Thanks to their countless employer contacts and impressive industry knowledge, job agencies are a key player in graduate recruitment and can greatly aid your search for work

What is a recruitment agency?

Recruitment agencies help with your search for permanent or temporary work, becoming the middle man between job seekers and potential employers. Many employers recruit through agencies, meaning that signing up gives you access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere.

Companies using employment agencies expect recruitment consultants to recommend candidates with relevant specialist skills. After receiving the job description, the agency selects a shortlist of applicants from the pool of CVs held on its database. The employer chooses their preferred individuals and asks the consultancy to coordinate interviews, paying them an agreed sum once any job offer is accepted.

Should I use a recruitment agency?

Employment agencies offer several benefits. Specialist sector agencies often have strong knowledge of their particular industry. What's more, they can analyse and develop your skillset, provide advice to boost your application and prepare you for interviews. They're also well-connected, meaning that your CV can be sent speculatively to numerous employers. This saves valuable time, especially if you're already in full-time employment.

However, you should ask questions about any opportunities presented by the recruitment agency, as their requirement to recommend a given number of relevant candidates may result in them mismatching you against the job criteria. Trust your instincts - be honest if you believe that the role is unsuitable.

Recruitment consultancies support your job search, but don't rely solely on them. Search for roles advertised elsewhere and apply speculatively to companies that you'd like to work for. It's also important to note that popular sectors - media and internet, for example - are unlikely to use agencies as demand for their vacancies is already very high.

How can I find graduate recruitment agencies?

Graduate recruitment agencies relevant to your chosen industry and location can be found using the following resources:

How do I choose an agency?

Look for employment agencies that cover specific geographical areas. Bigger companies recruit nationally, so don't rule these out either. Always check that the agency is a member of the professional industry body, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Choose a recruitment agency with expertise in your chosen industry, as it'll have niche clients and great sector knowledge. Many agencies display vacancies on their websites - this is potentially a great starting point when deciding whether or not to register. Discover which employers the consultancy usually deals with, and find out how many vacancies they have in your field.

How do I join an agency?

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

You may then be asked to attend an informal interview to further assess your suitability. Making a good first impression is vital, so act and dress professionally. Some recruitment consultancies may then ask you to sit skills tests to assess your spelling and IT literacy. If the agency feels that they'll be able to assist in your job search, your details will be added to their candidate database.

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

It's also wise to let the recruitment agency know when you no longer wish to be on their books; otherwise, they'll still be contacting you long after your job search ends.

Can I join more than one job agency?

You can join as many recruitment agencies as you like, but avoid registering for the sake of it. Choosing to work with a select number will ensure that you don’t receive 'spam' calls and emails with unsuitable vacancies. There's also the danger that several consultancies will suggest you for the same job, if the employer is using the services of more than one agency.