Recruitment agencies: the basics

Page contents:

What is a recruitment agency?

A recruitment agency acts as an intermediary between an organisation that is looking to employ someone and an individual who is looking for a job. A recruitment agent’s main function is to source the most suitable person for a job vacancy that they have been asked to fill.

How does a recruitment agency work?

Recruitment agencies differ in their approach but the general pattern is as follows:

  • The agency is sent a job description from the organisation that has an open position
  •  A shortlist of applicants is drawn up by the agency who select individuals from the pool of CVs that they hold on their database.
  •  The organisation selects their preferred individuals from the CV selection and asks the agency to arrange and coordinate an interview.

What’s the advantage of using a recruitment agency?

Using a recruitment agency can be a useful tool in searching for a job. Agencies often have in-depth knowledge of their employer so can offer inside information before an interview. Reputable agencies will prepare you for a meeting with the organisation, offering tips on what to ask and sharing information on the history and culture of the organisation. They can sell your candidature in the early stages and even negotiate on your behalf if you succeed to the later stages of an interview. Some agencies have exclusive access to jobs that would not otherwise be found through an online search. 

It is important to use an agency as part of your search rather than depend on them solely to secure a position.

How can I get my CV on the database?

If you are interested in using a recruitment agency as part of your career search you are usually required to meet with a member of the agency (via a local branch or the head office). Phone interviews can be conducted if you are abroad or unable to attend however it is usually more beneficial for all parties if you are there in person. Once you have met or spoken with someone to discuss your background and career goals in detail the agency will add your CV to their database and usually contact you once a potentially suitable opportunity arises.

How long do I have to wait until I get an interview?

This completely depends on your experience and whether it matches the requirements on the job description and also on how the job market looks overall. Summer and December can often be quiet times for agencies due to the holidays, whereas there is often an abundance of new positions around September-October and January. In order to improve your chances of being short-listed/chosen for an interview it might be an idea to join an agency that is more streamlined to your own profile/careers goals: eg. a graduate employment agency, a financial employment agency, an agency that has offices in India etc. Another tip is to call the agency every other week to express your ongoing availability and to check to see if any new positions have arisen recently.

Can I sign up with more than one recruitment agency?

Yes. There is no rule that says you are restricted to signing up with one agency. It is wise, however, to make sure that you don’t allow your CV to be submitted to the same employer for the same position by more than one agency. Duplications of your CV can make you look like you’re desperate to get a job rather than appearing selective and professional. Always ask your agency representative to tell you if he/she puts forward your CV to any employer and keep a note of the organisation name and the date your details were submitted.

Can you recommend any good recruitment agencies?

LSE Careers can't recommend or endorse any recruitment agencies. As mentioned above, there are many different types of agencies and it is worthwhile to choose ones that match your skills and career interests the most. For example, if you are interested in a job in solar energy, look for a specialist environmental recruitment agency. Take a look at our list of recruitment agencies| which are grouped by employment sector. It is fine to try out agencies and if you find they are not generating any interviews then it is possible to look at others. If you want your name taken off a database then email or call the agent directly.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation| (REC) is the professional body for the recruitment industry.  You can find more recruitment agency details by browsing their Directory of Members|.

Do I have to pay to sign up to a recruitment agency?

Very rarely. Most agencies should not charge you to hold your CV on their database. Usually, the agency will charge a fee to the employer should you secure a position in their company (a percentage of your basic salary). Some tailored exclusive boutiques may opt to charge you but this service will be based on a very different model and is more along the lines of a personal recruiter than a generic agency. If you are unsure, speak to one of our careers consultants.

Share:Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn|