Registering with a recruitment agency - why bother?

Written by
Changeboard Team

08 Dec 2011

08 Dec 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Why look to an agency?

For an HR professional today, this may be a valid question – why bother indeed?

Your situation within the human resources industry places you in a fairly unique position. You are intimately involved with the recruitment process on both sides.

As a human resource professional, you understand the processes of recruitment and the way in which it works from both sides of the table, albeit more commonly as a recruiter rather than a candidate.

The benefits of registering

When you engage a consultancy as a client, you tend to choose those with whom you have an existing successful relationship with, and you do so in order to access their large database of candidates, many of whom may not be freely available on the open market. Turn that idea on its head for a moment. When you register as a candidate you become part of that database in order to access the relationships that the consultant has developed with their clients.

Recruitment consultants are sales people; it is in fact one of the most frequent complaints laid at their door. However, ask any sales person in any market who works on a business-to-business basis what the secret to their success is, they will give you the answer, ‘relationships’. They take time and effort to build, you personally may have one or two with select recruiters that can add value to your business, and this is the key benefit that you are tapping into as a candidate.

Building relationships

Many proscribe to the idea of applying to your targeted company directly, as opposed to using a consultancy, and in some cases this may indeed yield results, particularly if the applicant themselves has a contact within the company. This will of course depend upon how well networked you are personally, and if you are well known in the local HR community then you may not need the services of a consultancy at all. But what if you aren’t? Picture a typical busy HR department in a large organisation. An unsolicited CV lands in the inbox of the recruitment lead. How many others do you think they may have seen that day? Maybe, if you catch them right they will take a closer look and maybe they might refer your CV on to the HR director. Maybe the HR director will take a look and get in contact and maybe you’ll get an interview. That’s a lot of maybes.

Now consider another picture. Your recruitment consultant picks up the phone and dials the mobile number of the HR Director. This is someone with whom they have an existing (and one hopes successful) relationship. They pitch you in as a candidate, recommending your skills and experience and expressing their positive opinion as to your cultural fit for their business. You receive an introduction to the key decision maker through someone that they trust, which has a much higher likelihood of success than a CV landing on a desk cold.

This is in essence what you are using a recruitment consultant for, their relationships and knowledge of the local market place that can be used to aid you in your job search. Market knowledge is essential for a good consultant to be effective, and specific local knowledge in particular. Product knowledge is what really differentiates a good consultant from the bad. Let us be honest, no one is suggesting that there are not bad consultants out there, as well as good. The key thing is to separate the wheat from the chaff and only work with those who you can trust and who have a successful track record.

How should you find a recruiting agency?

In registering with a agency, there are some key points that I recommend to keep in mind in order to get the most out of the process as a candidate and maximise your chances of success.

  1. Do your homework: who operates in the area in which you want to work that specialises in your market, in your geographical target area and at your level? If you are an HR Business Partner who wants to work within the Surrey and Sussex area, there is little point registering with a London consultancy that will not have the knowledge and relationships with local companies. Equally there is also little value in registering with a local agency who may know the area but who only specialises in HR Operations, as opposed to the more senior level roles. You pick those agencies you work with as a client with care, take no less care when in the role of a candidate.
  2. Quiz your consultant: when you approach a new consultancy, ask your consultant who the work with and where they have made placements recently. Also quiz them on how long they have worked with the consultancy. Due to the transient nature of the industry, a good consultant is one who will be able to demonstrate longevity, for example, the HR consultants at Alexander Lloyd have an average length of service of five to six years time that has been put to good use, developing those crucial relationships and market knowledge.
  3. Market saturation: when you are job hunting the idea of exclusivity with one agency may seem an odd concept. Surely you want to get your name out into the market as much as possible? However, in my experience there is a danger of saturating the market in registering with a large number of agencies and consultancies; you yourselves know how frustrating it is to receive the same CV from a number of different sources. By saying to a consultancy that you will register exclusively, the motivation for a consultant inevitably increases. However, that it not to say that you should only register with one for good – give your consultant a timescale. If they have not been successful for you within a month, then you will also go and register with others; it’s about optimising the manner in which you work with them.
  4. Honesty is the best policy: One key piece of advice I always give candidates is to be open and  honest with me about what it is they really want, or don’t want in some cases. If you don’t want to work in a specific industry, then let your consultant know. If there are any companies that you really do want to work for again, let your consultant know as they may have existing relationships that can be used to your advantage.
  5. CV feedback and interview preparation: No one looks at more CVs than a recruitment consultant, and they are very aware of the market trends and preference when it comes to layoutand structure etc. Use your consultant’s knowledge; they can give you immediate constructive feedback that you can use to make corrections and improvements as necessary. Also remember to use your consultant’s knowledge when preparing for an interview. Some need very little assistance other than name of the interviewer, date and time. Others however need much more in-depth preparation and a good consultant will be generous with their time often on a one to one basis offering constructive criticism and an unbiased viewpoint on technique and even presentations if required. These benefits are part of the free consultancy service that you receive as a candidate and it pays to utilise them to the full.