Working with recruitment agencies
Agencies are paid by firms to find either permanent or temporary staff, usually screening candidates, providing a short-list to the employer and helping with the interview process. Most people only have experience of them when they apply for a specific role. However, you can also become registered on their books to help with your job search.
They have exclusive access to roles not yet advertised and the first thing they do is look at their current database to find matching candidates. If they have enough quality candidates, they will not need to advertise the role, therefore the only chance you have of being considered for certain roles is to be already registered with them. However, signing up to every agency you can find and sitting back waiting for an interview is not the most effective approach. To improve your chances of being one of the short-listed candidates, here are a few tips.
Use a specialist agency
A specialist agency focuses on an industry sector or function such as accountancy and finance. They will have a better understanding of your skills and experience plus have access to a wider range of roles suitable for you.
How do you find them? A search for ‘accountancy recruitment agency’ or ‘finance employment agency’ will bring up a list of agencies. If you add a location, you can narrow down the search to local ones in the geographical area where you are looking for work. Another option is to go into some of the major online job boards and search for the relevant job titles, e.g., Management Accountant plus the geographical area where you are hoping to work. Look for the roles which are of the most interest to you and see which agencies are advertising them. This will give you a list to research and target.
Give a clear brief
Consultants are busy and are always working towards targets. Make their job easier by giving them concise and clear information about the type of role you want, the skills you have to offer, salary expectations, type of employer you would like to work for and what you are looking for in terms of level of responsibility, working pattern (flexible, part or full time) and geographical location. Remember to tell them what you do not want as well.
Have a great CV and cover letter ready
Contact the agency and ask to make an appointment, then follow-up immediately with a CV and cover letter. Make sure the CV clearly showcases your competencies and skills as well as your experience. It needs to be easy to scan read, so use bullet points rather than lots of text. Use the cover letter to focus on the information most relevant for the types of roles you want the agency to put you forward for.
Many consultants are not keen on people who are hard to place. Clearly demonstrate your transferable skills on your CV and use your cover letter to highlight how your experience relates to the roles you are targeting. Choose a specialist agency and also consider those which focus on ‘hard to place’ groups, such as flexible working around school hours, return to work or over the 50s. Good agencies will give you advice on how to break into the area of work you are interested in.
Consider joining the agency to fulfil temporary and contract roles in the area of work you want to break into. This will give you valuable experience, build your network of contacts and is an opportunity to prove yourself, which may lead to a role converting to a permanent position.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date
Most agencies actively use LinkedIn to find or vet potential candidates, as well as advertise roles. Therefore, make sure you have a profile which accurately reflects the skills, experience and the job titles for the roles you are targeting. A good photograph and background image are also important to make a good impression.
Build a good rapport
Whenever possible ask to meet your consultant either face-to-face or via a video call to enable them to really get to know you and clarify points on your CV. First impressions count, so act and dress professionally. Once you have signed-up, it is your responsibility to check-in with the agency on a regular basis, however, you do not want to alienate them by becoming a nuisance. Ask them how often and which times would be appropriate to check-in for a quick progress call.
Let them know if your circumstances change. If you are registered with several agencies, tell them. Make sure you keep up to date and keep good records about which roles your consultant has put you forward for. Avoid applying independently or allowing three agencies to put you forward for the same role. This undermines your relationship with agencies, and they may not consider you again.
If a consultant contacts you with potential jobs, respond quickly. If you feel these are not suitable or not aligned to your brief, tell them. If you are unsure as to why you have been considered for a role you are tempted to reject, talk to your consultant. They may see a good opportunity for your skillset you have missed and open up a whole new career path. Poor consultants over-focus on their targets rather than being concerned about making a good match and try to put you forward for lots of roles. If you are not happy with the agency, leave and move to another.
Maintain your own job search
Leverage your network for opportunities and remember there are still many jobs which are advertised directly by the companies, so regularly check job boards, ACCA Careers and LinkedIn. You may see a role of interest being advertised by one of the agencies you are registered with, but not been contacted about. Get in touch with the consultant immediately and asked to be considered. A quick, friendly chat will reveal either why you are not suitable for the role or that perhaps your brief to them was not clear enough.
If you have a bad experience with an agency do not let it put you off. As with all businesses, some are better than others. Be selective, choose two or three good agencies which take the time to meet with you to understand your brief and focus on matching you for the most suitable roles.
This article is written by Michelle Hiseman, Career Counsellor at CV Writers.
CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.