Choose a Recruitment Agency

Knowing how to choose a recruitment agency is important for employers and job seekers alike. Companies that prefer to outsource the employment search and screening process must consider the reputation, policies, practices and costs of employment agencies. These same factors are important for job seekers, who must select employment agencies that will understand their unique skills and actively promote their services. A great recruitment agency will help match the most qualified job seeker with the job opening best suited for their skills. By clarifying your needs and learning the key traits of the agency, you can find the right recruitment agency for you.


Deciding Key Factors

  1. Identify your objective as a job seeker. You might be in need of temporary work in between performing tours or looking for a full-time, permanent job as a graphic designer. Clarity about your professional needs will assist you in choosing the best recruitment agency.
    • To further clarify your objective, write down a one-sentence statement about what you are looking for and keep this statement handy as you begin your search so that you don’t lose focus. Try to make it specific. For example, “I am looking for a recruitment agency that can help me to find an immediate opening for temporary, part-time office work that pays a minimum of $12/hour.”
  2. Look for an agency that is specialized in your field. Certain recruitment agencies are more geared towards certain professions, while others are more generalized. If you are seeking a job in information technology, one agency might have more potential employers than another. Also, certain skills are transferrable to a number of jobs, so your computer skills might also allow you to branch out to data entry if you are open to this. Decide whether you want a specific position or are willing to work in any area for which you are qualified.
    • If you aren’t sure exactly what job position you desire, start by using a more general recruitment agency that works with a wide variety of industries. To find this, you can search online or call up a few agencies to ask about their specialties.
    • Consider the recruiter's knowledge about your specialized skills. If speaking to a software engineering search firm, for example, the recruiter must be familiar enough with programming terminology and tools to adequately promote your services to a prospective employer.
  3. Choose the size that suits your needs. There are a wide variety of recruitment agencies, some with only a few employees and some with thousands. The advantage to a larger agency is that they are often well-established and have a solid reputation. The advantage to a smaller agency is that they are often more specialized and can understand specific expectations and trends within your industry. It simply depends what you are looking for.
  4. Decide whether you seek temporary or permanent employment. Some recruitment agencies are strictly temp agencies, while others include permanent positions. Even temp agencies often offer jobs that can turn permanent. If your hope is to enter a company on a temporary assignment that turns permanent, ask the agency for its success rate in this regard. Companies typically are required to buy out the contract in this case. An agency with many temporary to permanent placements is likely doing a good job of matching people to jobs.[1]
    • Recruitment agencies that place permanent employees can help you to market your resume and negotiate your salary. They can help you find jobs that aren’t posted elsewhere.
  5. Find an agency that can meet your salary requirements. Some agencies excel in placing executive level positions, while others tend more towards working class positions. Based on your previous experience, skill set, and industry, determine how much is a reasonable amount for you to make. Other factors to consider are whether you have a college degree and the amount of time you have been working in a specific field. Both of these will help you to earn more. You can look online to compare average salaries in your field. This will help your agency to narrow down the search and will clarify whether or not they are able to help you.[2]
    • Recruitment agencies typically offer a designated rate of pay to employees and charge a markup to the client. To ensure that you are not shortchanged in this process, become familiar with the market value for your services.
    • Take into account any benefits you need as well. Temp and part-time positions often do not include these, but permanent, full-time positions often will.
    • Look at the salary you made at your previous position as well. Are you looking for a substantial increase or do you feel you have been fairly compensated? If you desire a larger salary, make sure it is justified based on the current market value of your job. Recruitment agents aren’t magicians!
  6. Take location into account. You should decide ahead of time whether you are willing to relocate for a good job or are only willing to search locally. This will help to narrow down your search and eliminate any agencies that service areas where you are not willing to work.
    • If you know you want to work locally, try to find an agency that is locally based and start there. They will be a good resource for offerings in your area.

Finding a Good Fit

  1. Search for staffing agencies. Look online to find recruitment agencies. Make sure to include your location and industry if you want a specialized agency. Do a quick search for something such as “recruitment agency in Los Angeles for IT jobs.” Some recruitment agencies also advertise specific positions in job ads, so be on the lookout for those as well.[3]
    • Alternately, you can search for recruitment agencies on an online map to see their location. Simply go to an online map of your choice such as google or apple and look for recruitment agencies in your area.
  2. Get a referral from a friend or colleague. If you know someone who has been successfully placed by a recruitment agency, this is a good starting point. If you learn from someone else’s experience, you can have a smoother and more successful search.
    • Never forget your network. Using different social media, especially LinkedIn, is a great way to look for recruiters that are posting jobs in your interest area.
  3. Contact several employment agencies. Although you likely will not register with each employment agency, calling and speaking to recruiters will give you a feel for each agency's communication styles, placement services and pay structure. It is a great way to see if their services will meet your needs. The more that you compare, the better idea you will have of what’s out there.[4]
    • Ask about the availability of open positions. Listen for the details in the recruiter's response. An agency that has a specific position matching your qualifications is worth pursuing immediately. Recruitment agencies that interview large numbers of candidates in the event of a future possibility are less likely to find you a job right away.[5]
  4. Find out their registration and placement process. Before working with an agency, you need a clear understanding of these processes. You should know what is involved in registration and how long it will take. You should know what potential employers they will be able to connect you with and what kind of salary to expect. They should also give you a timeframe for the hiring process and an explanation of how they will market your skills to prospective employers. You should have a clear understanding of what the agency will do to place you in a job and what your role in this will be. By finding a recruitment process that you feel comfortable with, you will save yourself trouble down the road.[6]
    • To learn this information, you can look on their website or give them a call, but it is preferable to sit down one-on-one with someone from the agency. Make sure that they are willing to answer your questions and that they have answers to your questions. This will help to make sure that they are organized and willing to assist you.
  5. Ask probing questions. To find out information, simply call or set up a meeting with them. You could say something like, “I am a job seeker and I was hoping to talk to someone about your agency. I have a few questions.” They will connect you with someone who can help. Have your questions ready ahead of time.
    • You can ask things such as: “How large is your agency?” “What is your success rate in placing employees?” “Do you specialize in any industries?” “Do you have any positions currently available?” “Are there any fees involved?” “Do you help build and market resumes?” “Do you place temporary or permanent positions?”
    • Write down their answers so that you remember and can refer back to this information as you continue your search. After talking with several agencies, you might struggle to remember which said what.
  6. Explore the staffing agency's services. Some agencies will revise your resume, offer free software training or coach you for interviews. Find out if these services exist before registering with an agency. If there are any services that you know you need, such as editing your resume, make sure they are willing to help with this.
  7. Make sure the agency is reputable. It is important that they are not involved in any kind of fraud. Agencies should never offer to fabricate letters of recommendation or credentials. Agencies in the UK should be affiliated with the REC, The Recruitment and Employment Confederation. In the US, agencies might be affiliated with various universities, although there are not government sanctioned recruitment agencies. Look for agencies that have been around for at least two years.[7]
    • Ask around among your business colleagues to find out what they know about agencies. They might have worked with one before and had a positive experience.
  8. Recognize warning signs. Recruitment agencies that charge fees, are uninformed, or make grand promises are likely problematic. Since agencies generally pay you directly and charge a markup to the employer, you should not be paying any fees. If an agency isn’t able to answer your questions, they likely will not be able to help with your job search. If an agency makes overly grand promises, like “I promise you will be making six figures here” when you’ve only been paid minimum wage, they are being dishonest. Pay close attention to what they say and make note of any red flags.[8]
  9. Choose the agency that fits your needs. After thoroughly researching and interviewing agencies, there should be at least one or two that seem like good options. Choose the one that best fits your needs, and you can use multiple agencies as well. Just be sure to inform them as soon as you have been placed in a job so that they are no longer looking on your behalf.

Using a Recruitment Agency for Hiring

  1. Determine your staffing needs. Your goal may be to hire temporary, entry-level administrative staff to cover for employees when they are out sick or on vacation. Alternatively, you might be in need of a highly skilled Web developer to help you launch your start-up product. Look for a recruitment agency that meets these requirements.[9]
  2. Look for an agency whose focus is aligned with your hiring needs. Some staffing firms focus primarily on filling temporary administrative and accounting assignments. Other agencies place highly skilled professionals in short- or long-term contracts in industries like engineering and marketing. Executive search firms specialize in the recruitment and placement of corporate executives.[10]
  3. Conduct a search for recruitment agencies. An online search using terms like "staffing agency," "temporary staffing" and "employment agency," along with your industry and geographic location, will lead you to firms in your area. A great way to find an agency is to ask around.[11]
  4. Research various recruitment agencies. Gather information about their specialties, reputation and policies. Start by looking at many different ones and decide what you like about each one to narrow down your search.[12]
    • Review the staffing agency's client list. Visit the recruitment agency's website or call the agency to ask for a client list. A long history of serving reputable companies is generally a sign of a high-quality agency.
    • Ask for agency references. Call companies that use the services of the agency to inquire about its reliability, professionalism, communication habits and other questions relevant to your industry.
  5. Find an agency with strong communication. A recruiter's lack of familiarity with your industry, excessive focus on agency profits, rushed communications and empty promises are reasons to avoid specific staffing agencies. On the other hand, if a recruiter is well-informed, takes the time to answer your questions, and has data to back their claims, they will be a much better choice.[13]
  6. Shop around for prices. An agency that promises personnel at a price below market value might not necessarily be the best choice if it's not attracting high-quality personnel. On the other hand, a high-priced agency might be paying workers very little and charging an excessive markup. Investigate these issues before making a decision.[14]
    • Fees can vary from 8-25%. This depends on the agency and the salary. Find out this information ahead of time so that you know what to expect.
  7. Find out about their selection process. Do they have a rigorous screening process? Will they be sending you lots of resumes? Ideally, they will do the hard work for you by carefully screening a wide variety of applicants from many sources and only sending the most qualified resumes to you. Find out exactly how many resumes you will have to sort through, what their application process entails, and what information they gather on applicants. Look for an agency that will do the hard work for you.[15]
  8. Inquire about their retention rate. A good recruitment agency should be able to place employees that will last in their position. It is both expensive and a waste of time to hire employees that leave the job quickly. If you will pay a fee to the agency for each employee, see if they offer a rebate should the employee leave.


  • Try a few agencies to start and see which one you like best. If it isn’t working out, you can always leave.


  • Make sure the agency is reputable. Check around with people you trust to find out more and do your research.

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