The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 5: Get the Best out of Agencies

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AgencyHOW TO ENGAGE WITH AGENCIES

You never know what you are going to find when you set out on a path to find a new job. Allow the agencies to work with your data to give you the widest possible exposure but don’t expect individual treatment until you embark on a recruitment process (I.e. go for interview). Until then, your CV is purely a number in a huge pool of candidates and it’s the agency’s task to match it to potential opportunities.

1.         The Employment Agencies Act

More than one agency might be working on the same brief, so you might be matched to the same job more than once. Always go with the agency who tells you about the job first. According to the Employment Agencies Act, your CV should only be put forward to jobs that you are told about. In effect, you have to give your permission for your CV to be submitted. You must be told about the job first. Often, because it’s competitive, Agencies will take a flyer at sending your CV in without speaking to you first. If this submission turns into an interview in competition with an agency that actually played the game properly and spoke to you first, thereby losing out time wise to the more aggressive agency, your judgement will be crucial to how the agencies will deal with you in future. If you know what your rights are, you can protect your own position whilst keeping both agencies on side.

2. Don’t carpet bomb your CV

Because of the high unemployment rates, agencies literally get thousands of online job applications every day. It takes a lot of time to sift through these, and the associated cost of registering new CV’s and posting them to databases can become very high. For the recruiter, it can be desperately frustrating to get the same CV day after day after day; applying to every totally unsuitable role on the Internet and creating spam in already overfull Inboxes. You can help by reading the ads before you apply, making sure the job is suitable for you first. Bear in mind that agencies will readvertise jobs until an offer is made. Keep a record for yourself: If you have already applied to a particular job, don’t send your CV in again. If you do, it creates an impression of desperation that might keep you out of the selected shortlist.

3. Engage personally

If an agency to which you have already applied is advertising a job that interests you, why not give them a call? Your CV is already on file; they can look it up quickly and give you feedback there and then. You save them having to look at yet another ad response, you get the opportunity to talk to a human being and create a positive impression for yourself, and you might even be reinforcing your suitability for the role.

4. But don’t pester

Rest assured: Because an agency will get a fee if they place you, they are unlikely to forget about you. Once your CV is on their database it will be exposed to every single search they do. If you are remotely suitable, they will be in contact to talk to you about the job. If you follow-up daily or weekly, you become the “candidate from hell”, to be avoided at all cost because too many pointless phone calls waste time. Of course you are urgently looking for a job, but remember that the agency only has limited control over the process and they don’t get access to every job in the country. Use the time you spend on making these calls more productively: Engage with a range of agencies.

5. Choose your representatives carefully

It is good for every job seeker to be registered with as many agencies as possible to give you the broadest exposure. However, it is also a good idea to choose 4 or 5 specialist agencies that operate in your specific field. They are likely to get more exclusive opportunities specific to your search. Develop relationships by engaging in intelligent, quick phone calls and e-mails.  These are the agencies that are likely to work with your details if they believe you are a strong candidate, utilising their networks to create opportunities were other agencies will only respond to existing requirements. But remember: Because they work in the same sector, these agencies are in competition with each other. Be careful about giving blanket permission about submissions to avoid conflicts of interest.

6. Return agency calls!

A recruiter will call you if there is something immediate and specific on offer. If you don’t return the call, or take weeks to do so, you rob yourself of an opportunity. You also create the impression that you are not interested. The same goes for e-mails asking you to make contact about specific jobs. Even if it is just to say ” No thanks”, the opportunity to engage gives you a chance to further establish your credibility as a top calibre candidate. Make sure the phone numbers on your CV or agency record is up to date so that you can respond to urgent messages quickly.

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