How to… use a recruitment consultancy

Which
of these statements have you heard before: a) the sole function of a
recruitment consultancy is to fill job vacancies on behalf of their clients; b)
a few recruitment consultancies are excellent, but the majority are
disreputable; c) recruitment consultancies bombard companies with unwanted CVs
and advertise jobs that don’t really exist?

Quite
probably all three – so it is hardly surprising that many of us shy away from
using recruitment consultancies when considering changing jobs or planning our
next career move. Yet a careful pairing with the right consultancy can
positively help guide your career, and can prove vital in preparing you for
interviews, salary negotiations and upgrading skills.

Where
do I start?

Working
with a recruitment consultancy means you are entrusting it with your career, so
there are a number of factors you should check before making a commitment. The
consultancy and the consultant you are dealing with should have an established
track record, extensive contacts and specific knowledge of your sector. Find
out who its clients are and talk to other candidates, as well as your friends
and colleagues for their recommendations.

The
consultancy should appreciate and be responsive to your individual needs, and
should not impose conditions as it sees fit. You must also feel at ease with
the consultant you are working with as they are going to become thoroughly
conversant with your career history and other personal details.

It’s
a two-way thing

It’s
no good just holding a brief telephone conversation or sending a CV, and
expecting everything to fall into place. A good consultancy will insist on a
face-to-face meeting, which will provide an opportunity to talk about your
experience and skills in detail. Treat it like an actual interview with a
potential employer, and be clear about why you are leaving your present job and
what you are looking for.

Use
the encounter to ask questions and assess its commitment and capability too.
Avoid being pressurised into a decision, as you need to be confident of the
consultant’s expertise and loyalty.

"Make
sure you get time with them to dig deeper, understand exactly what they have
done, what they can do for you and see if you can work with them on a personal
level," says Gareth Jones, managing director of executive search
consultancy Courtenay HR. "When meeting with a consultant, make sure there
is time outside of the career discussion to cover these things. Don’t let them
rush you."

Rules
of engagement

Having
agreed to let a consultancy act for you, bear two key points in mind: you don’t
have to pay fees, and you have no contractual obligation to the consultancy, as
it will be paid a commission, or will be retained by the recruiting company. It
is reasonable to grant the consultancy a period of exclusivity before looking
at others. If you do decide to use more than one consultancy to reach a wider
possible market, it is best to confine it to a few.

On
or off-message?

Communication
should be consistent, but just because you don’t hear from your consultant
every five minutes doesn’t mean they’re not working hard on your behalf. Their
job is to closely match the requirements of clients and present the best
possible selection, not inundate you with unsuitable choices. As circumstances
can change, it is also important that any issues or events that can affect the
hiring process are shared.

"Encourage
your consultant to be honest in their feedback as a lot of the frustration with
recruiters stems from lack of feedback, or the rather thin excuses for why you
are not being put on the shortlist or didn’t get the job," says Jones.

A
charter for success

When
an interview is secured, your consultancy should come into its own and assist
with interview techniques and provide detailed company briefings. This doesn’t
mean that you shouldn’t conduct your own research as well, as there is a chance
that other candidates will have received the same brief and your own insights
could make the crucial difference.

Finally,
the way you manage the consultant is also important – be warm and show your
appreciation when things have been done well. And if you do hit upon a top
consultancy, stay in contact, even after you taken up a new position, as you
never know when you might next need its services.

Where
can I get more info?

Websites

www.rec.uk.com
Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). The ‘Find a consultancy’
section allows you to search for REC corporate members by location and
industry.

www.agencycentral.co.uk
Quick links to directory (listed by industry) of agencies and job sites.

If
you only do five things…

1
Find out as much as you can about the consultancy

2
Sell yourself as if it were a real interview

3
Make full use of its expertise

4
Maintain regular contact

5
Always treat your consultant with respect

Expert’s
view Gareth Jones on choosing the right recruitment consultancy

Gareth
Jones is managing director of executive search consultancy, CourtenayHR.

Do
you have a current relationship with an external consultancy?

Yes.
I have worked with one or two people with whom I have very strong
relationships. One in particular, who I have known for more than 10 years, now
acts more as a mentor than a consultant. As a psychologist with a good business
head, he gives me valuable and extremely honest feedback.

What
are the benefits of having a close working relationship with a consultancy?

A
close relationship does not guarantee that next move for you, but it will
ensure the consultancy fully understands what you are about, the relevance of
your experience and the best opportunities for you. The closer the
relationship, the better – the more a consultancy knows about you, the better
placed you will be against others in the candidate pool.

What
should be avoided when establishing the relationship?

Avoid
spreading yourself too thinly. Be discerning in your choice and keep the number
of organisations representing you to a minimum. It might not be an accurate
perception, but seeing someone’s details come across your desk from many
different consultancies can leave a negative impression with a client.

Has
the way in which candidates and consultancies interact changed in recent years?

No,
but it is going to. Things have not changed in recruitment for many years, but
the internet and other technologies, combined with a need to act faster to
fulfil a need, will change the traditional interaction. As a candidate, you
should expect to develop longer-term relationships with employers on the same
basis as you currently do with consultancies. That means getting to know a
group of employers who you may never actually join.

Three
top tips


Don’t chop and change; invest time in building long-term relationships


Remember the consultant is your best and only representative until you get in
front of the client


Be proactive. Keep in touch with your consultant, and call them even if they do
not call you.

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