Whether you are looking for a job or you are in need of a new employee, you’ll most likely end up working with an employment agency at some point. But what are these agencies all about and how can you make the most of using them?

Beginners Guide to Employment Agencies

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This guide will answer your questions and provide you an insight into how employment agencies operate. We’ll also explain the benefits of using an agency and give you a few tips for turning the relationship into a fruitful one, whether you’re a company or a job seeker.


The official definition of employment agency is defined by the Business Dictionary as, “companies which attempt to match the employment needs of an employer with a worker having the required skill set and interests”.

In essence, the agency is an intermediary company between companies looking to employ and the people seeking jobs. A layman’s analogy of an employment agency could point out that it acts as a matchmaking company.

If you look at employment agencies a bit deeper, you can see they tend to specialize in three separate fields.

  • Personnel placement services – referred to as employment agencies or recruitment agencies. This is often the main function and the field most people mean when talking about employment agencies.
  • Temporary help service – called the staffing agencies. The focus is on finding companies temporary workers to cover sickness leaves and other such occasions, for instance.
  • Executive services – referred to as executive search firms. The focus of these employment agencies is on high-skilled and high-level positions such as middle management to senior-level roles.

The basic premise of an employment agency is always to find the best candidate for the role on offer, whether it is a temporary or a permanent position. The employment agency generally shortlists candidates and often even interviews them or organizes other similar assessment processes. But ultimately, the decision to hire remains with the company looking to employ.

The following research shows the largest 105 staffing firms in the US.

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Let’s now look at the common pattern employment agencies use for finding the right candidates.

First, the agency receives contact from a company regarding a role the company wants to fill. Often employment agencies create long-lasting relations with companies and therefore, the business might well be one the agency has worked with previously. Of course, the company might be altogether new to the agency.

Nonetheless, the second step involves mapping out information regarding the job opening. The company will provide information such as the skills and qualifications required. Furthermore, the agency studies the business culture of the company to ensure they find a candidate that matches the values and aspirations of the company. At this point, agencies might also discuss issues such as searching for minority candidates and equal opportunities.

Once the above issues are solved, the employment agency begins its search. In most cases, agencies have candidate databases, which include profiles and resumes they use as the first point. They will also browse their contacts and reach out to candidates they feel might fit the description. Furthermore, the agency can also advertise the job on job boards.

As the recruitment officer receives a number of resumes and contacts, he or she will eventually draw a shortlist of suitable candidates. The shortlisted candidates will then go through further assessment, often including interviews, which are either conducted by the employment agency or the company.

If the employment agency is in charge of the interviews, they might select two to three suitable candidates to present to the company. As mentioned above, the final decision to hire will be in the hands of the company looking to hire.

Finally, the company pays a success fee for finding the ‘right’ candidate. The fee structure can depend on a number of things, but in most cases, the employment agency receives more from these ‘successful’ searches.

Here’s a short video about the recruitment process employment agencies use:


So, why aren’t companies doing their own job search? The question is worth asking and the answer deals with the benefits using an employment agency provides for many small and large businesses.

Outsourcing this aspect to a professional company has its perquisites and the companies aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits. Job seekers can also enjoy the advantages of using an employment agency as part of their job hunt strategy.

The benefits to a company

The advantages of using an employment agency for a company looking to hire are:

  • The company will benefit from the knowledge of the job market. The employment agencies are always learning more about the markets they specialize in. The agencies understand where the top talent is, what are the career expectations and complexities of hiring. This ensures the agency can target the right job seekers and help the company improve its offered benefits to reduce the risk of competitors making the best hires.
  • The agency has more resources available for searching the talent market and reaching out to a wider audience of candidates. Companies don’t often have the resources available to start scouting job seekers, especially when it comes to passive job seekers. But employment agencies have wider connections, with each consultant and client providing the potential to leverage these networks to find the off-radar candidates.
  • The company can develop its employer brand. In order to attract the top talent, a company must ensure its employer brand is appealing. It wants job seekers to know the company is a great place to work in. For SMEs, developing the employer brand can be difficult since it doesn’t have the same resources available as larger corporations. But an employment agency can do this work for them by understanding the company’s business culture and the benefits it offers to candidates. The agency is better able to talk about the benefits of applying to your company to ensure the ‘right’ fit gets the job. This in turn can help the positive social media chatter surrounding your company. The happy employees will give positive reviews, ensuring your employer brand develops.
  • Using agencies can be cost effective. Finally, using an employment agency can be highly cost effective for companies. Since most fee structures favor successful hire payment model, the company doesn’t need to worry about payment until it has received the perfect candidate for the role. Finding the right talent will take time. It can cost less time and money for the business to outsource this aspect to an agency with the right resources and expertise.

The benefits to a job seeker

But as stated above, it isn’t just the companies benefitting from using employment agencies. Job seekers can enjoy these advantages:

  • Agencies can help job seekers to conduct a more tailored job search. Employment agencies are good at analyzing the job seeker’s career expectations and their skills and qualifications. This can help them better understand the roles most suited for the candidate and therefore, present them with opportunities that match better with their skills and ambitions.
  • Job seekers receive more support and guidance. A good employment agency will provide job seekers support and guidance in terms of job search. The agencies can help the job seeker tidy up their resumes and provide them a better understanding of the career path they want to be in.
  • Job seekers can find jobs that might be exclusively promoted by employment agencies and headhunters. Not all jobs are publicly available and by contacting employment agencies, job seekers might be presented with options they would have never heard about otherwise.
  • Agencies can provide feedback. Most job seekers will attend job interviews that don’t end up with a new job. Often it might be difficult to analyze the positives and the negatives, but an employment agency can change this. The recruiter, especially if they were conducting the interview, can provide feedback, which can help the job seeker to strengthen their interview skills for future assessments.
  • Agencies can guarantee the job hunting process isn’t completely overwhelming. Searching for a job can be overwhelming. Job seekers can end up sending resumes without a clear goal. But employment agencies can make this more manageable, as they use organized application processes. You often need to provide them the initial resume and stay in touch, while they might be sending it out on your behalf. As mentioned above, agencies can also help re-direct the efforts to jobs and roles that actually are worth the job seeker’s efforts, limiting the burden.
  • Job seekers can create long-term relationship with recruiters, which can boost future career progression. Finally, job seekers should focus their efforts on creating long-term relationship with recruiters. This can help them find a new job quicker if they are looking to change career paths in the future. Job seekers might also be presented with opportunities they wouldn’t find out about without a trusted relationship with the recruiter.


While employment agencies can provide the above benefits to companies and job seekers alike, not all agencies are necessarily the right match. Depending on the needs, either as an employer or the job seeker, different agencies might be more suited for you.

Therefore, you want to pay attention to finding the right match.

The process for finding the right recruitment agency doesn’t change much whether you are a company looking to hire someone or a job seeker looking for work. The main things to keep in mind are:

Find an industry specialist

It’s always a good idea to work with a recruiter who specializes in your industry. For companies this means the employment agency understands the specific requirements of the industry, as well as the challenges.

On the other hand, for job seekers this can mean better opportunities to work with the right employment agency. If you are a marketing specialist, an employment agency with expertise on agriculture might not be able to guarantee a quick and efficient hiring process.

Work with professional companies

In all business, it’s always advantageous to work with professionally credited companies. This ensures the agency knows what it’s doing and has the right qualifications to help you. In essence, working with a professional can guarantee better results and ensure the process is more cost effective.

You ideally want to find employment agencies, which are part of the country’s national recruitment body or bodies. For instance, in the UK, this would mean being a member of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies or the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

Check out the previous track record

It’s a good idea to check out the agency’s previous successes and experience. For employers, this generally involves asking about the opening-to-interview-to-hire rates. This can help you understand how quick and efficient the company is. The longer and lower the rates are, the more it highlights the agency’s inefficiency in finding the right match.

On the other hand, for candidates, the important question revolves around hiring rates. You don’t want to spend your energy on an employment agency that doesn’t seem to be able to match job seekers with the right jobs.

Furthermore, it can be beneficial to check your network for connections with the employment agency. Perhaps other businesses have worked with the agency or you know professionals who’ve found a job through it. Getting a tangible feel of the way the agency operates and works can give you more peace of mind.

Confirm how they operate

Finally, ensure you understand how the particular employment agency works, whether you are a job seeker or a company. You want to understand if their working methods differ substantially from the general model outlined above. As a business and a job seeker, you want to be aware of your own responsibilities in terms of ensuring a smooth and a quick process.

In addition, for employers this means checking out the pricing structure. Before you sign a deal, you should be aware of the different costs associated with the process and whether the agency has any hidden fees attached.


If you want to make out the most with your relationship with an employment agency, you should take notice of these proven tips.

There are three essentials to turning the relationship into a fruitful one: staying in contact, taking responsibility and using the agency’s expertise to the max.

Tip #1 Stay in contact

Establishing a relationship with the employment agency is an important part of the process for both companies and job seekers. It’s crucial to stay in touch with the agency even after the first contact. You want to check with the agency at least once a week, but as the employer, you could even do so twice a week.

It’s a good idea to change your contact method to ensure you don’t seem too intrusive. For example, call once a week and other times drop an email or even a text message.

You also want to establish communication on social media, especially on professional platforms such as LinkedIn.

Furthermore, there are a few company and job seeker specific tips for staying in touch. These are:

For the company:

  • Don’t stop the communication after you make the hire. You might require further help with recruitment later on and a good relationship can help. Furthermore, if you stay in regular contact, the employment agency might suggest talented candidates to you even when you aren’t actively looking.

For the job seeker:

  • Don’t rely on a single employment agency, but try building relationships with a few trusted agencies. This can help increase the chances of finding your dream job and ensure you get job offers from a number of different agencies.
  • As mentioned above, job seekers should also continue staying in touch with the employment agencies even after the hire. So update them occasionally on how things are going and always let them know if you are open for new opportunities.

Tip #2 Take responsibility

You shouldn’t expect employment agencies to provide you the magic bullet, whether you are looking for employment or someone to work for you. While the agencies are surely going to boost your chances and smoothen the recruitment process, you must ultimately take responsibility.

Don’t simply hand in the job position or resume and wait for results. You need to take ownership of the process and remember to stay on top of any developments. This means regularly checking up how the process is going ahead, staying active in terms of updating the skills and requirements, and keeping your eyes open.

The specific tips for companies and job seekers include:

For the company:

  • Don’t become disconnected with the hiring process. It’s essential to understand the stages and be aware of which aspect of the process the recruiter is currently focusing on.
  • Don’t forget about the other ways to finding an employee. For instance, referrals are often a great way to find talented candidates.

For the job seeker:

  • As a job seeker, you should never rely on a few employment agencies alone for your job search. You should continue searching for roles online, on social media and on job fairs. Be proactive and use employment agencies as a part of your job search, not the sole strategy.

Tip #3 Use their expertise

Finally, don’t forget to take full advantage of the expertise and guidance of employment agencies, whether you are a company hiring or a job seeker. As mentioned in the section about benefits, employment agencies understand the workings of the industry you operate in, as well as the recruitment and talent landscape in general.

This means you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice and support. Don’t think you necessarily know it the best, as employment agencies might better understand your true passion and skillset, as well as the kind of talent your business truly needs.

In terms of specific tips, keep these points in mind:

For the company:

  • When you post a job position, check what the agency thinks in terms of requirements and skill. Allow them to analyze your company culture, as it can help them find the candidate best suited for your role.

For the job seeker:

  • You should be clear about the job aspirations and passions you have, but don’t be afraid to listen to their advice. You might think your career should be headed in a specific direction, but the employment agent might be able to reveal you areas that are better suited for your talent.
  • Take advantage of any additional resources the employment agency offers. This includes training opportunities and events such as workshops for writing resumes. These can not only improve your employability directly, but also provide you with indirect networking opportunities.
  • Don’t apply for jobs that are irrelevant for your career progression or path. If you don’t want a specific job, don’t feel forced to apply for it just for the sake of applying.


Employment agencies offer a range of benefits to both employers and job seekers. There are different types of employment agencies out there and you therefore, must be aware of your specific needs and requirements before you start working with a specific agency.

The way agencies work is often the same and if you want to make the most of using an employment agency, you should always be proactive and focus on building a long-lasting relationship with the agency. This guarantees your company attracts the best talent or that you’ll enjoy a healthy career progression as an employee.

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