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Can recruitment agencies help or hinder your career?

by Tahira Majothi on September 21, 2011

Every now and again you get a contentious topic when it comes to careers advice in relation to job seeking and recruitment agencies/consultants are certainly no exception.

If you’ve used recruitment agencies before no doubt your opinions will range from some are good, some bad and OMG seriously why did I bother? In this post I’d like to cover what they are, how they can help you and more importantly how you can help yourself get the best out of the services they offer.

Like anything in relation to job seeking, you get back the effort you put in. Remember registering with agencies doesn’t mean you get to put your feet up, have a cup of tea and wait for the job offers to roll in!

What are recruitment agencies? Well recruitment consultancies/agencies differ somewhat from employment agencies. Employment agencies recruit for positions within a specific industry and are more likely to ‘employ’ you i.e. they will ‘hire’ you out to a company and pay your wages. You can take up or leave work with little notice and much more flexibility.

Recruitment agencies or recruitment consultants on the other hand, act as an ‘introductory service’. They may specialise in a range of sectors such as Scientific, Engineering, Logistics, and Health etc. Their role is to try to find the candidate that best matches the employer’s needs.

So recruitment consultants are paid on successful placement of a candidate. You should not have to pay a fee or feel obligated to pay for ‘add-ons’ such as CV checking or interview preparation as a condition of being with them! If anything the Careers Service (Hello, that’s us :-)) can advise you on CVs as well as preparing effectively for assessment centres and interviews, all FOR FREE!

So why do employers use recruitment agencies/consultancies?

  • To recruit for a role for which they have little recruitment expertise
  • Get help with recruitment if they don’t have enough staff to do it
  • Quick turnaround may be needed to advertise and place someone in a role

Common gripes about agencies:

Complaints often include not hearing back from agencies, being sent unsuitable positions, being given short notice on start dates, being contacted by other agencies because your CV’s been posted online or not receiving interview feedback. There may be a number of valid reasons for this lack of communication, see Andy Steven’s blog on ‘Why Can I not get a job through a Recruitment Agency?’

So why use Recruitment Consultants?

  • If you’re working full time, recruitment consultants can work to source opportunities on your behalf.
  • Specialist consultancies may have the latest labour market information about their sector and can provide useful CV and application tips.
  • Varied short-term experience with several employers will help you to see if the industry is the ‘right fit’ for you.
  • You may be able to set up work in advance of arrival in a new town or country!

How to get what you want from recruitment consultants!!

  • Manage expectations - Why are you contacting consultants? Research a few, shop around to find the agency that best fits your needs, ask them for details of employers they work with, application tips etc
  • Look for accredited consultancies or consultancies that specialise in the career area you wish to work in.REC is the umbrella organisation for accredited recruitment agencies, search their directory of members.
  • Contact larger employers directly including public sector employers such as NHS, for details of the recruitment agencies they use to fill temporary positions.
  • Give recruitment consultants a (careers consultant checked!) up to date CV.
  • Make clear your terms e.g. salary, location, if you would prefer them not to forward your CV to particular companies i.e. your present employer! Or if you do not wish them to post your CV online without your consent.
  • Sign up to more than one recruitment consultancy as they may have different employer links. Make sure you let them know you are doing this, and keep a record.
  • Keep them up to date of your contact details, change of circumstances or constraints as to what you can or can’t do.
  • Ask for feedback but remember this may not always be provided by employers.
  • Keep chasing the consultants for progress - ring or call in on weekly basis. It’s up to you to be proactive!
  • Don’t feel obliged to take on an opportunity if it does not sound right for you, it’s ok to say no.

A couple of final points, don’t just rely on agencies to find you work, make effective use of all available resources to you such as the Careers Service, job websites, social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter as well as newspapers.

Also don’t underestimate the power of networking to help you to source opportunities, speak to people in your network, make contacts at conferences or employer events and attend Graduate Fairs to name just a few.

Useful websites:

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Stevens October 3, 2011 at 8:49 am

This is a great post Tahira!
One thing that job seekers may consider doing is not including their telephone number on CVs that they submit to job boards. It is fairly common practice for the larger job boards to provide CV data to smaller recrutment firms, which is why you sometimes receive unsolicited calls. My advice here would be to not include your phone number and to set up a seperate email address that you include on these CVs (this will stop any spam emails sent by recruitment agencies going to your main account).


Nick Haust April 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I have to agree, it’s is terrible what some companies will do for money; they are clearly breaking the data protection act 1988. One piece of advice I can provide myself is that you should avoid putting anything generic on your CV (in terms of skillset) e.g. good verbal and written skills, attention to detail etc. Employers actually despise seeing these elements included and it is a waste of time and space on your CV – your educational background and work experience will demonstrate those skills naturally.


Tahira Majothi October 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

Hi Andy,

Thank you very much for your kind comment, also great advice on how to avoid being spammed by agencies.

Best wishes



Insight247 Ltd May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

Very informative and balanced piece. Whenever I come across an article of this nature, I always look for a fair balance between the pros and cons.

Hopefully employment agencies are now in a position to use technology to their advantage when servicing their clients needs.


Zakir Muhammad February 13, 2014 at 7:25 am

Thanks for sharing this informative article content with us.


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