hh yes, the recruitment agencies question, I like this one.
So, cards on the table, I work in recruitment, have done for 10 years, so I’m biased. But hell, I’ve got a bit of time today so let me both answer the OP’s question and also perhaps explain a few things. Apologies in advance if this is a long post. I have a feeling I may regret this…
Q. “Will going through recruitment agencies bring any benefits?”.
A. Possibly. It depends on a few things that I will try and explain. Firstly, are you looking for contract or permanent work? If you’re looking for contract then most companies will not engage with you directly so agencies worth talking to in that case. If you’re looking for permanent then there is argument that you can send your CV direct to the company and ignore the agency. This is a fair argument but it assumes you know where to send it and also that you know how to manage the process once it is sent. A lot of companies have horrendous HR departments that receive CV’s, file them and promptly forget about them, if your CV goes to one of these departments you have wasted your time. A good agency will know who to send the CV to (someone relevant and who actually reads it) and will also follow up with the recipient to make sure they have it and know what to do with it. They will send you across for a specific role and not just throw you into a bottomless pit of CV’s. This is obviously a good thing.
Second, if you do talk to agencies then make sure you talk to the right ones. Most big companies have PSL’s (preferred supplier lists) and will look at CV’s provided by people on the PSL first. If the agency you talk to is not on the PSL of the company they are discussing with you then it is safe to assume (irrelevant of what they say to the contrary) that your CV will be towards the bottom of the pile. It’s also not unreasonable to assume that the further down the pile you are, the more likely it is that they will have found someone before they get to your details. For what it’s worth, most recruiters hate PSL’s as they often remove access to the hiring managers which leads to roles being badly clarified, this means the wrong candidates are submitted which annoys everyone in the process, the candidates more than anyone.
Thirdly, are you actively looking around? If the answer is no then a more low key approach direct to the companies you know may work as you retain all the control. By talking to an agency you are giving some of the control to them, it is them who will manage the process, them who will submit the CV and them who chase the customer for news. It is also worth noting that, contrary to what has been said above, most (99%+) agencies get paid when they place someone, they don’t get paid for a shortlist and they don’t get paid for interviews. The few that do get paid up front work in a very different way and will generally only work on £100k+ roles. With this in mind, there are few things more frustrating for an agency than someone successfully interviewing then deciding they never really wanted to move jobs anyway (note this is very different from deciding the new job is not the right job for you).
As a final note, and I think this is an area that causes a lot of disgruntlement, it is worth pointing out that most agencies are driven by their clients and not by candidates, generally they are finding the right people for a specific job, not the right job for a specific person. If you don’t like how an agency is working report them to the REC (recruitment and employment confederation) and/or quote the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations at them. They won’t be chuffed about either but it will focus their mind. Good agencies are a real value to a lot of industries but, as with every industry there are good and bad, you just need to make sure you’re dealing with a good one.
So there you go, rant away.