quite common for a photocopy to be sent to a range of different employers.

Although it can be advantageous to register with several agencies, there is a danger that your CV will be sent to the same employer several times which could be counter-productive.

Online agencies

Increasingly students and graduates find work through a recruitment company via job boards on the web.
There are hundreds of these and some are of dubious quality. Ask yourself:

  • How long has the agency been established?
  • How many vacancies are posted on the site and do they change frequently?
  • Does the site look professional?
  • Is there a business address and contact telephone number?

Agencies advertise vacancies that can be searched by occupational sector, job type, location, etc, and to access these you will be required to submit your details and CV online. Once you have done this you may have no control over where it is sent who sees it, so before you press ‘send’ check whether you can specify which employers will receive it.

Give yourself the best chance of your CV being matched against suitable vacancies by ensuring that it is updated regularly, includes your qualifications and work experience and it presented professionally. The CDC can provide you with information to help you produce an effective electronic CV.

You may be asked to accompany your CV with a covering letter or e-mail. This should emphasise your relevance to the job criteria and show your motivation for applying for the post. Although e-mail is often used as an informal means of communication, in this instance you should approach it as a formal letter.

Top Tips for making the best use of Recruitment Agencies

  • The more flexible you are prepared to be, the more offers of employment you are likely to receive.
  • 'Temping' is an excellent way to gain work experience and try out different jobs and sectors. It may also lead to permanent employment.
  • Once registered with an agency, you may be offered a job quite quickly so be prepared for an immediate start if required.
  • Don't pay anything! It is the employer who is charged the fee. Check that you will not be expected to pay for help with application or interview advice.
  • Every reputable agency should be able to provide you with a copy of their terms and conditions. Know what is expected of you and what you can expect from them.
  • Keep in touch on a regular basis.
  • Be professional in all your dealings with the agency. If you cannot attend an interview arranged for you, don't just fail to turn up and be sure to notify them of any change to your situation.
  • Finally … registering with a recruitment agency is not a waste of time but don't rely on them to find you a job. It should be considered as an additional means of job hunting not the only one. Remember they can’t place everyone on their books

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