Expand your job search by making use of the expert knowledge and extensive contacts of graduate recruitment agencies

What is a recruitment agency?

Recruitment agencies are essentially 'middlemen' between jobseekers and employers. They work on behalf of employers to find suitable candidates to fill vacancies. Many employers use them, so signing up with agencies will give you access to jobs that aren't advertised elsewhere.

When an employer needs to hire someone, it will provide the recruitment agency with a job description. Using this information, the agency will search the pool of CVs in its database to match jobseekers to the vacancy (or post a job advert online to attract applicants) before drawing up a shortlist. The employer will then pick its preferred candidates and ask the agency to coordinate interviews.

Should I use a recruitment agency?

Signing up with recruitment agencies - also known as employment agencies - means your CV will be among those they have available to forward to relevant employers. This significantly expands the reach of your job search.

In addition to their basic function of matching you to suitable jobs, they offer several benefits. For example, specialist sector agencies have strong knowledge of their industry and can advise you on the best ways to break into a particular career.

They're well-connected, meaning that as well as being put forward for vacancies, your CV can be sent speculatively to a range of employers. And recruitment agencies will also be able to help you improve your CV and cover letter writing skills and give you tips on interview technique. If you're put forward for a job but don't get it, the agency will usually provide constructive feedback.

Don't forget though, agencies work for the employer - not for you. You should ask questions about any opportunities presented by them, as their requirement to recommend a given number of candidates for each role may result in them mismatching you against the job criteria. Trust your instincts and be honest if you believe that the role is unsuitable.

Try not to rely solely on agencies. Search for roles advertised elsewhere and apply speculatively to companies that you'd like to work for.

How can I find graduate recruitment agencies?

Larger agencies recruit nationally, but you should also look for those that cover the specific geographic areas you're interested in. Choose agencies with expertise in the sector you want to work in as they'll have great industry knowledge and relevant clients. Find out which employers they usually deal with and how many vacancies they have in your field.

Check that any agency you join is a member of the industry's professional body, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation - and always remember that agencies are paid by employers to find candidates, so you should never have to pay to sign up with one.

Graduate recruitment agencies can be found using the following resources:

How do I join an agency?

Make initial contact by phone or send your CV and a cover letter by email. Explain what type of position you're looking for and provide an overview of your skills and qualifications. You could call the recruitment agency shortly after submitting your email to confirm that they've received it.

You'll usually be asked to make an appointment for an informal interview, in person, to assess your situation and discuss your career plans. Making a good first impression is vital, so act and dress professionally. Some job agencies may ask you sit skills tests to determine your level of spelling and IT literacy. If the agency feels that they'll be able to assist you in your search, your details will be added to their candidate database and they'll get in touch when appropriate vacancies arise.

Keep in regular contact and maintain a good rapport with your assigned recruitment consultant. Act on their advice - they know what employers are looking for. Accept interviews unless you've a strong reason not to, and ask for feedback from your consultant after each one. If you're using an employment agency to find temporary work, accept any reasonable job offers as this gives you the chance to show that you meet employers' needs.

Let the recruitment agency know when you no longer want to be on their books, otherwise they'll continue contacting you after your job search has ended.

Can I join more than one job agency?

You can sign up with as many recruitment agencies as you like. However, don't register just for the sake of it. There's a risk that several agencies will suggest you for the same vacancy. Try to avoid this as the employer will not know who is representing you, and it can make your job search look unprofessional.

Ensure each agency you're signed up with tells you each time they put you forward for a job. Choosing to work with a select few agencies will ensure your job search is focused and you don't receive 'spam' calls and emails relating to unsuitable vacancies.

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