How to get the Best out of your Recruitment Consultant
If you are really serious about finding a new and better job, registering with a recruitment consultancy is a must. Even in the internet age, the vast majority of vacancies are still handled by agencies but while registering makes practical sense, the right consultant can also provide you with invaluable advice that could make a real difference to your future career. The trick is to make sure that the consultant you choose is right for you.
Your recruitment consultant has your future in his or her hands – a good one could become a valued adviser long after you accept the next position – so you should put a lot of effort into selecting one that suits your needs.
If you are responding to job advertisement, the decision will be made for you but if you decide to talk to a recruitment firm directly, you need to be sure that you are targeting the right agencies. What you should be looking for is a firm that specialises in your sector, at your level, with an impressive client list and a solid success rate in placing candidates. So where do you start looking?
If you are lucky, a personal recommendation from someone you know in your sector who has recently moved jobs will point you in the right direction. If not, gather the names of firms specialising in your area from the trade press, from a good reference source (such as Executive Grapevine) or from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (www.rec.uk.com). The next stage is to interview potential consultancies as carefully as they might interview you. Questions you might want to ask include:• What level of seniority does it concentrate on?• What is the average salary range it deals in?• How many of its clients does it represent exclusively? (you need to be careful with this one as many large companies use a number of agencies simultaneously and on an informal basis)• How many people does it place per month?• What proportion of its candidates are placed within three months?• Are there testimonials available from previous candidates?
If you are serious about finding a new job, it is well worth registering with between three and five recruitment consultants – this will inevitably result in some duplication of employers, but it will give you a good overall coverage. Some consultants, though, will try and persuade you to sign exclusively with them, at least for a while. This might well work in your favour in some situations – if you don’t want to be inundated with interviews early on, for instance, or if you are worried about confidentiality. But if you are going to commit to one agency, it should be with someone you feel you can trust and who understands what you are looking for.
Like estate agents, recruitment consultants don’t always get a good press. It’s not unusual to hear complaints about consultants dropping out of touch for weeks or failing to return calls. Sometimes these complaints are justified but more often than not they are the result of a misunderstanding about what recruitment consultants actually do. If you remember that their role is to find people for jobs and not jobs for people, and that their fees are paid by the client, you are more likely to develop a positive relationship with your own consultant.
The first, and most surprising challenge, will be to get an initial meeting with the consultant. The mistake that people often make is that they assume that the recruitment consultancies will be falling over themselves to “meet for a chat”. In most cases, the bald truth is that a consultant will not be keen to meet with you unless you are suited to an urgent vacancy. Meeting candidates without a specific role to fill takes up their time – time that is better spent fulfilling their clients’ immediate needs. It might seem perverse to you, but this becomes more apparent the more senior the candidate, since there are fewer senior roles to fill.
Getting that initial meeting will be easier if the consultant came to you through a personal recommendation. Tell the consultant who recommended them, and why you think you might be suitable for some of the positions they are handling. Or even better, ask your contact to call them on your behalf. Anything that gets you through the door is worth doing.
So once you have made contact, what can you do to build a good relationship with a recruitment consultant? The first hurdle is to make sure that you have picked a suitable agency in the first place but you must also be willing to be flexible – and polite. Be prepared to meet at a time and place that is convenient to them, rather than you, and keep initial meetings short (no more than 20 minutes). These first meetings are your opportunity to sell yourself as a valuable candidate, so treat them as you would a formal interview with an employer.
The consultant will form an impression of you very quickly and wants to be sure that you will make a good impression on a potential employer. So in order to meet an employer, you have to impress the consultant. There are simple rules to doing this (which are ignored more frequently that you might think):• Always be on time for meetings• Dress as you would for a formal interview (even if it’s your day off)• Be enthusiastic about your search for a new job• Be polite at all times• Concentrate on getting across your positive attributes.
Building a good relationship with a consultant can make all the difference. Even if your CV is not the best in the world, if you can show that you are committed and enthusiastic and are willing to learn new skills, they are more likely to take a chance on your and recommend you to a client. A consultant’s role is to find candidates that they can put in front of their clients. They want you to do well, so treat them with respect and the chances are that they will do the same for you.
• Do your research and select recruitment agencies that deal in your sector and at your level• Understand how the agencies operate• Accept that they are working for the client, not for you• Be flexible and polite. Fit in with the consultant’s timetable wherever possible• Work to impress the consultant – impress them and they will see that you will also impress the client• Never dress down• Make an effort to build a good rapport with your consultant. They can offer excellent advice and are the door to new possibilities