How to be a recruitment agency’s first-choice candidate

Hit it off with a recruiter and they’ll ensure you’re well looked after – but how can you strike up and maintain a winning relationship with a recruitment agency?

Finding a good job in a crowded career market is too important for a hit-and-miss approach, so enlisting the help of a recruitment agency could make a big difference to your chances of success.

A good recruiter not only has contacts in your chosen industry but also knows the type of candidate the clients are looking for and can tailor your approach to them accordingly.

Who is the ideal candidate?

Presenting yourself well is key. A recruiter will be protecting their own professional reputation as well as yours, so you want to build a good working relationship with them. 

“The best candidate is open, honest, well prepared for interviews and sticks to agreed timescales,” says Jodie Roxborough, manager – technology division, at recruitment specialists Venn Group.

So how can you forge a winning relationship with an agency?

First impressions matter

Recruiters look at networking sites such as LinkedIn, so make sure your profile is up to date, professional and contains enough key words to pop up on a recruiter’s search. This is not the place to post hilarious social comments and pictures – no matter how amazing you think you look.

For the first approach, send in an email with an attached – spellchecked – CV and/or portfolio, and explain the type of job you want. It’s likely that a recruiter will then set up a video call to discuss your skill set and career goals. It may sound obvious but do not take the call in your sweaty exercise gear. 

“The pre-recorded interview may be forwarded to an employer,” says Ms Roxborough. “I’ve known people to answer the call in their gym kit – and it’s not the best look! 

“We’re looking to ensure we are representing professionals who will turn up to client interviews and impress. Therefore, ensure your clothing gives off the impression you’d want during an interview with a potential employer.”

What to ask a recruiter

Start by asking whether the recruiter has met the client and what the subsequent relationship is like. “Some agencies are not meeting their clients and are therefore not understanding the live brief,” says Ms Roxborough. “You wouldn’t want to buy a car from a salesman who hasn’t sat in the vehicle.”

Ask what steps the recruiter will take to put you in the best position to secure the role. “My job is to coach and consult talent so they are fully clued up on the role they’re applying for, as well as thoroughly prepared and in the best position to get an offer,” says Ms Roxborough.

What not to ask a recruiter

“There’s really nothing you can’t ask,” says Ms Roxborough. “For a recruiter to be put off, it’s down to whether people are completely honest about their situation. We could get all the way down the recruitment process to the offer stage and then something will crop up that wasn’t mentioned previously that prevents candidates accepting, or delays start dates. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off but it’s frustrating.” 

When to negotiate salary

An agency recruiter will probably bring up the subject of money within the first few minutes of an initial call, says Ms Roxborough, so the client needn’t always be the one to mention it.

“If the subject doesn’t come up immediately, I’d suggest candidates always discuss salary with the recruiter,” says Ms Roxborough. “A candidate should be clear on what their expectations are so this doesn’t waste anyone’s time.

“Negotiating at offer stage is not necessarily a complete no-go, but can give the impression that the candidate is trying to squeeze the most money out of the company. 

“Confirm the salary with the recruiter first – but if the role changes during the recruitment process, ensure you have clear reasons why you warrant an increase to the original salary rather than just demanding it with no reason.”