Recruitment Consultants; the good, the bad and the ugly

Its highly likely that at some point in your job search you will end up dealing with recruitment consultants. To many people recruitment agencies can feel like a barrier between you and the job of your dreams. If you want the job you are going to have to understand what they are all about and how best to deal with them.

Here are the answers to some important questions that will help you on your way.

How do recruiters get paid?

A recruitment consultant primarily acts from a position of self interest. Their job is to generate revenue by making sales. Sales mean selling their service, their ability to find the right candidate, to prospective employers. In effect they are selling you. This means they will be eager to champion you, their product, to the employer, likewise they will be keen to ensure that you will accept the position if offered.

Exactly how a recruitment consultant is paid depends on whether it is a permanent or contract position. Generally for a permanent placement the company receives a proportion of your salary, or a set fee agreed with the employer. The more you earn the more they stand to make. Knowing this should ease any concerns you have; in this you are both on the same side.

For a contract the consultant will receive a margin of your rate. This is where a conflict of interest can set in. Typically they will have an upper limit to work within while finding a suitable candidate. They will then attempt to find such a candidate for the minimum rate, allowing them to maximize their profit margin, or the money they make off you. This is a difficult game to play and so realistically it is best to do some real thinking about the amount of money you want to be making from contracting.

Be honest and upfront with any consultants you are dealing with about what you want. Be prepared to run the risk of losing out on some work if you will not budge. Only you can decide if this is better than accepting less than you believe you are worth in the market.

What is their relationship with the employer?

Recruitment consultants are third parties hired at a good deal of expense to the employer, often grudgingly. The best recruiters will have been involved throughout the process of drawing up the job description and will work as a partner in the process-lesser recruiters will not.

The best recruiters will work in partnership with the employer. A good indicator is whether they are working “exclusively” on the vacancy. This means they are the only agency working on the vacancy. If they are it demonstrates that the employer trusts the recruiter to provide quality candidates. This will be good for you as you will already come with a recommendation from a trusted source. Exclusive vacancies also mean you will have less competitors for your job.

If an employer hires 5 agencies and they all propose 3 candidates each, that’s 15 candidates for 1 position! On the other hand if an agency is working exclusively and recommends yourself and 4 other candidates your competition is drastically reduced. Ask your recruitment consultant if they are working exclusively on the vacancy!

The best recruiters will be able to give you detailed information about the company, department structure and working environment. However it is all too common that recruiters with a poor relationship with the employer have little knowledge of the employer, though they may not want to admit this. In this situation you need to be wary. They are unlikely to be able to offer you as much useful information. This makes your own research all the more essential.

Are all the job ads real?

This is one of the most common questions from frustrated candidates tired of the application merry go round. If a response is not received from their application it is assumed the ad is a fraud. There is one main instance in which this may be true and that is in the market for contractors. Quality contractors are considered extremely hard to come by and it is possible some agencies use fake ads to get you to submit your details to them.

In the majority of cases the real reason for lack of response is a disinterest from the recruitment consultant in your application. After all they may be under intense pressure to find the right candidate. If they come across an unsuitable CV it is unlikely they will take the time out to inform them so. The belief in fake ads exists mainly because too many candidates are not taking the necessary steps to ensure their application is focused and well matched.

Don’t fall into this category. Use the techniques and follow the advice on this site.

Should I register with recruitment agencies?

It’s important to understand what registration means. Generally it means your details will be registered on the company database. If you are to be matched to a vacancy in the future it will be when a consultant searches against keyword criteria and your CV is identified.

Registering your CV does not mean you are applying for a position! Plenty of candidates believe they can sit back and wait for the offer of potential vacancies to come flooding in. it is often a very long wait.

Recruitment consultants are trained to focus on activity which has the opportunity to make them money. That means screening applicants for the vacancies they have. The primary tool in doing this is the advert response which is favoured for one main reason; candidates who apply have expressed an interest in the role, therefore such candidates are more likely to accept the role if offered. The result is more money for the recruiter.

The database may be more of a marketing tool than a method used to source candidates. Clients may be wowed by the number of of candidates and the market coverage that a vast database indicates. What they don’t know is that the database simply stores the CV of every applicant for every role the company places. I have seen CV’s on a database that were 4 years old. Those candidates are probably not looking anymore! By registering with the agencies you run the risk of joining this not so select group.

Don’t be fooled-this is not the best way to apply.

Will the agency give me all the information?

A consultant is a salesperson. Ultimately their job is to sell you any role they can and ensure that if offered the position you will accept, and they will get paid.

Consultants will be trained to find out what you want, and from that point on to reinforce in your mind why this is the right role for you. DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO BE IMPARTIAL. In the world of recruitment it is dog eat dog. Throughout the process they may well attempt to influence you. You will need clearly defined job search objectives to avoid being swayed.

Well that’s about all you need to know. Now you’re informed, make your own mind up, and use recruitment consultants for what they can offer; access to jobs, information on employers and feedback to help you improve.

Learn about what goes on inside a recruitment agency

Be prepared for a recruitment agency interview

Return from Recruitment Consultants to job search methods