Candidates, Get The Best Out Of Working With A Recruitment Agency

Candidates, Get The Best Out Of Working With A Recruitment Agency

Last Friday Pat Hartwell asked me to speak on this topic to the Executive Job Club.

Rather than death by Powerpoint, we as a group discussed the frustrations we felt as candidates dealing with agencies. Unsurprisingly the white board soon filled up ;) most of the gripes could be broken into the following areas:

  • Response – complete lack of, tone, generic responses and lack of empathy
  • Secrecy – cloak and dagger approach, mistrust, fake jobs
  • Pressure – ‘salesy’ approach, aggressiveness, agency rivalry
  • Integrity – lies, false hope, broken promises


We then turned to understanding more about how a recruitment agency operates, we discussed how some figures published suggest only 10% of all vacancies actually go through agencies and the changing role they have in today’s jobsearch. We covered the following points:

  • Different types: head-hunters, contingency, in-house, RPO
  • Position in the chain in a changing recruitment landscape – move towards direct hire, sourcing- finding the few not attracting the many. How far away many agency recruiters actually are from the hiring manager and how many pairs of hands a job spec now goes through.
  • Volume – the sheer numbers of applicants applying and being held in large company applicant tracking systems. How debilitating that was and how automated responses had become in turn.
  • Turnover – the fact that during this recession so far it has been estimated that over 5000 recruitment consultants had lost their jobs. How they are paid, the pressure many are under and the various target elements of many of their roles.
  • ‘People’ – how some of the same attitudes directed toward recruiters could also be applied to candidates. How candidates often stop communicating, let people down at interview stage, lie and can also be aggressive, focusing their anger and frustration on the consultant.

We then looked at possible solutions:

  • Relationships are two ways. Looking at how to cultivate them, build trust. To identify who as a candidate you want to work with. Use linkedin to identify ‘good’ recruiters. Look at tenure, specialisms, feedback. Ask what you can do to help them, as well as what they can do for you. Be a ‘good’ candidate, communicate well, have a great attitude, bags of enthusiasm and know what you want.
  • Focus on what you actually need, be proactive. Identify people you wish to work with, target the roles and organisations you want. Network in your chosen industry community. Make sure every application is targeted and tailored. Always be relevant. When you identify a weakness work to improve in that area. Get on LinkedIn, get found by the opportunities instead of chasing them. Make sure you have a complete up to date profile in order to appear further up in Recruiter search results. Make sure you are using the keywords Recruiters are searching on in your chose field. Use tools such as Wordle to identify what those keywords could be.
  • Get a commitment  and timescale for action. Try to identify timescales, when are the CVs to be submitted. When will the client review, what will the process be? Put in calls at these specific points, allow flexibility and understand when they are chasing and when points have past.
  • Get it in writing. Make sure the agency is engaged on the job in the first place, or will your application be speculative? One way to do this is to make sure you receive a job spec of some description before your CV is submitted. Make sure you have registered in some way and that they have gained your commitment to look for work on your behalf.  Ask to see the CV they have sent to the client, has your information been reformatted?
  • Be prepared. Do your research; make the effort every time and work together with the consultant to put your best application forward.

At the end of the day if you are really unhappy and feel mistreated by your Recruiter, complain. Changes in industry will not come about through inaction. You can complain directly online to the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation), your complaint cannot be anonymous and must be made within a year of the incident happening.

I had a really good afternoon. I met a group of really smart, great people, all with the right attitude to jobsearch, it was a testament to just how difficult the market has become.

If I can help your jobsearch further in anyway get in touch, you can email me at tweet me at @approachmarket or simply pick up a phone 01189 886644.

If you liked this post you may also enjoy:

Lies Aren’t White Or Little In Recruitment

Is It Just Bad Manners?

Cutting Out The Recruiter

Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket

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