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Using recruitment agencies - what's in it for you?

Employability Service

Category: Student support services

25 March 2021

Students often shy away from working with recruitment agencies - but why? Not being ‘senior enough’ or not being sure how they work are common reasons but avoidance could mean you are missing out! By working with recruitment agencies, you can access a whole new job market.

So, what is a recruitment agency?
When a company has a vacancy, they may outsource the hiring process to a recruitment agency which acts as a supplier of new employees. It’s important to note that recruiters from agencies are not employed by the companies they are hiring staff for – instead the hiring company is their client.

It’s also worth knowing that recruitment agencies come in many forms, they can be huge international firms with hundreds of recruiters, or small with just a couple of consultants. They can specialise in different sectors (like HR or IT) or geographies (regional, nationwide, or worldwide). What all these different recruitment agencies do have is common however, is how they make their money.

How do recruitment agencies make money?
When a company has a vacancy, they outsource it to a recruitment agency who advertises, finds suitable candidates, and coaches them through the interview process. The company then pays the agency when they hire one of their candidates. Important to note here that a recruitment agency cannot charge you to find you a job – if you are asked to pay for their services it’s a sign that you shouldn’t be working with them. Legitimate recruitment agencies are paid by the hiring company only – not the candidate.

What are the benefits of working with an agency?
Agencies are not just for finding permanent work. You can also use them for finding temporary part-time and/or vacation work to help fund your studies, gain experience, boost confidence and build your network. ARU Temps is your on-campus agency, employing hundreds of students part-time each year in various roles – and is a great place to register and understand more about how this type of recruitment works.

When looking for a graduate job, agencies are useful because they proactively sell your candidate profile to hiring employers. They tell hiring managers how great you are without the worry of sounding arrogant or overconfident. Recruiters get paid when a candidate gets a job, so they work hard to get you hired!

For Hire sign

They also have access to a hidden market of jobs that are not advertised. Successful agencies build close networks of professional contacts and are often told about vacancies before a company even starts the hiring process – so jobs are filled before they come to market.

There are A LOT of recruitment agencies out there. In 2018 there were 39,232 recruitment agencies in the UK and around 8,500 new agencies opened in 2019. The market is growing exponentially, so at some point in your life you will probably be in contact with at least one. To start, it’s worth registering with the big name ‘high street’ agencies as they deal with clients and vacancies across many sectors and at various seniority levels, so they work with recent graduates alongside experienced candidates. They usually have online application portals.

What are specialist recruitment agencies?
You can almost guarantee there will be a specialist recruitment agency (or several) that work specifically with client companies in your area of interest. This kind of recruiter can be useful, as they usually have lots of industry contacts. Some agencies work with graduates – some don’t at all. It’s worth contacting any agency you are considering working with, and asking these key questions ‘do you work with recent graduates and how successful are you at placing recent graduates into employment?’

Any disadvantages to look out for?
Recruiters are usually very busy people; they are in contact with vast networks of clients and candidates, so sometimes getting hold of them can be tough. It's beneficial to build a relationship with the agency by calling regularly to ask for updates, to ensure they remember you when discussing potential candidates with hiring employers.

You may have less control over where your CV ends up. Sometimes less experienced recruiters will send a good candidate’s CV out to several employers, taking a ‘quantity not quality’ approach to representing you. To prevent this, tell the recruiter you want to discuss all roles before your CV is sent out, to make sure the roles are right for you.

If you would like advice on preparing your CV for submission to a recruitment agency, advice on working with recruiters, or preparing a job application and careers advice, please email [email protected] to talk to an Employability & Careers Adviser.

By Katie Smith, Employability & Careers Adviser

Our Employability Service works with students throughout their time at ARU and after they graduate. The Service offers careers advice, online resources, and help with job searches, applications and interview preparation. Our Employability & Careers Advisers may mention some of these resources and services in their blogs, to give you an idea of the careers support that's on offer at ARU. Some of these resources sit behind a log in and can only be accessed by current students.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.