Tips on Applying with Recruitment Agencies
As a job seeker, you are most likely applying for roles through both agency recruiters and directly with companies. But what are the differences? What are the dos and don’ts of applying through recruitment agencies?
Before covering my tips on this process, I’ll briefly describe the difference between internal and external recruiters…
Difference between internal and external recruiters
Internal recruiters are within the company you are applying to. They are your point of contact with the company during the recruitment process. Treat them very much like you would the hiring manager.
External recruiters, or recruitment agencies, are outside the company you are applying to, and assist that company with their hiring needs, removing the time pressure and additional work required to recruit new staff. Agency recruiters work with you towards the same goal – to get you hired. You can talk with them openly about your interests and experience. They will provide you with feedback on how to best present yourself to the hiring company, and will often provide insights into that company’s culture and people. It’s important to note that recruiters manage the process; they don’t make the final decision.
Before you apply for any role
When you come across a job ad you think sounds like the perfect next step for you, take the time and read it, really paying attention to the detail (simple, but often a missed step). An ad will usually have some information about the company they are recruiting for, the benefits for the candidate and what the client is looking for, or in other words the ‘ideal’ employee. After you have read the ad, ask yourself, “Do you have what it takes to succeed in the role?”
If it is an entry level role and you answered yes, then go for it! Use your CV and cover letter to sell yourself, note your achievements that relate to the position and tell them why you are the one and only candidate that can do the role the best!
If the ad is asking for a candidate with experience in chosen fields then the questions differ slightly. “Do you have what it takes to succeed in the role and the experience to back it up?” The reality is, if a company requires experience in specific areas and you don’t have that experience, the chances of you getting that role through an agency are slim to none. Companies use agencies to find experienced candidates that meet the job description. Don’t waste your time or the recruiter’s time applying for roles that are too many steps out of your reach. You want to think through your applications and apply only to roles that you really think would suit you. It’s important to understand your own strengths, weaknesses and experience levels so you’re making the best decision you can in your career path.
CVs and Cover Letters
If you are job seeking, a good way to start is formatting a strong detailed CV, listing all of the previous jobs you’ve had with dates you worked there and a blurb about yourself. You want to make sure your CV is the ultimate representation of yourself. Make sure there are no spelling errors and that the font and size is consistent throughout the document. This especially matters if you are applying for roles where you would be required to complete administrative tasks like writing emails and letters etc. Your CV should also acknowledge any gaps of time. If your last role finished over two months ago, it’s recommended that you write something in your CV about what you have been doing during that time. If you have been doing short term temporary assignments, it’s always good to add those in as well.
A cover letter should be specific to the role you are applying for, it should be addressed to the recruiter and it should tell them why you are applying for the role and what you can bring to the company. It should acknowledge any gaps in experience compared to what the advert is asking for – e.g. “Although I may not have a wealth of experience in administration, I do have excellent customer service skills and the ability to pick things up quickly”. A cover letter should be altered every time you apply for a different role.
How should you apply for a role you see from an ad?
The most important thing to do is follow the instructions. If the ad doesn’t state how to apply, you can either email the consultant directly or see if there is a way to apply via the ad (which there usually is). If the ad specifically states to apply through the ad, then do that; if it states to email the recruiter directly with your CV, then do that. The ability to follow instructions is paramount in all jobs and showing that you are unable to do that prior to applying can reflect poorly and potentially could hinder your application.
Asking questions relating to the role that weren’t covered in the ad prior to applying is absolutely fine, however it’s best to send your CV through first so the recruiter can be looking through it to answer your questions the best they can. This will make your conversation more valuable. Recruiters wouldn’t want to waste your time discussing a role with you that they feel may not be suited to your skills or experience once they have seen your CV. Seeing a CV is much better then hearing one verbally recited on the phone.
If you are calling with questions, something to remember is that the number on the ad might not be a direct dial, so make sure you’re aware of the job title, the reference number and the recruiter’s name.
The other side of the desk
It’s not out of the ordinary for recruiters to get hundreds of applications in a small amount of time for an individual role. It does take time to look through every one of them and reply to each applicant. If you haven’t heard back from an agency after a week, then call to check in on your application but bear in mind that they speak to a lot of people every day, so again be specific about who you are and which role you have applied for, as each recruiter will regularly have multiple jobs being advertised at one time.