What to Look for in an Employment Agency

By Nan Werther , last updated November 17, 2011

Using an employment, recruitment, or temp agency in your job search can help open doors to potential positions in lucrative career fields. At the same time, it is important to choose wisely when selecting an agency to apply to and not just rely entirely on the recruiter to fulfill all your job aspirations for you. There are many things to take into account when going with an employment agency, especially given the specialized nature of many recruiters who only supply certain industries, for instance, with workers. Knowing how to navigate this interesting opportunity can improve your chances of landing a job you love.

Avoid the Scattergun Approach

With so many agencies wanting to help you get hired, it's important to know which one to choose and why. Employment agencies are employed by larger companies who don't have the time to select the most qualified candidates for the position. Rather, they employ several middlemen to do so. This means that unbeknownst to you, several agencies might be recruiting for an especially intriguing position. However, signing up with several might mean that your resume gets sent to the same company more then once, which reflects badly on everyone. Avoid this awkward situation by going with just one or two agencies that appeal to your situation and offer solutions that make sense. This usually means they work within your career field and select their candidates carefully, which means more opportunities for you in the long-run.

Know Your Options

In your research, you've probably identified two kinds of employment agencies: the national chain and the independent or boutique consulting agency. Both have their particular pros and cons, depending on what you're looking for. At a smaller employment company you're more likely to be handpicked from a pool of applicants and receive more personalized attention. Smaller agencies are usually able to work harder on your behalf, however if they don't have as high of a profile as the larger nation-wide consulting chains it can be difficult to gain access to exclusive companies and fulfill their employment needs. Larger agencies are believed to attract a better quality of client, however the risk their bigger pool of applicants poses is that you won't receive as many offers given the broad range of potential. In the end, your personal choice will dictate which relationship you prefer or is more successful to finding you a job.

Work On Your Own Behalf

Many employment agencies have several representatives for different sectors so that you work with someone who has some working knowledge of your skills and abilities as well as the potential opportunities in your industry. The typical scenario is that regardless of the recruiting agency company's size, you'll be working with one or two individuals who represent you. While you certainly might have to make some compromises when it comes to finding a good job, make sure the person representing you understands your interests, goals, and career path in order to select the best companies that fit your needs. If they are not interested in listening to your position, they are not doing their job to the best of their abilities and you should consider switching to an employment agency that does want to find the best fit for you.

Be Open to Negotiation

Most employment agencies will receive a cut of your salary from the company as payment for finding them an employee. There are differences in structure but for the most part, you can expect this sort of arrangement. However, don't compromise yourself if you believe that the package they've negotiated on your behalf isn't up to par. Some employment agencies are more aggressive than others in wrangling the best salary and benefits package for you, but other times they may have their own interests at heart. Don't accept a package you aren't happy with, as that dissatisfaction at the outset will only lead to deeper resentment and possible unemployment later on in the future.

Choose an Agency That Provides Job Tips

While this shouldn't be considered a steadfast qualification when it comes to narrowing down your choice of employment agencies, it should be said that the best agencies want you to be hired and will help you present the best possible face in order to make that happen. If your resume needs tweaking, it's better that they tell you rather than risk turning off a potential employer. As a middleman, they have access to important knowledge: what a company wants in a potential employee. Communicating that message increases your chances, so don't take it personally. Instead, use it as a platform for future success.

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