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Making Recruitment Agencies Work for You

There are literally thousands of recruitment agencies in the UK, each of a varying degree of help to graduates. We want to ensure that you can quickly spot who can be of help to you and who is going to waste your time.

Have you had trouble getting the most out of recruitment agencies? Still wondering when they are going to contact you with that dream graduate job? Very often, the main problem graduates face is choosing the right agencies in the first place!

There are literally thousands of recruitment companies presently operating in the UK, each catering to different needs. As a result some could be of great use to you, whilst others may turn out to be a waste of time. Yet, despite the possible pitfalls, recruitment agencies can be an extremely effective way of finding a graduate job. We’ve compiled this page to help you quickly spot the ones that can provide the service you want. We describe in detail what level of service you should expect from different types of agency when looking for a graduate job, explaining the pros and cons of each, whilst dispelling some of the myths that surround the sector. We also have information on what your agency wants from you…

Why use agencies?

More and more graduate employers are using recruitment agencies as they are often more time cost effective. Some companies use them to manage the whole recruitment process (this means the graduate jobs are only available through the agency; the advertisements won’t be found elsewhere), whilst others simply require the agency to carry out the CV screening and initial response.

What do they offer


By simply attending one interview you are open to all the graduate vacancies the agency offers. They call you with graduate jobs they believe you would be suitable for.

Breadth of opportunities

Agencies are continually generating graduate vacancies, so, rather than you sending out individual applications, they can advise you of several graduate opportunities everyday.

Advice & support

Agencies can help you focus on specific roles and industries, advise you on your CV, provide helpful interview techniques, etc. Most recruitment consultants are highly experienced. They interview people like you everyday, know what they are talking about and can impart extremely useful advice to help you find a graduate job.

Year round positions

Recruitment agencies will have graduate positions throughout the year, so whenever you need to get started, they can help.

Different types of recruitment agencies

Known either as agencies or consultancies, recruitment companies all offer more or less the same service. What differentiates one from the other is how they deliver the service.

There are four main types:


These recruit individuals at all levels and into all industries (e.g. Michael Page).

High Street agencies

Agencies specialising in temporary and permanent work in the local area.

Industry specialists

Focused on just one industry such as HR or engineering.

Graduate specialists

Concerned with only helping graduates . (E.g. Discovery Graduates).


Because recruitment consultants are paid to place individuals into graduate jobs, they need people like you! Without relevant jobseekers they cannot fill their vacancies. In other words; the relationship you have with your recruitment consultant should be an equal one.

As a general rule, you should only sign up with around 2-3 agencies. Any more and you will simply generate duplication - i.e. the agencies will have very similar graduate vacancies. This can be infuriating as there is no benefit to be gained from your time investment.

What to expect from your agency on registration

Your agency application will usually be dealt with in one of three ways:

Method 1: Your CV is entered onto the agency's database.

The agency will then pass your CV onto several different graduate employers, sometimes without your consent. When a company expresses an interest, the agency will contact you. This is the least effective method of getting the best from agencies as the consultants will have little idea of what you want, and will be simply 'matching' you to companies based on the contents of your CV which, as a graduate, may disadvantage you against more experienced individuals. In addition you may not know they have actioned it, or who your CV is being sent to.

ADVANTAGES: It is easy and requires a minimum of effort.

DISADVANTAGES: You have little or no control as to what happens with your CV and application.

Method 2: The agency conducts a telephone interview with you.

After your CV has been entered onto the database, a consultant will call you to carry out what may be a very brief, or quite in depth interview. This will give the agency a better idea of the type of graduate job you are interested. The consultant may then discuss specific graduate opportunities with you or contact you again when they have something that is relevant to you.

ADVANTAGES: Again, initially easy, but you do have the opportunity to express your needs.

DISADVANTAGES: The telephone is often not the best medium for giving a good account of yourself. Also, with this method you are less likely to be remembered than if you have an office interview (see below).

Method 3: The agency invites you to an office interview.

This is the most thorough, and therefore most helpful, approach.  Again, your CV will be entered onto the database. You will then be contacted and asked to attend a one-to-one interview with a consultant in one of the agency's offices. (For more details see '4. The Interview')

ADVANTAGES: This is your opportunity to impress. The consultant can see you for who you are and judge your drive and potential. He/she can also give advice on interview technique, etc. Attending an interview is also viewed by consultants as a sign of your commitment to finding a graduate job.

DISADVANTAGES: A much tougher process, this method is more time consuming and potentially costly (i.e. travel to the interview as they very rarely pay expenses to see them, although you will usually have expenses reimbursed for interviews with the employers).

What the agency will expect from you on registration

Remember: the more time you spend with the agency, the better. This makes method 3 the most appealing, but only attend an interview if you feel confident the agency will provide you with the level of service you want. If you are using this approach (i.e. you are invited to interview) you will be expected to:

  1. Be on time - it is a good idea to arrive five or ten minutes early.
  2. Be smart and professional looking.
  3. Know what you want - graduate roles, industry, salary expectations, are you prepared to relocate? To where?
  4. Be enthusiastic and motivated.
  5. Smile!

What should you do after registration?

  • Telephone them
  • Once you have sent your CV, enquire what they plan to do with it (method 1, 2 or 3)? What will happen next?
  • Keep in touch with them
  • Consultants interview 20-30 graduates a week, so it is extremely important that you are remembered. Be persistent without being a pest!
  • Be ready for a telephone call
  • Brush up on your telephone interview technique!
  • Withdraw your application if you are not happy with the process, there's no need to hang around.

After registration you should expect them to:

  • Keep in touch with you
  • Return your calls
  • Set up interviews for you
  • Fully brief you prior to each interview and give you as much information as possible about the graduate job 
  • Make sure you have details; where you are going, who you will be interviewed by, what the interview process is, etc.


On arriving at the interview with the recruitment company you will be asked to:

  • Fill in an application form - this often duplicates part of your CV.
  • Possibly undertake a psychometric profile.
  • Have an interview with a recruitment consultant - this is usually very similar to an interview with an employer.
  • Make sure you fully consider why you are interested in your chosen industries / graduate jobs and be prepared to defend your suitability to those roles. The interviewer should give you feedback on your performance, offering advice on your weaker areas.

After the interview, the consultant may:

  • Discuss specific graduate jobs there and then.
  • Contact you in the days to come about graduate opportunities.

After an interview with an employer:

  • Call the agency.
  • Let them know what you thought.
  • Make sure the agency gives you feedback from the graduate employer. Be specific, i.e. why do they want / not want to see you for 2nd interview.


There are many stories about people’s experience with recruitment consultants – what they have done, how they have behaved etc. Here is the truth:

They do NOT take a cut of your pay

Despite popular belief, recruitment agencies will not help themselves to a slice of your salary should you find a graduate job with one of their clients. All large companies budget for substantial recruitment costs. They pay agencies to find graduates just as they would pay a trade magazine to advertise their graduate vacancies. Thus, just as you wouldn’t expect to pay a percentage to a magazine, you don’t have to give the agency a penny.

You are not obliged to use them

When you register, do not be concerned that you are in any way limiting your graduate job search. Whether you apply for two jobs a day, or merely peruse the graduate vacancies when suffering acute boredom attacks, is entirely your prerogative. There are no contracts you are required to honour. This document advises you to regularly keep in touch with your agent as that is the best way to be remembered, but if you are not happy with the service you are under no obligation to make any effort whatsoever.

You are not obliged to accept a graduate job offer received through them

So everything is going according to plan. You liked the look of the graduate job specification, the agency put you forward and the interview went really well. The problem is, so did the day at the assessment centre for the position you considered out of your league.  Is it a requirement of the agency that you accept the graduate position offered through them? Of course not. Relax, you are under no obligation to your agency at any stage of the recruitment process, or afterwards.

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