How Do Recruitment Agencies Work?

How Do Recruitment Agencies Work?
Employers hire recruitment agencies to help them find new employees.

What are Recruitment Agencies?

Recruitment agencies help businesses find people to fill their open vacancies with the correct candidates. Employers hire recruitment agencies because they need support. They work together to find the right people to match what they are looking for. They essentially take the recruitment workload (and pressure) off an employer’s hands.

There are lots of reasons why a company might get help from a recruitment agency:

  • There’s no internal recruiting team and the Managers need help
  • The role requires a hard-to-find candidate which needs specialist recruitment
  • They want to expand their network by using further resources
  • They have an immediate growth spurt and need to hire quickly
How Do Recruitment Agencies Work
How Do Recruitment Agencies Work

Recruitment Agencies vs Employment Agencies

Recruitment agencies work for the company they are hired by. These companies pay for the service. The recruitment agency aims to match candidates to job vacancies. They act as the middleman between jobseekers and employers.

Employment agencies work to serve job seekers. They help the candidates find their perfect job vacancy. Once they find a suitable position, they get in touch with the employer to ‘sell’ the employee.

Negatives About Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies do not have a good reputation. They are known to autoreply, shove your CV into a pile and will never get to know the real you. These agencies see candidates as numbers and are not worth your efforts. They are considered to be a waste of time when looking for a new job. Lots of people believe in removing the ‘middleman’ and applying straight to the company hiring for the job.

Be cautious of taking phone calls from recruiters who throw out buzzwords continuously such as ‘amazing opportunity’ ‘innovative company’ and ‘agile working space’. These empty phrases are there to entice you into the job role but are just brash and gimmicky. They may even say the phrase ‘perfect fit for you’ but they don’t even know you yet!

How Do You Find a Good Recruitment Agency?

Using a recruitment agency could be key to helping you land your dream job.

A good recruitment agency will work to your best interests. The initial phone call will consist of an exchange of information. The recruiter will want to learn more about you as a candidate; your salary expectations, career aspirations, your personal circumstances, the commute to work, and whether you would be ok to relocate. Once they think they understand you as a candidate they will tell you about the role on offer.

As a job seeker, you do not pay a recruitment agency. All the support you gain is completely free!

Why Should You Use a Recruitment Agency?

If you’ve been looking for a job, you know it’s a lengthy process. Trying to find vacancies, sending off applications and preparing for interviews is hard work. Maybe you’re getting constant rejections, or not receiving replies at all! This can really affect your motivation levels…

It’s good to have someone guiding you through it all. Recruitment agencies can offer candidates exclusive vacancies. It can make all the difference when finding the right role. They also provide support throughout the whole process.

Have a read of our blogs How to Impress at Interview or Interview Presentation Tips to see some examples of how we can help.

How Do Recruitment Agencies Work

Benefits of a Recruitment Agency

There are so many reasons why you should consider registering with a recruitment agency:

  • Access to vacancies that aren’t advertised
  • CV and cover letter advice
  • Specialist advice
  • Career advice
  • They’re well connected
  • Coaching through interviews
  • Constructive feedback for future use
  • Salary negotiation

Read REED's article to find more!

The Recruitment Agency Process


A company will get in touch with a recruitment agency and inform them about an open role. They will tell them about their company and what types of candidates they are looking for. It's important the recruitment agency understands the role entirely. They’ll then send over the job description for the recruitment agency to use.


The recruitment agency will begin its search. They'll start by checking their database to find the best candidates that match. They will then advertise the job online to generate interest from active candidates. They can also search the job boards and identify CV's that are suitable for the position.


Once they’ve searched for CV's, they’ll begin to shortlist qualified candidates. It takes the pressure of the employer as they don’t have to. They’ll contact the candidates and ask some screening questions to see suitability.

NOTE: Recruitment agencies may get in contact with you. They can perform targeted searches using keywords to find relevant candidates. If you’ve posted your CV online, or have a LinkedIn profile, you might appear in their search.


Once this process has taken place, the recruitment agency will draw up a shortlist. They will then send these candidate’s CV's to the employer for them to review. The employer will provide feedback about each CV. For example, what they like and what they don’t like about it. The selected few candidates will be invited to interview.

How Do Recruitment Agencies Work

Ask the Recruiter Questions

When you are contacted by a recruiter, you will be asked numerous questions. However, these questions shouldn’t all be one way. As a candidate, you need to be asking the recruiter questions as well.

Asking questions to a recruiter also allows you to take control. The recruiter may think you are the perfect fit for the job but only YOU know if this is the case. The choice is down to you at the end of the day. If you ask the right questions, you’ll learn valuable information about the company and employer. All of this can help you decide if the role is right for you or not. It also helps to improve your Candidate Experience.

Questions to ask a Recruiter


The answer to this question could reveal potential issues with the company or position. You should also consider if the role has been open for a while that you may be waiting a long time to hear back from the recruiter. There could be a few reasons why the role has been advertised for a long period of time. For example:

  • The hiring manager could be very particular about the person they employ
  • They could be recruiting for a number of candidates
  • They could keep changing the requirements for the role
  • There could be a lack of qualified candidates interested
  • If the role has been open longer than a year this could be a big red flag!

If it’s early in the hiring process, don’t expect to be contacted immediately. Hiring managers usually want to interview a few candidates first before they make an offer. So, if you’re one of the first applicants to go to interview, don’t panic if they don’t give you feedback immediately.


The position could be available for a number of reasons. If someone is leaving, you should ask why they left. Maybe the person has been promoted which lets you know there are development opportunities within the company. If it’s a completely new position, ask a further question about why this is so. Delving deeper into why the role is available will help you to understand the big picture.


When a new role is given to a recruitment agency, the recruiter receives a detailed job specification from the hiring manager. This means they should know exactly what the business is looking for in a candidate. Although the recruiter won’t know specific details about the role, they will know the basics of what you need to have to land the job.

The recruiter will also send over the full job description which should include all the information you’d need to know about the role. Once you know this information you can make up your mind whether the opportunity is suitable for you. It saves both you and the recruiter time. You can use this job specification to prepare some talking points if you are chosen for interview.


It’s a good idea to try and find out as much information as possible about what the employer does NOT want. You can learn from other candidates’ mistakes and ensure you don’t make similar errors. Although the recruiter may not be able to divulge specific details, they should be able to give you a general idea about what you should avoid doing. The answer to this question can help you identify the type of candidate the employers are and are not looking for.


It can always be a difficult topic when taking about salary. Some people find it awkward when speaking about the issue of pay. You don’t want to sound like that’s all you care about. Instead of asking outright, you could state “My most recent salary was £00,000 and I’m hoping to receive an increase in my next role. Does that fit into the range that’s been set for this role?”


The amount of time a recruitment agency has been working with a business can provide insight into what their relationship with them is like. If they have worked with them for a long period of time and filled lots of roles, then this means the employer trusts the recruiter. If the business trusts the recruiter, then they are likely to take their candidate recommendations seriously.

However, if the relationship is new, it may mean the recruiter is not quite accustomed to what the business is looking for. Your questions about the role may go unanswered or they may have to get back to you with more detail. A good recruiter will be able to quickly pick up information about the employer and the business needs without any problems.


The hiring manager may be your future employer, so you want to know as much about them as possible. They will also be the one who interviews you so it’s a good idea to know some information about them. The recruiter should be able to tell you about their background and experience within the organisation. This will help you prep for an interview as well as giving insight into what working for them might be like.


This is a good question to ask when you don’t know what to ask. By asking this to a recruiter, you will gain information about aspects of the company you may not have considered before. It’s always good to learn about the company culture and get a better idea of whether you’d be a good fit.


It is always good to know what to expect. Not every business goes through the same stages of hiring. Some hiring managers request several rounds of interviews or certain tests to be undertaken. Tests are nothing to worry about. They provide valuable insight into the candidate’s skills, personality and psychological profile. You can prepare yourself for these tests with online sources and test papers. Knowing the answer to this question will help you gauge where you are in the process.

You will also want to know how long you have to wait at each stage of the recruitment process. It will help to alleviate any worry you may have if you don’t hear back from the recruiter for a while. On the other hand, some roles need to be filled as soon as possible and interviews would be conducted within the week. If this is the case, you need to consider your notice period and whether you would be available for an immediate start.


The recruiter should be able to tell you exactly where they found your CV. Whether it’s from LinkedIn, a job board or a referral. Knowing this information could help you in your job search for the future. Maybe you have a CV on Total Jobs as well as Indeed, but recruiters are only finding your Indeed account, why might this be?


Recruitment consultants will occasionally amend your CV before they send it to their client. They do this to highlight your key skills and qualifications that best fit the role at hand. You can request to see a sample of this application, so you know exactly what your recruiter has sent.

How Do Recruitment Agencies Work

How Do Recruitment Agencies Work?

Lots of agencies have an online system where candidates can register their CV.

Once registered, you will then be a part of the recruitment agency’s database. When they get a new role, they’ll search through this database to find relevant candidates. As long as your information is correct, you should appear in their results for relevant roles. If they find your profile, they’ll get in touch with you using the information you’ve provided.

Make sure you’re registering with the right recruitment agency.  The agency might be in your local area, but do they have jobs available where you live? Are the roles relevant to what you’re looking for? Have a look through their website to find out more about the company before you register with them.

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