Working with a recruitment consultancy


How to make your recruitment agency work for you

With thousands of recruitment consultancies the country over – all boasting different niches, specialties and unique selling points – it can be difficult to know which one to choose. But if you do decide to engage an agency, you need to recognise that for the relationship to be successful, it’s a two-way process.

In this guide, you’ll find insightful tips on what to consider when selecting a recruitment consultancy, how to write the sort of brief that will capture the right sort of talent, and how to balance your views against the advice of your chosen agency.

The benefits of working with a recruitment consultant

Your experience with a recruitment consultant can be a truly rewarding and ultimately successful one, if you choose carefully and play your part. When a consultant understands your business, the market in which you operate, and the technical and cultural aspects of the role you are recruiting for, you’re far more likely to secure the right talent for your organisation. But you need to make some clear decisions before making that call.

Getting off to the right start

Before you engage a recruitment agency – or even consider which one is right for you - you need to write down the specific requirements of your organisation for the role(s) in question. This will help you to determine the type of person that you need for the post, understand the position of the role within the company, and give you a basis from which to brief a recruitment consultant.

Typically, a good brief will include:

  • Technical specification: what technical skills and experience are required?
  • Personal profile: what personality type and skill set is necessary to the role?
  • Background: is organisation or sector specific experience necessary?


Selecting the right recruitment consultancy for your needs

Engaging the wrong recruitment agency can be a time-consuming, costly, and ultimately frustrating business, so just how do you get it right? Before you call the first agency that pushes a flyer through your door, you need to assess their suitability in relation to the role that you are recruiting for, and to the wider organisation as a whole.

It is important to ask yourself: 

  • Do they specialise in your market?
  • Do they recruit for your discipline?
  • How long have they been operating for?
  • Have they recruited for your competitors or similar organisations?
  • Do they take a consultative approach?
  • What value can they add?
  • Can they provide evidence of previous successes?
  • Will they commit to working to an agreed deadline?
  • Are they willing to come and meet you at your offices?
  • Can they be trusted to protect confidential information?


The job specification

If your recruitment consultant is to conduct an accurate search for suitable candidates, and to also fully brief interested parties about the role, you must provide them with a job spec that is full of detailed and relevant information. Poor job specifications can seriously hamper the recruitment process, so spend a little time getting it right.

You can use your original briefing document as a basis for your job specification, but it will require additional focus if it is to make a useful recruitment tool. And always be sure to cover the seven key areas that candidates will be interested in:

  • The organisation
  • The team
  • The role
  • How the role may develop
  • Person specification
  • Remuneration
  • Processes & timescales


The organisation

Candidates will want to know about the size, history and key markets of your organisation, along with its corporate aims. Strong candidates will also be interested in what an organisation is aiming for so that they can assess whether it’s a goal that excites them, and one they can help to reach. 

The team

Include information about the size and structure of the team; how it fits functionally into the organisation as a whole; the key people that the post-holder will need to relate to; and the culture that may be associated with the team and its position in the firm. 

The role

It’s crucial that you detail the main duties, responsibilities and purpose of the role in question; whilst accurately specifying the skills, experience and background that are needed to do the job. You should also mention any training that may be on offer, as this could help to sway a candidate in your favour. 

How the role may develop

Savvy candidates will already be thinking about how their role may look in the future, what other opportunities it may lead to, and what sort of progression is possible within the organisation. Strong candidates want to see a job spec that illustrates a company’s consideration of its future, before they agree to invest their own time in the business. 

Person specification

Think about the personal attributes that are needed to carry out the role successfully, rather than simply describing existing team members. Most teams benefit from a breadth of personalities, so be sure to shape the person specification around the role itself, and not around the team culture. 


It’s likely that if a candidate is interviewing for your company, they’ll also be seeing others. So if you want to capture the most talented individuals in today’s marketplace, you need to make your benefits package stand out by detailing everything that’s on offer – from salary and bonus packages, to healthcare and a staff canteen. Remember, even the smallest point can tip a candidate in your favour if they’re torn between companies. 

Processes & timescales

Manage the expectations of potential candidates by including information on the interview process; such as when interviews are likely to take place; how many stages are involved; who will be at the interview; and what preparation they may need to do beforehand. 


Without a pre-determined budget or clearly defined sign-off procedure in place, the recruitment process can take much longer than is necessary. Set realistic timescales for reviewing CV’s and conducting interviews, and try your best to stick to them.

How to manage your recruitment agency

Developing a successful relationship with your recruitment consultant

The relationship between an HR department and a recruitment agency can be difficult if that agency fails to manage expectations or to establish clear lines of communication.

Working with a professional recruitment consultancy will make a noticeable difference to this important business relationship. After all, there’s no real substitute for experience, and hiring a consultancy with a long track record of success will help to ensure the whole process is as smooth as possible. 

The vital importance of communication

One of the most important parts of a recruitment consultant’s job is to keep the best candidates interested in your role, when they may be looking at several positions simultaneously. A good consultancy will maintain regular contact with you to keep abreast of developments; feeding any information back to the relevant candidates in a timely manner.

Communication is however just as important from your end, so if there are any changes that may affect the recruitment process, or any decisions being reached internally, contact your consultant immediately; otherwise, you could risk losing the right candidate to a rival offer. 

Balance your views with the consultant’s advice

Whilst you are not going to be convinced about a candidate that you feel is wrong for the role, your recruitment consultant can advise you on how the short-listed candidates match up against each other; taking into account their salary expectations, how likely you are to find what you are looking for, and whether you may have to compete for the person you want.

Of course you are not obliged to take any advice, but a professional recruitment consultant can impart the market view of the situation and, in some cases, say what might be ‘unsayable’ internally.