To get the most out of your relationship with a recruitment agency, it is important to understand that the agency works for their client to fill their contract positions, not for you as a contractor.
With this in mind, think of your recruitment agent as a client. You need to nurture the relationship and give them what they need; a reliable performer who’s easy to place and work with.
You’ve identified a handful of agencies you’d like to work with to secure contracts. The next step is to introduce yourself and begin to build a mutually beneficial relationship. There are two ways to approach a new agency contact:
- Apply for a contractor position they have advertised – a common route, one where you submit your CV and follow a fairly traditional yet accelerated application process. This offers a structured introduction to the agency, based on a contract you’d like to pursue. The process is standardised and there is a risk that your application may be sifted out in the selection process before you even speak to a recruitment consultant.
- Introduce yourself – a bespoke conversation that you can drive. This route offers you the opportunity to speak to a recruitment agent, but it takes preparation and the right level of tenacity to get through the door.
With stiff competition, you need to be confident in your skills and marketability; you need to be proactive and drive the introductions and relationship forward. By making it as easy for the agent as possible, you maximise your attractiveness as a candidate.
Call and introduce yourself to the agent, ask to speak to a recruitment consultant specialising in your area of expertise or the industry you’d like to secure a contract in. Ask for a meeting or a telephone discussion for their advice and potential opportunities. It’s important to ensure that the agency understands your specialism and availability, and that they come away with the understanding that you will work with them to secure roles.
Work hard for them
Recruitment agents are heavily targeted on filling the contracts so it is your job to be an easy candidate to place. Ensure you are:
- Proactive – look at their available contracts and apply for them as they become available. Contact your recruitment consultant in good time before your current contract expires.
- Professional – perform well in interviews, perform well within the contract, portray yourself as the consummate professional at all times.
- Bespoke – see each new opportunity as a completely new start; tailor your CV, do your homework and flex your personal style and approach to fit with the client.
- Responsive – there’s no need to be a pushover but everyone appreciates being listened to and receiving a considered response. Don’t rush into saying no, act with integrity and provide constructive responses in good time.
- Visible – don’t wait for the phone to ring. Ensure you take control of the relationship and maintain regular contact with your recruitment consultant.
Before you approach an agency
It’s important to ensure that you are prepared before you engage with an agency. This ensure that they see you as a candidate that is easy to place and easy to work with.
- Have a stock CV that shows your core skills and achievements; contractors are sold on their skill set and what they can provide to an employer. Unlike permanent employees, length of service and a long list of previous roles are less important; what you achieved in these roles is key to showing prospective clients what you can do.
- Ensure you have a bespoke CV for the contract you are applying for – research the buzzwords and ensure they are present in the CV you submit. A tailored CV is the difference between making it through the first cut to the shortlist and not.
- Understand your strengths, what makes you stand out from the crowd – you need to be able to articulate this to the recruitment consultant.
- Know your base rate – for more information, find out how rates work and see how to set your rate.
- Brush up on your negotiation skills; knowledge is power so don’t give it away for free. Ensure that your enthusiasm doesn’t lead you into providing lots of contacts for previous employers and give yourself time to answer questions.
A big part of securing your relationship with the agency surrounds your understanding of your own worth. Before you leap into a contract, you need to understand how rates work in order to negotiate the best deal with your agency. Your first contract goes a long way to setting the bar in terms of what roles and rates you’ll be offered in the future. Next, we’ll cover how rates work.