Entering the job market can seem an intimidating prospect. There are so many ways of applying, including agencies and consultancies – how do you work out which to choose? Or, do you need to choose?

Many people simply apply to a targeted company directly, as opposed to using a consultancy. In some cases this may indeed yield results, particularly if you have a contact within the company. But what if you don’t?

Picture a typical busy HR department in a large organisation. An unsolicited CV lands in the inbox of the department. How many others do you think they may have seen that day? Maybe, if you catch them right they will take a closer look and maybe they might refer your CV on to the line manager. Maybe they will take a look and get in contact and maybe you’ll get an interview. That’s a lot of maybes.

Now consider another picture. Your recruitment consultant picks up the phone and dials the direct number of the line manager. This is someone with whom they have an existing (and one hopes successful) relationship. They pitch you in as a candidate, recommending your skills and experience and expressing their positive opinion as to your cultural fit for their business. You receive an introduction to the key decision maker through someone that they trust, which has a much higher likelihood of success than a CV landing on a desk without an introduction.

A good consultant will know where the roles are in the market that will best suit you. They should have already established relationships with the organisation, and also be up to date on what is going on within their chosen industry.

This is in essence what you are using a recruitment consultant for, their relationships and knowledge of the local market place that can be used to aid you in your job search. Market knowledge is essential for a good consultant to be effective, and specific local knowledge in particular. Product knowledge is what really differentiates a good consultant from the bad. Let’s be honest, no one is suggesting that there are not bad consultants out there, as well as good. The key thing is to separate the good from the bad and only work with those who you can trust and who have a successful track record.

In registering with an agency, there are some key points that we recommend to keep in mind in order to get the most out of the process as a candidate and maximise your chances of success.

  1. Do your homework: this is without doubt the most important step in starting your job search. Establish who operates in the area in which you want to work that specialises in your market, in your geographical target area and at your level?
  2. Quiz your consultant: when you approach a new consultancy, ask your consultant who they work with and where they have made placements recently. Also quiz them on how long they have worked with the consultancy. Due to the transient nature of the industry, a good consultant is one who will be able to demonstrate longevity. For example, the consultants at Alexander Lloyd have an average length of service four years that has been put to good use, developing those crucial relationships and market knowledge.
  3. Market saturation: when you are job hunting the idea of exclusivity with one agency may seem an odd concept. Surely you want to get your name out into the market as much as possible? However, in our experience there is a danger of saturating the market in registering with a large number of agencies and consultancies as you may end up being put forward for a role a number of times from different people which causes frustration on the part of the person recruiting for the role. By saying to a consultancy that you will register exclusively, the motivation for a consultant inevitably increases. However, that it not to say that you should only register with one for good – give your consultant a timescale. If they have not been successful for you within a month, then you will also go and register with others; it’s about optimising the manner in which you work with them.
  4. Honesty is the best policy: We always give candidates one key piece of advice; to be open and honest with us about what it is they really do or don’t want. If you don’t want to work in a specific area, then let your consultant know. If there are any companies that you really do want to work for again, let your consultant know as they may have existing relationships that can be used to your benefit.
  5. CV feedback and interview preparation: A recruitment consultant looks at CVs more than anyone else, and they are very aware of the market trends and preference when it comes to layout and structure etc. Use your consultant’s knowledge; they can give you constructive feedback that you can use to make corrections and improvements as necessary. Also remember to use your consultant’s knowledge when preparing for an interview. Some people need very little assistance other than name of the interviewer, date and time. Others however need much more in-depth preparation and a good consultant will be generous with their time, often on a one to one basis, offering constructive criticism and an unbiased viewpoint on technique. These benefits are part of the free consultancy service that you receive as a candidate and it pays to use them to the full.

About the Author

  • About Kate Selleck: Alexander Lloyd has become one of the South East’s leading recruitment consultancies since its launch in 1999. With an unrivalled network of contacts and industry knowledge, they continually and successfully place the region’s top candidates in a range of companies.

Kate Selleck

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