Working with recruitment agencies

Posted in: Advice, Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs, Tips & Hints, Work Experience

I've recently had a few queries from students about using recruitment agencies to find roles in the summer (and beyond).   Recruitment agencies can be incredibly useful jobsearch tools, as they can take a lot of the research and application / paperwork burden off you.  But there can be downsides if you don't actively manage your relationship with an agency.  Firstly, read this useful webpage about recruitment agency basics, including how they work. 

My own top tips for working with recruitment agencies are:

  • Choose your agency carefully

It's worth spending a little bit of time doing some research.

  • What sort of role are you looking for? Casual temp work, general administrative or a more specialised graduate role? Think about what you might gain from working with a recruiter who has expert knowledge of a given sector / role.
  • Which employers do they work with?
  • How does their process work? Will they have a telephone call with you, or will you need to go into their office for a chat? It's a good idea to work with an agency that spends a bit of time getting to know you.
  • What sorts of services can they offer you? Assistance with your CV? Interview coaching?

Of course, you can sign up to more than one agency - but think about how you would manage emails and phone calls from numerous enthusiastic recruitment agents! It's usually better to favour quality over quantity.

Reputable agencies are also members of the Recruitment and Employment Federation (look for the REC logo on agency websites).  You can also use this useful directory to find members by sector. Members adhere to the REC Code of Professional Practice, which sets out expectations for how agencies should work with jobseekers.

  • Be clear.

Unless you want to be bombarded by emails and phone calls about unsuitable roles, it's good to be very clear about the sort of role and benefits you're looking for.  This is often done online in the first instance, but make sure you’re also clear if and when you get to chat to a recruitment agent.

You could email a contact at the agency to confirm things such as the responsibilities / working conditions / hours / pay you’re ideally looking for. You can then refer back to this written information in case of any confusion!

  • Be assertive.

If a recruitment agent suggests a role that you're unsure about, don't be afraid to ask questions. You should be able to see full details of the role before your name gets put forward. For example, be sure that you know what the lower and upper range of a salary might be. Remember that agencies are paid only once they successfully place a candidate with an employer – which can make agents a little over-enthusiastic when pitching a role to you!

Don’t be afraid to say “no”. This shouldn’t harm your chances of being put forward for future roles.

  • Be proactive.

Some recruitment agencies/sites are huge, and deal with hundreds of roles and thousands of jobseekers.  This can mean that things can go a bit quiet.  So if you see a perfect role being advertised on an agency’s website and haven’t heard anything, get in touch to discuss it.

Every couple of weeks, give them a call (yes, phone them – don’t always rely on email!) to ask whether anything is available, and to remind them what you’re looking for. You’re more likely to be fresh in their mind when that perfect job comes along.

CVs for recruitment agencies

Normally, our advice is to always tailor your CV to the role and employer that you’re applying to. This is obviously more difficult when you’re sending in a CV to an agency, without knowing which roles you could be put forward for. It may be that you’re open to a range of roles and environments.

Writing a good profile for your CV can give a good sense of the range of skills that you have, and the types of roles you’re looking for.

Ensuring that your CV reflects both your technical skills and personal competencies (such as adaptability) will also give recruitment agents / employers a broad sense of your abilities.

Agencies - one part of your job-hunting strategy

Recruitment agencies can be incredibly useful, saving you time and effort. You can often get put forward for roles that aren’t advertised anywhere else.  On the flipside, many employers choose not to work with agencies.

So make sure you also:

Check out our guides (below) on finding graduate roles and work experience for more tips on being successful in your job hunt.

Useful resources

Recruitment and Employment Federation membership directory (with a useful geographic and sector search)

How to find a job using recruitment agencies – including a list of some agencies with particular specialisms (Save the

Working with recruitment intermediaries (University of Bath Careers Service)

Finding Work Experience guide (UoB Careers Service)

Finding a Graduate Job guide (UoB Careers Service)


Posted in: Advice, Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs, Tips & Hints, Work Experience


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