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Understanding different types of recruitment agencies

Updated: Apr 21



Whilst there are many outlets for finding suitable roles, sometimes the job search can just be a little too difficult to do on your own.


What’s more, many companies many not always advertise available positions outwardly on the usual platforms – especially if they need to fill a position quickly.


Recruitment agencies can be really helpful in finding you the work you want, as recruiters are well informed about the roles, companies, and industries for which they hire. And whether you need a short-term temp job, or you’re looking for a technical or niche role, they can certainly be of assistance.


So which agency should you approach, and where can you find them?


In the UK, there are four mains types of recruitment agencies. We have explored each of these below, and how they might help you in your job search.

Contingency Agencies


The clue being in the name, contingency agencies (also known as employment agencies) typically assist companies by finding suitable candidates who’s skills match company requirements.


Oftentimes, these agencies will conduct a short interview and reference check with you, before you liaise with the hiring company. This is a pretty standard vetting procedure which you should anticipate with most agencies of this kind.


Job hunting with this type of agency is usually quite fast-paced – after all, once you’re matched to a company’s criteria, there’s a competitive advantage of being one of the first candidates in the interview pipeline.


Agencies of this kind should always be knowledgeable about the company they are hiring you for, what the role will involve, and whether the salary offered is negotiable. So, expect some good interview prep and guidance regarding your CV .

Retained Agencies


Retained agencies essentially work for the companies which they find candidates for, and are typically associated with the search for executives and other senior positions

They are usually expected to actively head hunt for applicants as a result, usually opting to contact candidates directly as opposed to posting job adverts.


They also tend to have a more extensive vetting process – which may include undertaking multiple interviews or assessments with the recruiter, before you’re put forward to the hiring company.


Do bear in mind, however, that as they are unlikely to be competing with other recruiters, they are less inclined to offer support during the hiring process.

Temp Agencies


Otherwise known as staffing agencies, temp agencies typically specialise in hiring candidates for temporary or fixed-term roles. They will usually cover a wide range of sectors and industries, so they are a good place to start if you’re unsure of which field your skills could be useful in, or you’re looking for a career change. Oftentimes with this type of agency, your contract will be with the agency itself who will take care of your pay, and the agency ultimately recovering remuneration from the hiring company.


If you’re put forward for nay temporary roles through an agency, ensure they are completely clear on the start and end dates of the position, so that you will have plenty of time to look for a new role before the current role ends.

Niche Agencies


Niche agencies focus on specific industry sectors, and have well-established connections and networks with the organisations which operate within said sectors. There’s a common misconception that niche agencies are only looking to recruit candidates for more senior roles. However, niche agencies do sometimes work with companies who are looking for junior and entry-level positions, in specialised fields. This is especially the case if training is set to be a requirement as part of the position.


So, whether you’re a veteran or you’re new to the job market, don’t hesitate to approach niche agencies if you have specialised or technical skills to offer.


Niche agencies often set the bar high and thus only accept candidates of the highest calibre – but, should you be accepted by an agency of this kind, you’re much more likely to secure the desired role.


Recruitment red flags: how to spot a bad recruitment agency


Most agencies are genuine and home to dedicated professionals in the field of recruitment.

Nonetheless, there are sadly some corporations who aim to monopolise on difficult times.


The top three red flags to look out for are:


#1 – A service fee

Recruiters should not be asking you, the applicant, for any kind of fee, for helping you find a job. This is illegal in the UK, and you should steer clear of any agencies asking you t pay for their service, since the service is usually paid for by the company hiring you, as noted above.


#2 – Over-confidence

Whilst it’s great to have a recruiter be completely on your side, they shouldn’t have you convinced that you are guaranteed to get the job.


#3 – Pressure to apply to certain roles

If a recruiter appears to be pushing you towards a certain role or organisation, it’s likely because they know they’ll make a higher commission on this should you succeed.

If you feel you are being pushed towards roles that aren’t for you, the agency does not have your best interests at heart.

Recruitment and CVs


Whilst recruitment agencies can help you find the role you want, and match you up with the right company, the onus is still on you to produce a decent CV as part of the application process.


A professional CV can help give you that cutting edge when it comes to applications – you’ll be bolstered by both your recruiter’s networks, and your impeccable resumé.

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