Finding work through recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies can be a useful way to find work. They operate in a wide variety of industry sectors and advertise vacancies covering temporary and permanent positions.

Some agencies specialise in industries like finance or engineering, others on a type of role such as secretarial/administration. A number of agencies specialise in graduate level opportunities, while others handle only senior management roles, so only approach agencies which are relevant for your needs.

Some sectors rely heavily on agencies to find staff while others do their own recruitment. Do some research to find out which approach is best for the jobs you are interested in.

A trend to be aware of is "insourcing", this is becoming common in big Pharma, where recruitment agencies employ scientists themselves, then place them in big company sites, working under a ScientificTeam Leader (e.g. Eurofins Lancaster Labs who employ scientists working in Pfizer in Kent). Other companies doing this that we know of include CK Science (supply staff to MSD) and Kelly (supply staff to Eli Lilly at Speke).

What do agencies do?

An agency's responsibility is to the organisation, which pays them a fee for finding and selecting the right staff. They may be helpful to you as a job seeker, but they are not obliged to help you if they feel you don't meet their client's requirements.

In the UK, agencies cannot legally charge you for helping you find a job. International agencies or work providers may charge you, as they are not governed by UK law. Some agencies may charge fees for CV writing, careers advice, placing your CV on their jobs board or other services, so ensure you understand what is on offer before deciding if it's for you. Don't forget your Careers Service offers CV advice, applications advice, careers advice and many other services for free, up to 2 years after graduation.

Checklist for approaching agencies

  • Not all agencies cover all types of jobs, so look on sector specific job sites or journals to see which agencies deal with the jobs you are interested in.
  • Keep records of which agencies you are using for what types of jobs and don’t sign up with too many at once. Several agencies may put you forward for the same job and it is easy to become confused.
  • Their impression of you matters - convey a professional image on your CV, on the phone and at interview.
  • Be clear about what kind of opportunities you are looking for. If you are vague, you won't get any interviews.
  • Don't pay an agency to find you a job - in the UK it's illegal for them to charge you.
  • Don't rely on agencies alone - people's success and experiences of using agencies vary, so don’t use this as your only job search method.