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    What is a recruitment agency and should I use one?

    Recruitment agencies are something you will come across often when searching for healthcare jobs. They are essentially people who earn commission for filling positions. Recruiters often have a bad name, but can be one of the best ways of securing a position quickly.

    There should never be a cost involved with using a recruitment agency. Their fees are paid directly by the employer.

    What are the benefits of using a recruitment agency?
    One of the key benefits is that you have to do very little work to find a job. If you have a good consultant, you can essentially sit back and let them look for jobs for you. You can tell them the sort of job you want (including hours, salary and the distance you’re willing to travel) and they will come back to you with a list of possible jobs. Searching for jobs is a significant time investment. Recruiters will do most of the leg work for you, taking away much of the stress involved in actually finding the jobs in the first place.

    Sometimes, recruitment agencies will have close relationships with employers. This can mean that they have access to positions which are not openly available. Even if the job is posted online, going through a trusted recruiter can be beneficial to your application as you have already been vetted by them for the post. Recruiters with this sort of relationship can give you invaluable tips and advice for interviews as they know exactly what the company is looking for.

    This sounds great, why doesn’t everyone do it?
    Firstly, it can be incredibly difficult to find the right recruitment agency. As the recruiters work on commission, many are only bothered about earning their pay, and not about getting you the right role. The right recruiter will listen to you and what you want, will respect you and your requirements. This may sound pretty basic, however some recruiters can be pushy and rude. It is therefore only a suitable method for people who know how to be firm when necessary and can say no if something doesn’t suit them.

    Secondly, the types of jobs available to you may be limited. For example, the vast majority of nursing jobs available are in nursing homes. This may not appeal to everyone and it’s common to have recruiters contact you about these vacancies even if you don’t initially say you are interested in this area. There are NHS jobs and lots of jobs in private hospitals or specialist care centres too, it may just take a little extra work to find these. Often these are recruited for by specialist trusted recruiters.

    Some recruiters have no relationship with the company they are supposedly recruiting for. A poor recruiter may send your CV to an employer without a prior relationship or a vacancy being available. This is poor practice and can mean your CV is not even looked at, as it is considered an unsolicited application.

    Do I choose my recruiter or do they choose me?
    Generally, you choose which recruiters you want to work with. Recruiters need to maintain their reputation with employers, and, as such, will not put forward any candidates who they believe could reflect badly on them. If you have a particularly good CV, recruiters may take a special interest in you and may contact you directly. However, you still have to do a little work to find the right one for you.

    I’ve had a think, and I’d like to give it a go. How do I go about finding these people?
    One of the quickest ways is by uploading a recent CV to a CV distribution site, such as CV Library, All the Top Bananas, or Reed. They distribute your CV to recruiters who can then get in touch with you to discuss your preferences. You should note that you can expect a lot of calls and emails using this route.

    You can also find a lot of recruiters on LinkedIn. Many of these recruiters are more professional and there is a level of accountability as they will hopefully have lots of happy testimonials on their page. You do, however, need to invest some time into making sure you have an accurate and complete profile.

    How can I be sure that this recruiter is a good one?
    Lots of very good recruiters and very bad recruiters want to jump straight in to finding you a role. Recruiters are paid by commission so there will always be an element of quick working and efficiency. The important thing to do is to ask them to tell you a little about themselves and about their company. Ask if they have any relationships with employers you may be interested in. They should be quite happy to give you this information.

    You don’t have to stick to just one recruiter. Different companies have access to different roles and there is absolutely no reason you should have to commit to just one. Different recruiters may value you differently, some may believe you have potential to negotiate a better salary or more benefits. If you do choose to work with multiple recruiters, it is highly advisable to make a note of their name, company, telephone number and the types of vacancies they have.

    Never ever stick with a recruiter you get a bad feeling about or who doesn’t seem professional. A bad recruiter will hinder your chances of landing the job. It is important to note that recruiters are also trying to make a living, so you must make sure you don’t waste their time. If they aren’t right for you or they aren’t producing results, tell them. If you decide to pursue other recruiters, let them know.

    So how does this actually work?
    You provide your recent CV to the recruiter once they have made initial contact. They then discuss with you the requirements you have and suggest jobs which may fit those.

    Recruiters often ask a set list of questions to start finding you a role. Historically this was all done via appointments in an office setting, but is now generally done via phone or email. These often include:
    - What sort of job you are looking for in terms of specialities and job title
    - Whether you have any relevant experience either from previous roles or from university
    - How far you are willing to travel (in either miles or minutes) and whether you drive
    - Your expected salary or hourly rate, bearing in mind that there may be some negotiation possible in this area. You may be asked your current salary, but of course, can decline to share this.
    - The sort of shift patterns you prefer (days or nights, long or short shifts)
    - How much notice you need to give.
    It is a very good idea to prepare answers to these prior to uploading your CV, as it can make the recruiter’s job much harder if you have never considered what sort of salary you expect, for example.

    Then, you can have a think about the vacancy. It is wise to ask the recruiter to email you the details of the role so you can review it in your own time, rather than being pushed to make a decision over the phone. You can also ask the recruiter any questions you have, and they will get back to you with an answer.

    With your permission, the recruiter will send your CV and interview availability on to the employer. If the employer is interested, your recruiter will get in touch with you to let you know, and will arrange an interview for you. Once you attend the interview, the recruiter will often get in touch to ask how it went and how you felt about the place. Your interview decision may either be given to you by the employer or by the recruiter. Once you have accepted an offer, you no longer have contact with the recruiter (other than to thank them, of course).

    They can’t find a job in the speciality I want, what do I do?
    Sometimes, the job you want won’t be available at this time or is not suited to you or your experience. It’s very easy to feel disheartened if that is the case, but this does not mean you need to miss out on your dream job forever. You should always supplement working with recruiters with looking for jobs yourself.

    This scenario occurs much more often if you need to live in a certain geographical area or have very specific requirements. Applying for a specific speciality is much easier if you have numerous cities you are willing to consider. However, the majority of nursing applicants are mature students, and for many, this is simply not possible. If it is, it may be worth considering even a temporary move to get your foot in the door of that speciality. You should also consider whether the job you are looking for actually exists. Certain specialist roles exist for only a handful of people in the country, so it is very hard to find an opening. You also need to be critical of your own CV and whether you are actually qualified for these roles.

    It may be possible that you need to widen your search or look for different recruiters. Some recruiters can only recruit certain types of nurses or can only recruit for certain companies. Even if you have a lovely recruiter, they may be limited by their own job description. Logging back in to the CV distribution sites and re-uploading your CV will trigger a further distribution so can give you the option of working with different recruiters.

    Many roles require experience. Once you have 6 months or even a year’s worth of experience, you become a much more attractive candidate. Unfortunately this can mean you need to take a job you might not have been as keen on in the meantime. All jobs are a learning experience, and often a little professional development is all that is needed to make you an attractive candidate.

    Do you have questions that aren't covered here? Comment below to let us know.
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Updated: March 4, 2018

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