A recruitment agency provides services to both employers and job seekers. They make profits by successfully placing job seekers into specific jobs and charging mostly the employers a fee for doing so. They also place temporary staff in organizations, charge employers an hourly rate and the worker is paid by the agency. The use of a recruitment agency to find staff is very well developed in the UK and is an industry worth about 25 billion pounds annually. Over thousands of agencies exist and like any diverse industry, agencies come in all shapes and sizes.




There are important differences between temporary agency workers, and people who have found a fixed-term or permanent job through an employment agency. Companies often use an employment agency to find them suitable candidates for a vacancy, for reasons outlined below. In this situation, your employment contract would be with the company that hires you, rather than the employment agency.


As an agency worker you will either have a contract for service or a contract of employment with the agency who finds you work. This work  is  often called  ‘temporary work’, 'temping'  or ‘agency work’. The firm  who  hires  you pays a fee to the agency, and the agency

pays your wages. Flexibility for both worker and employer is one of the features of agency work. As an  agency  worker you have the flexibility  to take  up and leave  jobs  at short  notice.  The hiring company also has the flexibility to finish temporary work without being liable for unfair dismissal or redundancy pay. You should check your contract with your agency as it may include a notice period you may be obliged to give.




There are a huge number of recruitment agencies in the UK.   They are also known as recruitment companies, recruitment consultancies, and search and selection companies.  The clients that they serve and the role that they play vary considerably.  Agencies can be High Street-based and deal with a wide range of opportunities such as Reed or Office angels. There are also specialist agencies that focus on a particular area or sector.   This is often the case where the skillset required by the client  company  is  very  specific,  such  as  in  IT.  There  are  also  a  number  of  large  recruitment companies,  often based  in  large  cities,  which  deal with graduate-entry jobs through to senior executive roles.   These companies  are often divided into  specialist  departments  focussing on a particular trade sector or business area.


You will find a huge range of online recruitment agencies. To track down the right ones for you, have a look at:


• Recruitment and Employment Confederation




We also have listings for local recruitment agencies on the Information Sheet Working in the Oxford

Area. For international  agencies  see  the ‘work  outside  the UK’  section  of  the careers  service




website. Remember, you can get advice from a Careers Adviser about whether it makes sense to be using an agency, given your particular requirements.




Recruitment  agencies  are profit-making,  and their primary aim is to make money, not to ensure your happiness. The implications are that often agencies will be interested only in those people they can place in jobs fairly easily, so if you don’t have much in the way of experience  or skills, or you have struggled a bit in terms of your qualifications, they are quite within their rights not to help you. In addition, time is of the essence. Agencies need to place people in well-paid jobs, and the quantity of placements is important for them. There is a question of whether you end up in the right job for you, or whether  you get the first  job  on their books that might suit. Regardless of these more cynical insights, it is true to say that recruitment agencies do rely on repeat business. Many also have to refund a percentage of their fee to an employer, if the individual doesn’t stay with that organisation for an agreed period of time. This does mean that there is a longer-term relationship between  the agency and the employer, as well as the agency and the job seeker, which means a successful placement is important in business terms as well.




Employers will use recruitment agencies for a whole host of reasons: a last-minute opportunity, the need to avoid putting their name in the press, a low company profile, lack of sector knowledge, or they may want to contract out their recruitment activity because they do not have the staff time to manage it themselves.


Most organisations do not rely on agencies to fill their graduate vacancies, because they feel they invest  enough in advertising and recruitment activities to  attract sufficient applications without agencies.  Organisations  may use recruitment  agencies  to fill  graduate  positions  when: they  are completely handing over the management of their graduate recruitment to them, the occupational sector  is agency-dominated, they have a small number of highly-specialist roles available or they need to fill vacancies quickly before an imminent start date.




There are many reasons why you might want to use an agency including…


•    You may find  yourself  looking  for a job  late  in  the year, close  to typical  start  dates  for graduate schemes.

•     You may want to try out a particular sector for a shorter period of time.

•     You may simply  want  some short-term  work to  raise  some money to  go travelling,  for instance.

•     The specific  organisation  you are  interested  in  may use a recruitment  agency  for their graduate recruitment.


Recruitment agencies can help you in finding a job and can offer a speedier route into employment. Bear in mind however that you need to do the preparatory work in terms of your CV, your skills and know which roles you would like to work in before an agency can place you.




•     Build a good rapport with the recruitment agent –treat your meetings with them like an interview, remember you need to make a good impression with them in order for them to put you forward to their clients.


•     Shop around – not all agencies are right for you, so go and talk to two or three before deciding  whom  to go  with.  As  a  guide,  look  for  agencies  who  are  members  of  the Recruitment   and   Employment   Confederation   (REC)   and   who  have   an  honest   and professional attitude.  Look for those agencies/consultancies that can show that they have a detailed understanding of their specialist market area, that do not put you forward for inappropriate roles and that show a willingness to maintain a relationship even when they are not actively seeking work for you.


•     Know the rules – make sure you understand what a recruitment agency can and cannot do for you.  The REC, which is  the trade body that supports and represents the recruitment industry, provides best practice guidelines ( Check to see if the agencies you are using are signed up to the REC and its code of practice.


•     Explain clearly and carefully what you want – if you take time at the start, it can reduce misunderstandings  and  wasted  efforts,  and  ensure  you  get the job  opportunities  that interest you.


•     Don’t underestimate  the power of a recruitment agent – in some cases they will not only be putting your CV forward, but they will be making initial pre-selection decisions for the company and even running assessment centres.


•     Work quickly  – if  they  contact you with  an opportunity,  respond ASAP. Agencies  thrive under time pressure,  often because  the employers they work for ask for help at the last minute. Late responses may lead to disappointment.


•     Keep  an eye on the results – if your requirements  are reasonable and the market is also reasonably buoyant, then you should hear about potential opportunities within a few days. If you don’t hear anything, then get back to them and politely ask why, encouraging them to be honest with you. If you keep in contact, they won’t forget you – but don’t become a thorn in their side.


•     Keep  control – make it clear that you want to make decisions about who sees  your CV.

Some less-professional  agencies can flood  the market  with  your CV, and if  you are also applying  to other companies without the help of the agency, then employers could have two of your applications on their desk at once – this can leave you looking a bit desperate and quite indiscriminate in your application decisions.


•     Be selective – If you hand your CV to four recruitment agencies, then you may find every employer receives your CV four times!


•     Use their  knowledge  – if  you get  a good recruitment  agent,  they  will  often  know the market  well.  They are a great  source of market information, especially regarding salaries and benefits.