Recruitment agencies can remove the administrative burden of finding key talent; whilst they tend to get a bad press, they do serve a valuable purpose.

How do recruitment agencies work?

Recruitment agencies, also known as employment agencies, match employees to employers based on criteria relevant to both parties. Private recruitment agencies charge employers when a suitable candidate is found; this can be taken as a one-off fee or as a percentage of salary/hourly wages. Recruitment agencies can operate on a local or national basis, and often cater to a particular industry or niche. Some specialise in executive-level appointments only.

Advantages of recruitment agencies

  • Many agencies only charge once a successful appointment has been made, reducing the risk for your business
  • There are thousands of recruitment agencies around the country making it likely you’ll find one appropriate for your needs
  • Agencies have commercial relationships with the biggest job boards and can reach larger audiences than if you were going it alone
  • Industry-specific recruitment agencies have the necessary contacts to reach the best players in your niche
  • Recruitment agencies reduce the administrative burden of recruitment and selection by handling many of the most time-consuming processes
  • Agencies can offer advice on employment law to ensure you remain fully compliant at all times

Disadvantages of recruitment agencies

  • The costs of recruitment through an agency will likely be far higher than recruiting independently
  • Agencies vary in approach, costs and reputation; you’ll need to spend considerable time researching agencies before making a decision
  • Wasted time and money if your agency is unable to find a suitable candidate
  • Possible legal issues with temporary workers – employers may have to consult a lawyer if their legal needs are too complex for an agency to advise on

Instructing a recruitment agency

  • Choose whether you require a local or national agency
  • Decide if you need an industry-specific agency
  • Make a list of possible choices
  • Contact each agency, requesting details of their experience in your niche
  • Ask relevant questions to ensure compatibility
    • What parts of the recruitment process will be left to you?
    • How and when will you be charged, and for how much?
    • Which consultants will handle your account?
    • Will the agency contact you regarding every possible candidate or will contact be irregular?
    • Does the agency comply with industry standards and do they have professional accreditation, for example with the Recruitment and Employment Federation?
  • Once you’ve selected an agency, prepare substantial details the agency can work with to best match potential candidates to the position
    • Detailed company history and business objectives
    • In-depth job description and person specification
    • Important date – when the position will start and finish
    • Contractual terms and conditions of the job
    • Health and safety risks
    • Whether your company name should be visible to potential applicants
  • Interview candidates on the agency’s short-list and make a selection
  • Inform the agency of your selection and arrange to pay the agreed fees.