Due to their close connections with employers, recruitment agencies give graduates access to the latest jobs - signing up with one in your industry could help you to land your ideal role

If you've started your graduate job search, you'll know that identifying suitable vacancies, sending off applications and preparing for interviews can be a lengthy process.

It can also be difficult to remain motivated if you're receiving rejections to the roles you are applying for or are struggling to find jobs that fit your skillset.

Joining a recruitment agency could help you eliminate these worries. They're typically free to use for candidates, well-connected with employers across all industries and can offer you constructive careers advice.

What is a recruitment agency?

Otherwise known as employment agencies, recruitment companies act as the go-between for employers and jobseekers. They work on behalf of employers to find suitable candidates to fill their vacancies.

Many employers use them, and signing up will sometimes give you access to jobs that aren't advertised elsewhere.

How do recruitment agencies work?

When an employer needs to hire someone, it provides the agency with a job description. The agency then uses this description to search the pool of CVs in its database to match jobseekers to the vacancy.

Alternatively, they post a job advert online to attract applicants - before drawing up a shortlist. The employer will then pick its preferred candidates from this shortlist, and ask the agency to coordinate interviews.

Should I use a recruitment agency?

In addition to their basic function of matching you to suitable jobs, there are many benefits to using a recruitment firm. 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. Agencies will also be able to help you improve your CV and cover letter and offer some useful interview tips. 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 they present, as their requirement to recommend a given number of candidates for each role means they may mismatch 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. You can find graduate jobs by:

How do I find graduate recruitment agencies?

Larger agencies, such as Adecco, Hays and Michael Page, recruit nationally and across a range of industries, making them a great starting point.

You'll also find agencies that cover the specific geographic areas you're interested in, and agencies with expertise in your chosen sector - they'll have great industry knowledge and relevant clients. One example is the Ashdown Group that specialises in IT, HR, accounting and marketing. If you're looking for jobs closer to home, you can search online for recruitment agencies near you.

The first thing to do is 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 (REC) - and always remember that agencies are paid by employers to find candidates, so you should never have to pay to sign up with one.

You can use the following resources to find graduate recruitment agencies:

How do I register with an agency?

Make initial contact by phone or send your CV and a cover letter by email. Explain the 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, either virtually or in person, to assess your situation and discuss your career plans. Some may also allow you to walk in to their office and sign up. Making a good first impression is vital, so act and dress professionally.

Some job agencies may ask you to undertake 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 any suitable 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 agency to find temporary work, accept any reasonable job offers as this gives you the chance to show that you can meet employers' needs.

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

Should 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 - you risk making your job search look unprofessional, as several agencies may suggest you for the same vacancy and the employer won't know who's representing you.

Make sure each agency you're signed up with tells you whenever 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.

Can I work for a recruitment agency?

If you feel your skills and personality would be well-suited to a career in the recruitment and HR sector, you might wish to consider working as a recruitment consultant.

Explore whether this role is for you by reading our 5 tips for a successful recruitment career and get an insight into the reality of working in recruitment.

Find out more

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