What is a recruitment agency?

As a contractor, securing a solid pipeline of contracts to ensure you minimise unwanted breaks between contracts will mean you need a solid relationship with at least one recruitment agency.

What a recruitment agent does for you

A recruitment agent is essentially a specialist that matches the right candidates to available contract roles on behalf of their client. Let’s be clear from the outset, their client is the company that is looking to fill the role. You as the candidate are the resource they are trying to sell. This is a core point to understand and will enable you to get the most out of the relationship.

Good recruitment agents:

  • Source quality candidates;
  • Source clients and contract roles;
  • Negotiate rates for the role;
  • Understand the market, the market rates and can forecast market conditions;
  • Provide contractual support;
  • Act as middlemen and gatekeepers for their client.

Recruitment agents exist because clients (the hiring companies) don’t have the time or internal resource to promote roles, sift through the applications and deal with contractor admin.  Having a reputable recruitment consultant to do this limits their exposure to risk as they vet applicants and administer a lot of the payment process.

N.B. Anyone can set themselves up as a recruitment consultant. All you need is a PC and a phone so it’s your responsibility to do your homework and select the best recruitment consultant for you.

Why you need a recruitment agency

Some contractors and consultants don’t ever use agencies to find work as they have an existing network of contacts that they pull from to secure roles, or they may be so niche that they gain work from word of mouth.  This is rare and in the majority of cases, contractors will need to work with a recruitment agency to secure contracts.

The larger recruitment agents tend to control the roles available in larger companies as the largest companies usually operate a preferred supplier list. We’ll look at this in more detail in Understanding the value of agencies.