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How to find jobs

Recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies have always played a significant part in some employment sectors: specialist agencies will know their sector extremely well.  They are starting to play an increasing role in graduate recruitment, so whether you are looking for short-term employment or a graduate opportunity, it is worth considering them as part of your broader job-search strategy. 

Why do employers use agencies?

  • To recruit for specialist or 'hard-to-fill' posts.
  • To advertise under the agency name.
  • To save time: they may not have sufficient staff to handle all stages of recruitment or they may want an agency to sift applicants to limit the number they have to consider. 

What to be aware of

  • Agencies act on behalf of the employers and their main concern is to find the employer the right candidates.
  • Agents charge their fees to employers and are therefore commercially motivated. They may offer services to you at a fee, such as CV writing. Remember that this, and similar services, are probably available from your university careers service free of charge.
  • Agencies in the UK are not legally allowed to charge you for finding you work, except in a couple of specific fields. See the REC website for details.
  • Agents are not career consultants and are not usually trained or qualified to help you with your career decisions.
  • Agencies will be briefed by the employer about the type of applicants required. However, they may have little or no experience of university courses, semesters, examination dates etc, so be prepared to explain if necessary.

How should you approach an agency?

Preparation is key, as the first impression you make is very important. If you do not impress the agency, they are unlikely to put you forward for vacancies. 

  • Be clear about whether the agency handles the types of vacancies which interest you. Agency central allows you to search for agencies by location and specialism.
  • Approach an interview with an agency as you would that with a potential employer, dress appropriately and adopt a professional manner.
  • Analyse why you would be suitable for your target job roles and sell your skills and experience.
  • Supply the agency with a clear and concise CV.
  • If you do not visit the agency in person, follow up any e-mail or other communication with a telephone call and try to speak with the consultant who is handling your application.

How can you make the most of recruitment agencies?

  • Check that agencies you approach have a good reputation. Generally speaking this means being well-established and a member of the REC.
  • Check that they will not forward your CV to their client companies without letting you know. This is particularly important if you have registered with a number of agencies who may be handling similar (or the same) vacancies.
  • Make an ally of your recruitment consultant and try to develop a good relationship with them. In this way they will be more likely to think of you when they get any suitable vacancies.
  • Keep them updated with any changes in your contact details, skills or experience.