Ready to hit the job market but not sure how to work with recruitment agencies to find work? I am here to help.
Having worked in a recruitment agency setting for many years, I understand that liaising with agencies can be well…frustrating. Sure. I know there are other words that people use to describe their experience with recruitment agencies as well. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick with frustrating!
In this article I explore how to work effectively with recruitment agencies to find your dream job. When you find an agency and consultants you connect with, you create a new and effective job hunting channel that can benefit you across your entire career.
Navigating Work through Recruitment Agencies – Tips from a Former Recruiter
In this article I offer key tips for forming a productive, professional and rewarding relationship with those who work in recruitment agencies. I offer some insight into how recruitment agencies typically work and explain how you can find a professional relationship that “fits”.
What’s your objective?
Before we launch into tips for how you can form a great relationship with recruitment agencies, let’s take a quick look at an overall objective of forming the professional relationship in the first place:
Your key objective
In the context of your job hunt, you should be looking to build trusted professional relationships with recruitment agency staff who you feel will best support your job hunting efforts. Now and into the future.
Depending on the sector you work within, you may source many or all of your roles across your career via a recruitment agency.
In some cases, you cannot secure a role with a company without liaising with a recruitment agency first. So let’s move onto looking at how best to navigate the recruitment agency market.
Recruitment Agency Tips from a former recruiter
Having worked my way from the ground up in a recruitment agency, I have the following hints and tips for you:
- Build 3-5 relationships with contacts in relevant, niche recruitment agencies that regularly advertise roles in your industry sector and role type
- Consider asking others you work with which agencies they have used in the past. They will likely be able to recommend Recruitment Consultants and Account Managers they have worked well with. It’s most often the individual you will click with, not the company
- Send in a resume format that will work best with each company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Whilst a graphically designed resume may look like a visual masterpiece, you need to make sure that the recruitment agency’s software will be able to scan your resume’s content and bring you up in searches for relevant roles
- Take the opportunity to meet face to face with recruitment agency staff in their offices, at your workplace or a more discreet location (such as a nearby coffee shop). This allows the agency staff to put a face to a name. It also ensures you are front of mind for upcoming roles
Meeting recruitment agency staff
The key to any great interaction with any recruitment agency staff member is to be yourself. It can be nerve wracking meeting new people, but know that the recruitment agency representative is just trying to get a better sense for who you are and the details of your professional background.
If you are nervous and have not used an agency in the past, say so. Then the recruiter can talk with you in more detail about the process involved and how they are likely to represent you to clients.
Before you interview with a client, many recruitment agencies will want to meet with you. Some agencies will conduct this interview in person. Other agencies will interview you in person. The approach really depends on the recruitment agency itself, the client they are recruiting for and the role you are applying for.
Typically a recruitment agency will want to know:
- Details of your professional background including any qualifications and training
- Information about your skill set including examples of some of your key achievements
- The types of roles you are looking to secure
- Your contract rate or salary expectations (including salary components such as car, health insurance etc)
- Your current notice period with your current employee
Of course, you might also have some questions about the recruitment agency. It is perfectly acceptable to learn more about the company before being represented by them to clients.
Here are the sorts of questions you might like to ask any recruiters you meet with:
- Which clients do you work with predominantly?
- What other clients does the recruitment agency service?
- What is your typical mix of permanent work and contract work?
- Why do contractors enjoy working in contract roles via your company (a relevant question if you are looking for contract work)?
- Do you have any feedback on my resume, LinkedIn profile or any other digital assets I have provided to you?
- Do you have any feedback on the way I interview?
- Have you got any feedback on current market conditions as they relate to salaries and contract rates?
- How much information will be provided to me before my resume is submitted to a client?
Staying in touch
The key to any strong professional relationship with a recruitment agency representative is for you to establish a relationship for the long term.
Whilst you might meet initially to talk about a specific role, it is not uncommon for you to stay in touch with specific recruiters across your career. Even when they, or you, move between roles and different companies.
Here are some easy ways to stay in touch with your recruitment agency contacts:
- Connect with specific recruitment agency representatives on LinkedIn
- Follow the recruitment agency itself on LinkedIn and other social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
- Call or email your contact when you see a role that interests you
- Take advantage of any functions or information sessions recruitment agencies run – you may just learn something new. You will certainly meet other people who are highly relevant to connect with and build further rapport with recruitment agency staff
How recruitment agencies work
Recruitment agencies all work in slightly different ways. But the main premise is the same in each. Clients form a relationship with recruitment agencies and brief them when roles become available.
Recruitment agencies then find suitable candidates (just like you!) for their clients to consider. Decision makers on that client site look at the information or candidate resumes provided by the recruitment agency. They the client shortlists candidates to interview.
The recruitment agency usually coordinates the interview process and liaises with both the client and the candidates interviewed throughout the recruitment process. This includes setting up interview times, taking feedback from the client and candidate after each interview and arranging any further interviews or testing required.
After a candidate is recruited for a permanent role, the recruitment agency typically steps away. Although often, the recruitment agency will monitor the performance of the candidate for a period of 6-12 months to ensure they perform well in their role.
If you are placed into a permanent role, you are likely to have a probationary period. During this time an Account Manager from the recruitment agency is likely to stay in contact with you. This provides a great support structure to iron out any initial kinks in your role.
If however a candidate is placed into a contract role (known as a contractor), the contractor, is often assigned an “Account Manager” who is their contact at the recruitment agency for the duration of their contract.
Typically that Account Manager:
- Works through any contract extensions or issues on client site
- Offers support and guidance if any issues, even small ones, arise whilst you are working for the client
- Assist you to negotiate an extension and rate changes
Multiple contacts in the one recruitment agency
You may deal with a number of Recruitment Consultants or Account Managers within the one recruitment agency. This is because in some agencies, specific people work with particular clients or in specific industry sectors.
Let’s say for example, you are an Agile Coach looking for work. You may end up speaking with a few different recruitment agency staff members if there are multiple Agile Coach roles available with clients in different industry sectors.
Your professional relationship with recruitment agency staff
Once you have started your contract role, typically someone from the recruitment agency will come out to see you periodically or call you to see how the contract is progressing.
In some instances, recruitment agency staff may look to gather intelligence about the company you have been placed within. Share details as you feel comfortable. But don’t feel compelled to relay information if you are not comfortable to do so or if you think it will breach any confidentiality or privacy laws in place.
Role representation clarity
When you are looking for work, you are likely to be considering multiple roles at once. It is very important to be clear about which recruitment agency is representing you for each role.
Most recruitment agencies understand that they need the express permission of candidates to forward their resumes to potential clients. Others behave poorly and may submit your resume to a client without your express permission to do so.
Make sure that agencies have your express permission before submitting your resume to any client. Given different recruitment agencies work on different margins, you may just find your resume appears in the inbox of a potential client – in two separate emails, with two different contract rates. You want to avoid double-representation to clients!
Just to clarify. You can be represented by different recruitment companies for different roles at the same time. It is best to keep a track of your representation in a simple Word document or Excel spreadsheet.
It is always helpful to keep each recruitment agency up to date on your applications, especially if they are representing you for a role that you are most interested in. The Recruiter or Account Manager can then speak with the client to try to expedite the progress with that role.
Ahhh, contract rate negotiations. Recruitment agency staff deal with contract rate negotiations every working day. But I know that many candidates do not.
If you are new to contracting, here is the typical process when being represented for a contract role:
- You meet with a Recruiter or Account Manager at a recruitment agency
- In that interview or at a later time, the Recruiter/Account Manager will discuss a specific role with you and ask you what your rate expectation is for that specific role
- You give permission for your resume to be submitted for the specific role discussed and you provide the Recruitment/Account Manager with your rate expectations (which may be communicated in an hourly or daily format)
- Your resume is submitted by the Recruitment Agency and then you wait…
- If you are shortlisted by the client they will request an interview with you via the recruitment agency
- You will attend the interview with the client (but typically with no recruitment agency representatives
- You provide feedback to your contact at the recruitment agency. The client you interviewed with, will also provide feedback to the recruitment agency
- The recruitment agency will provide you with feedback. If the client would like to engage you, a contract will be drawn up between the recruitment agency and yourself. The recruitment agency will sign an contract with the client to mirror those terms
What to look for in a contract
Most contracts formed between yourself (the contractor) and the recruitment agency are fairly straight forward. There are a few key clauses you will want to check carefully:
- That the rate you asked for is represented correctly. Make sure you are clear on whether the rate includes superannuation
- Make sure that you are comfortable with the notice clause represented in the contract. The notice period varies from client to client but is usually somewhere between 2 and 4 weeks. If the notice clause is reflected in days, clarify whether these are business days or elapsed days.
- Check for the inclusion of a non competition clause in your contract. Many recruitment agencies reflect a non competition clause which restricts contractors from forming a contract to work directly with the company they have placed you into. Typically this clause reflects a 6 month period within which this restriction applies
- If there are any clauses in your contract that don’t make sense to you, seek clarification on their meaning. Contracts are often not written in laymen terms and can be a little difficult to understand. This is not an intentional “ploy” but rather legal language that must be used to ensure the contract is completely clear and legally binding
Having an ally in a professional recruitment specialist will serve you well as you navigate salary negotiations, career pivots and the occasional wrong career turn!
A healthy professional recruitment agency relationship is worth its weight in gold. It can take some time to find a recruitment agency that shares your professional values, but it is worth persevering until you find a relationship that is a good fit for you.
Don’t be shy about establishing a few professional recruitment agency relationships. Afterall, no one agency represents all roles available in the marketplace.
By taking the time to set positive professional boundaries and sharing your key career, your relationship with recruitment agencies, will help you enjoy a rewarding work life and smooth transitions between the roles of your career.