How to use a recruitment agency to find a job

February 5, 2020
By Sarah Blunt

Whether you’re looking for a permanent role or temporary stop-gap job, recruitment agencies can be a useful part of your job search.

What are recruitment agencies?

Recruitment agencies work with employers with vacancies to fill, by putting forward candidates they think are suitable for the role. An employer may use an agency if they have a role to fill at short notice or lack resources to hire candidates themselves.

If a candidate that an agency has put forward gets offered the position, the agency is paid by the employer. Employers that work with recruitment agencies come from all industries and include both large organisations and smaller, medium-sized ones too.

How recruitment agencies work

Individual recruitment agencies differ in their approach, but many will operate like this: an agency is sent a job description by an organisation that has a position they want to fill. The agency draws up a shortlist of applicants for the role using the bank of CVs they hold on their database. The recruiting organisation then views these shortlisted CVs and selects their preferred candidate(s) to interview. The agency coordinates an interview of the selected candidate(s) by the organisation.

Types of recruitment agencies

There are two types of recruitment agencies: multi-discipline agencies, which handle vacancies across a wide range of sectors, and specialist agencies, recruiting only in certain fields. Both types of agencies can deal with permanent and temporary positions.

Do I have to pay to use them?

Recruitment agencies are free to use in the UK. The only agencies that charge are those that hire highly experienced, specialised professionals.

Benefits of using a recruitment agency

  • Generally free to use
  • Offer a range of opportunities to suit your needs and circumstances
  • Provide in-depth knowledge and advice related to specific employers and job sectors
  • Give you access to roles that might not be advertised elsewhere
  • You often enter the recruitment process at a much later stage compared to other vacancies advertised elsewhere which might involve multiple stages that take longer to work through
  • Often less competition due to the smaller pool of CVs recruiters work with

Finding a recruitment agency

You can register with as many recruitment agencies as you like, but the more you sign up with the more relationships you’ll have to manage. I recommend selecting a handful initially as you can then keep track of where your CV is being sent.

You can search UK recruitment agencies based on location and job sector by visiting The Recruitment and Employment Confederation website.

Tips for getting the most out of recruitment agencies

  • Research and select your agency with consideration: don’t be tempted to use too many at once – careful selection will mean your time is used most effectively.
  • Keep in touch with them regularly: the agency environment can be fast-paced and if you don’t keep in contact you may be overlooked. Having said that, do be careful not to be too demanding. Phoning first thing in the morning can be a good approach.
  • Create a good impression and act professionally – the agency will be encouraged to represent and promote you to employers if they like you and are impressed with the way you conduct yourself. Recruiters want to put candidates forward for jobs that they like and think will do well. If you can get on with the recruiter and have rapport with them you’re halfway there.
  • Keep a record of your applications and contact with each agency: you don’t want more than one agency to put you forward for the same position!
  • Tailor your applications: highlight the relevant skills and competencies that the employer is looking for. Need help with your next application? I can help!

Final tip: don't rely on recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies are a tool to help you find a job but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are lots of other ways you can find your next role, including speculative approaches, internships and applying directly for jobs companies advertise themselves.

If you want advice on where to find opportunities or want help on creating a stand-out CV get in touch.