Whether you’re looking for a permanent role or temporary stop-gap job, recruitment agencies can be a useful part of your graduate job search. We recommend seeing recruitment agencies as part of your search rather than depending on them solely to secure a position.

What are recruitment agencies?

Recruitment agencies work with employers with vacancies to fill, by putting forward candidates they think are suitable for the role. An employer may use an agency if they have a role to fill at short notice or lack resources to hire candidates themselves.

If a candidate that an agency has put forward gets offered the position, the agency is paid by the employer. Employers that work with recruitment agencies come from all industries and include both large organisations and smaller, medium-sized ones too. 

How they work

Individual recruitment agencies differ in their approach, but many will operate in the like this: an agency is sent a job description by an organisation that has a position they want to fill. The agency draws up a shortlist of applicants for the role using the bank of CVs they hold on their database. The recruiting organisation then views these shortlisted CVs and selects their preferred candidate(s) to interview. The agency coordinates an interview of the selected candidate(s) by the organisation.

Types of recruitment agencies

There are two types of recruitment agencies: multi-discipline agencies, which handle vacancies across a wide range of sectors, and specialist agencies, recruiting only in certain fields. Both types of agencies can deal with permanent and temporary positions.

Do I have to pay to use one?

Recruitment agencies are free to use. The only agencies that charge are those that hire highly experienced, specialised professionals but as a graduate it’s highly unlikely you’ll be using these. If you’re unsure you can always contact us.

looking at CVs

Benefits of using a recruitment agency

  • They’re free to use
  • Offer a range of opportunities to suit your needs and circumstances
  • Provide in-depth knowledge and advice related to specific employers and job sectors
  • Give you access to roles that might not be advertised elsewhere
  • You often enter the recruitment process at a much later stage compared to other vacancies advertised elsewhere which might involve multiple recruitment stages that take longer to work through
  • Often less competition due to the smaller pool of CVs recruiters work with 

Finding a recruitment agency

You can register with as many recruitment agencies as you like, but the more you sign up with the more relationships you’ll have to manage. We recommend selecting a handful initially as you can then keep track of where your CV is being sent.

You can search recruitment agencies based on location and job sector by visiting The Recruitment and Employment Confederation website. This is a good website but doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of agencies.

If you want to stay local take a look at our Guide to Recruitment Agencies in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

LSE’s list of agencies is one of the most comprehensive pages we’ve found. It lists agencies that specialise in recruiting people into Marketing, Advertising, PR, Media, HR, Law and some other areas too.

Graduate recruitment agencies are also becoming increasingly popular. Agencies such as Inspiring Interns, Instant Impact and Grad Central are worth looking into but there are plenty of others you can find by searching online.

There are lots of websites that work more like graduate vacancy sites but advertise short-term opportunities or graduate internships. Useful sites are Graduate Advantage, Graduate Recruitment Bureau and Graduate Talent Pool. 

Tips for getting the most out of recruitment agencies

  • Research and select your agency with consideration: don’t be tempted to use too many at once – careful selection will mean your time is used most effectively.
  • Keep in touch with them regularly: the agency environment can be fast-paced and if you don’t keep in contact you may be overlooked. Having said that, do be careful not to be too demanding. Phoning first thing in the morning can be a good approach.
  • Create a good impression and act professionally – the agency will be encouraged to represent and promote you to employers if they like you and are impressed with the way you conduct yourself. Recruiters want to put candidates forward for jobs that they like and think will do well. If you can get on with the recruiter and have rapport with them you’re halfway there.
  • Keep in regular contact with each agency: this will allow you to keep track of the progress they’re making in finding you a job.
  • Keep a record of your applications and contact with each agency: you don’t want more than one agency to put you forward for the same position!
  • Tailor your applications: highlight the relevant skills and competencies that the employer is looking for. You can email Careers Network and we’ll review your CV or application before you submit it.

Final tip: don’t rely on recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies are an important tool to help you find a graduate job but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are lots of other ways you can get a graduate job, including speculative approaches, graduate internships and applying directly for roles companies advertise themselves.

If you want advice on where to find graduate opportunities or want help on putting together an effective CV contact us. We’re here all year around and provide support for two years after you’ve graduated!

Written by Sarah Blunt, Careers Adviser in the College of Arts and Law

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