Agencies: Creating the Perfect Relationship

Before you go to meet your consultant at your chosen agency for the first time, take some time to think about the sort of relationship you want with him or her. After all: consultants work harder for people they like and get on well with, and the job market is a competitive place. So how can you stack the odds to work in your favour, and enjoy a great working relationship with your consultant and the agency they work for and boost your chances of landing that much wanted role?

Show a professional approach

Go to each and every meeting with your consultant as if you were going for the interview itself. Aim to show a positive, enthusiastic, professional approach, not just in your first meeting, but throughout your dealings with your consultant. Try to think of what will and will not help your consultant, to put yourself in their shoes and consider what would be helpful to them.

Show you've done your research

When you meet with your consultant, explain why you chose the agency you did. Tell them about the research you did which brought them to that decision; it shows you’re serious about your next step and that you gave the question of who you should register with a lot of thought. Talk about something you’ve seen on the agency’s web site, or mention someone who recommended them to you which shows that you chosen them with thought and after research.

Know what you can offer - and what you want

When you first meet your consultant, take along an up to date CV, but be prepared to complete registration forms as well. “Remind yourself of your unique selling points, and your consultant will communicate these over to prospective employers,” Joint Managing Director Richard Grace of Gordon Yates, advises. “Have a good idea of what you’re looking at, but be flexible and open to ideas and suggestions from your consultant.”

There may be things which are important to you such as the sort of role you want and skills want to develop, location of the company, and perks such as flexible working hours. You may need to compromise on some aspects, and being flexible will open more opportunities to you.

Find out what process the consultant usually follows in terms of sending out your CV. Does she discuss an opportunity with you and then agree to send it on to an employer, for example? Employers will often ask consultants to draw up a short list of candidates for them to interview, so your consultant may play an even more important part in selecting who goes forward for this first step than you think.

How often should you remain in contact with your consultant?

Richard Grace suggests that whether you’re going for a permanent or temporary post, at the end of your first meeting with your consultant establish how often the two of you be in touch, and how (for example, mobile phone or email). When your consultant does leave you a message to call, return that call as soon as you can. Recruitment works fast, usually at the request of the agency’s client – your prospective employer - and you don’t want to miss anything. Show you’re on the ball, be active in checking your phone for messages, and if you aren’t able to take the call when the consultant rings, agree a time for the two of you to speak later that day. If you’re looking for a new job and employer, it probably isn’t a good idea to leave your current direct line with the agency, unless you can come up with some sort of code they can use if, when they call you, they end up speaking to someone else and leaving a message.

Question your consultant before you go for an interview

If the agency and consultant are a good one, they should have met with the employer and have a good understanding of their culture and values, recruitment needs, a feeling for the company and the sort of person who will fit in with them. They may also have met the person the successful candidate will work for. “Question your consultant carefully about the sort of organisation and person you are likely to meet,” Richard Grace suggests. “Do they have any interview foibles? Some interviewers are notoriously bad at interviewing, and so if you have inside information that they will wander off on a tangent or not stop talking, at least you can be prepared. What sort of people are they? Do they have tremendous energy or are they the more sedate types?”

Do your research on your prospective employer

Most consultants will brief you prior to any interviews you attend with prospective employers, but one way to really impress an employer and your consultant is to show that you've done your own research on an organisation, over and above what the consultant has told you. "There's no excuse for not checking a company's web site," Richard Grace says. "Even if you are not offered the job, if a company has been impressed with you, it will give that feedback to your consultant - it will boost the consultant's confidence in you. And give your consultant prompt feedback after an interview."

Keep your consultant informed

"It's important to aim to work in harmony with your consultant and agency," Richard Grace says. If there's one thing guaranteed to irritate your consultant, it's not to keep them informed of other offers and opportunities you are pursuing. "Agencies go to a lot of effort to win contracts, and it can take a considerable amount of time to build up a relationship with a client," Richard Grace points out. "Don't lead the agency up the garden path, especially if they are trying to place you in a permanent job. It's not uncommon for someone to appear really keen on a post throughout the interviewing process and then, at the last step, to suddenly explain that they are actually hoping another opportunity will come through for them."

Make a point of updating your consultant on any changes to your skills base, of courses you've been on, new qualifications you've acquired or courses you've started, plus projects you've undertaken since first meeting them as your relationship develops. Such additions could open up more opportunities to you.

Are there any definite No-Nos?

"The worse thing you can do to an agency is not to show up for an interview, whether for permanent or temporary work," Richard Grace says. "Another no-no is to blame the agency for your own lack of knowledge about a company you're interviewing with - it doesn't win you friends and such action will get back to your consultant. And finally, if you decide that the job isn't for you - even if that's just after one day - remember that there are professional ways to exit. Don't just walk out."

Use other avenues to find a job

"Expect your agency to treat you with respect, confidence and efficiency," Richard Grace advises. "but it's important to acknowledge that there are times when things don't work out, and that not everyone who walks through the doors of an agency will get a permanent post. You need to explore other avenues to exploring a job as well as going through an agency. Rejection is part of the job hunting process, but it's important not to let it get you down."

Last but by no means least? Remember that your consultant is HUMAN!

Consultants will work much harder for a candidate they like and get on with. "Be reliable, flexible and enthusiastic," Richard Grace suggests. "Be saleable. And recommend your friends to the agency, especially if they are people the agency could easily work with and place," Richard Grace suggests. "Give something back. And show you appreciate the work your consultant is doing to help you get that right job."

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