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How Recruitment Agencies Work?

Aug 9, 2008
This is not a mythical or over elaborate explanation by any stretch of the imagination, however I am going to give you a simplistic understanding of how agencies work.

Hopefully, this will help your job search by giving you the insight into how to engage and work with your recruitment consultancy with better results.

Let's get the basics out the way, recruitment agencies work to make money by placing candidates within clients / customers who have vacancies. They are an intermediary between the company and the market, matching up connections which may not exist if they did not proactively try to make it happen.

Obviously candidates in the market have the option to go directly to organizations, but agencies have carved out a successful industry in acting as the go between.

In a lot of cases it benefits candidates because they get theoretically an 'agent' to try and find their new role. I am sure clients do not see this as a benefit when they have to pay a fee to the recruitment agency, but they exist for a reason and will be around for many years to come.

The fundamental basics have now been covered so let's move onto to more of the detail to how agencies work and how you can effectively manage your agent.

A recruitment agency will generally be engaged by a client for positions with a particular skills profile, whereby they are finding it hard to attract that type of candidate.

There are several successful graduate recruitment companies operating at graduate level, however clients will normally like to recruit these types of people direct, agencies do not add much value here.

An agency will obtain a new requirement through either business development by a consultant (canvassing, email marketing etc) or through an inbound lead (company finds a specialist within their sector through the web or reputation in the market by the company etc).

One particularly effective way to develop business for an agency is to speculatively approach companies with an exceptional CV, this is a great door opener. But be careful of working with agencies who do not tell you they are doing this. You should always qualify whether they are recruiting a specific role or just merely using your CV. This process can work very well for both candidate and agency if done properly, honestly and with open lines of communication between both of you.

Once an agency has a requirement to resource they will then go to market for the candidate and this process can be multi faceted. They will use their own database searching, applications, online job board searching like monster, try to utilise referrals in their network and/or headhunting (sites like Linkedin has made this process better so if you're not a member you may be shooting yourself in the foot). Every time an agency searches via a database they will use a technique called Boolean searches.

Let me explain; a Boolean search means your CV will be searched for key words, the more key words you have in your CV the higher it comes up in the search string. So remember to have your CV packed with key words but not bordering on the ridiculous!

A good agency should always tell you the company they are recruiting for and confirmation with your approval that you want to be submitted. You should always expect this as part of the service you receive. When following up feedback with your consultants, always be aware they will be chasing feedback daily for you, if not you have a lazy consultant on your hands.

Remember it is always just in as much interest for them to move the process quicker as it is for you the candidate.

This is a similar premise when you get to offer stage, a consultant will never want to get a lower salary for you and they will always be trying to negotiate more money for the candidate - as it inevitably means they get more commission.

So never believe an agent is playing mind games and trying to drive you down on your salary expectations. The salary will always be dictated by the client with the agent doing the best they can for you. Once you start your new exciting job the agency will then invoice their client which will be a percentage (%) of your basic salary in most instances.

In summary, most agencies out their will work with your best interests in mind and if you think they are not then you should tell them so. You should always try to communicate the best you can with them and your service received will be much better.

The more openly you communicate with each other the better relationship you will forge throughout the process - again a win for you because if a consultant feels comfortable with you and likes you as a candidate he/she will try much harder on your behalf.

I hope this brief article helps your job search and remember they are not all out there to screw you over. If you work together the process can be much smoother and effective, recruitment firms want to place you at the end of the day!
About the Author
Edwin Abl is a Director of Consegna UK which is a leading recruitment consultancy specializing in jobs in Management Consulting and the Technology sectors.
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