Employment agencies provide a valuable service to job seekers by placing them in front of large numbers of employers who may not advertise their positions in any other manner. In effect, a job agency can be a one-stop-shop for the unemployed or those seeking a change of career.
Getting the best out of an employment agency, however, requires planning, preparation and determination. It’s a buyer’s market at the moment and you’re competing against an army of skilled candidates, all of them ready and willing to snatch that job opportunity away from you. You need to stand out. You need to make the placement officer at your chosen recruitment agency confident of your abilities so that he’ll put you forward for jobs that suit your skills. Simply emailing a random agency your CV won’t cut it.
Finding an Agency
Many employment agencies specialise in particular areas – IT, media, catering, telecommunications, general office work etc. It’s a waste of time contacting an agency that doesn’t work in a field that suits your skills and experience. Do a little research, visit recruitment agency websites, make a shortlist of suitable agencies.
Consider, too, what sort of employment you’re after – permanent, temporary, casual? Are you approaching the right agency?
Once you’ve identified a few suitable agencies, call them on the phone. Don’t just send your CV to a general email address – job agencies receive hundreds of emails every day. As an initial approach, an email is not the way to stand out.
Before you phone, make a list of the different types of jobs you’re prepared to consider. If you aren’t clear and definite about this in your conversation the agency’s placement officer won’t be able to form a clear picture of what you’re suitable for and consequently will find it difficult to match you to any available vacant positions.
Be ready as well with what locations you’re able to work in, how far you can travel and what sort of pay you’re willing to accept.
The Employment Agency Interview
If your initial phone contact is successful you’ll be asked to attend an interview at the job agency. Treat this as importantly as you would any interview with a prospective employer. You’re there to sell yourself, to create a great impression. Turing up in jeans and trainers will guarantee you’re the last one they call about a vacant position.
CV and Certificates
Take a professional-looking CV with you to the interview. Don’t expect the agency to work on your CV for you before they send it out to employers – they won’t. They have too many other job seekers on their books to be bothered with the extra wok.
Also, take along any certificates you may have to prove your educational, vocational or professional qualifications. Seeing your qualifications in black and white will give the agency a greater sense of confidence in you.
Be ready to supply the names and contact details of at least two referees – employment agencies have a responsibility to vet the candidates they submit to employers.
Many employment agencies will ask you to sit an automated test for various software applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) depending on what sort of work you’re looking for. You can dramatically improve your scores on these tests if you do a little study/practice beforehand. When making the appointment for the interview, ask the agency which applications you’ll be tested on – they’ll be happy to tell you.
When describing the type of job you’re looking for to the interviewer be realistic. Just because they are an agency doesn’t mean they can send you out for every job you fancy doing. As with references, agencies have a responsibility to employers (who are, after all, the people who pay them) to supply candidates who have skills and experience pertinent to the available position.
Check what benefits your agency provides. This is particularly important if you are looking for temping work. Does the agency provide holiday and sick pay? Are there rewards for long-term clients? Do they offer any perks? What happens if you are temping and are offered a full-time position by the same employer?
After the Interview
Given that agencies see so many job seekers, one of the most important things to do in the weeks after your interview is to stay in touch. Phone your contact at the agency regularly to touch base and to let them know you are still enthusiastic and available for work.
Hang in There
Job hunting is depressing work and it’s easy to get discouraged. The secret is to hang in there, to keep trying, to not give up. If you’ve done your preparation properly, constructed a great CV and honed your interview technique, the odds are that you’ll land a job eventually. And remember, there’s no law against registering with more than one employment agency.
Learn about implementing a job search plan in this video.