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How to use a recruitment consultant

31 July 2009 by
How to use a recruitment consultant

There are many ways of finding a job, but as your career progresses, you may find it useful to develop a relationship with a recruitment consultant. Rosalind Mullen reports.

If you're ambitious, then you're halfway to becoming successful in the hospitality industry. According to Sector Skills Council People 1st, an astonishing one-third of the hospitality workforce is aged under 25 and, of the many who rise up the ranks, most will have taken on their first managerial role before they are 30.

But as you start to take on more responsible roles, you may find that, if you've established a trusting relationship with a recruitment consultant, they will be able to give your career more structure and direction.


It's also true that employers particularly use recruitment consultants to recruit senior personnel. A survey by Totaljobs.com has found that 46% of employers use recruitment consultants specifically to find senior staff. Clearly, if you are in the forefront of a consultant's mind when the vacancy comes in, you stand a greater chance of having your CV put forward.

So what are the other benefits? For a start, a good consultant will send the employer a limited number of CVs from candidates who fit the job requirements and company culture, so applications from you will get straight to the decision-maker rather than being lost in a pile of papers. This means less time wasted and a better result for both sides.

With a good consultant you'll get advice on how to write a sparkling CV and present yourself at interview, as well as guidance on whether you need extra training or experience and how to go about getting it. They are particularly useful when you reach managerial level, as they help to negotiate salaries and benefits.

As in any industry, not all recruitment consultants are on the ball - and there are unscrupulous operators, too. But there are important indicators that sort the good from the bad, as well as professional bodies that provide members with ethical guidelines. Read on to discover what to look out for…


Who? Thomas Proxa
What? Joint owner
Where?Unitas (recruitment and sourcing)

Who should use a recruitment consultant? People who haven't got a plan of their career progress in their head - say in mid-management - need recruitment consultants the most.

What type of consultant should they go for? A specialist in hospitality is the best. If you find the right consultant, they will understand your weaknesses and strengths and will guide your career.

And how do you find the right one? Look for consultants who have worked in the industry and understand career progression.

Go with your gut instinct - do they really look at you? Do they listen to you? Are they qualified? Ask lots of questions. And, as in every business, ask around for recommendations.

What exactly do they do? It's the recruitment consultant's job to get a candidate that is the right fit for the company. Consultants are the middle man, and if you find the right one, you can create a long-term relationship with them and they will help you to maintain your career. Think of a recruitment consultant as an agony aunt and an extension to the HR team.

What should you beware of? Never allow your recruitment consultant to send your CV on spec or to send out your CV to several employers at once. Never be too comfortable with your recruitment consultant. Use online searches to find jobs, too, and maybe use more than one consultant.

How do you advise your candidates to clinch the job? Prepare for the interview by exploring why you are different from other candidates. Plan your dress, timing and the journey. And ask questions as well as giving answers.

Anything else? Research the company so that you can make an informed decision about whether the job is right for you. Ask your recruitment consultant for their view - they can give a different angle. Ask yourself what you can say to make an employer remember you - and make eye contact.


Who? Rajesh Suri
What? Chief executive
Where?Tamarind Group

Do you use recruitment consultants to hire staff? Yes, but mostly for key positions or for the accounts and reception departments. We tend not to use them to recruit food and beverage staff, as we have a specialised cuisine. However, there are some agencies that understand this type of cooking.

What are the benefits to you as an employer? They are not cheap, but they save us time. I create a profile of what we want and a good consultant will scan the applications and only send me the CVs of likely candidates.

So, in a way, they also benefit the candidate? Absolutely. It means the candidates they send are usually a good fit for the company. If they tick 70% of my boxes, I will employ them - we can always mould them in the job as they go along.

Both the candidate and employer need the same qualities in a good recruitment consultant, then? The attitude of an agency is important, yes. You need to develop a long-term relationship with them so that they send you the right-fit employee - and so the employee doesn't waste time either. There are two kinds of agency: one that sends you every CV, and one that has a knowledge of the industry and understands what is required.

When would you advise a jobseeker to use a recruitment consultant? When you don't understand the role, it's good to go with an agency.

Tamarind in a nutshell

  • One of the few Indian restaurants with a Michelin star.
  • North-west Indian cooking under executive chef Alfred Prasad.
  • The group has launched a tapas-style Indian restaurant called Imli in Soho, London.


Who? Steve Wishart
What? Operations manager
Where?Charlton House (contract caterer)

So, how did you get your job? I was working as operations manager at Avenance and felt that I wanted to move on. I contacted Portfolio International and, two days later, they got in touch to say that Charlton House was looking for an operations manager. The whole process took six weeks from start to finish.

What are the main benefits of using a recruitment consultant? You meet them and they get to know you. They can then match you up with the right company and role, so at interview there is not a waste of your time or of the employer's time either.

So, how's it going in the job? I've been at Charlton House for 10 months. It's a good fit for me because I wanted to work for a smaller firm where the focus was on food.

Were you the only candidate? Well, the job was advertised as well, but I guess the consultant made a phone call to Charlton House about me and they would have discussed my application. Basically, the consultant is looking to put forward the right candidate. They vet you and come up with the goods - and the employer pays them for it.

When should jobseekers start using a consultant? You should start thinking about it if you're starting to move up the ladder. It's particularly important if you are looking for a senior management role. To be honest, it's even worth using one if you are just looking for a straight move somewhere else.

Charlton House in a nutshell

  • One of the largest independent contract caterers.
  • Focuses on prestigious business and industry contracts.
  • Specialist divisions are Chester Boyd and Charlton House Restaurants.


Need a quick way of finding the right recruitment consultant?

A list of affiliated consultants can be found through the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) on www.rec.uk.com.

What are its benefits?

Members follow a code of practice, so if you choose a consultancy with REC accreditation, you can be confident that they will respect the laws of confidentiality and privacy.

This is important, as it means they will not be touting your CV and private details around scores of companies indiscriminately.

The REC can also give advice. For instance, it advises both employers and jobseekers to choose an industry specialist, because consultants are likely to have worked in the field and will, therefore, have first-hand understanding of the skills and training needed for specific roles.

You should employ a recruitment consultant when you start moving up the ladder


â- It is worth maintaining a relationship with a good consultant even if you are not actively looking. They will be able to give you advice regarding the job market and notice of potential opportunities that are coming up. Note that many great vacancies are not advertised, particularly at senior management level.

From an employer's point of view, candidates who are still in employment and looking for career progression are often viewed more favourably than those who are not.

â- If you choose your consultant wisely, then you should be able to trust them to represent you well and work on your behalf.

If you go on to register with numerous other consultancies or contact employers directly, it may cause issues with the consultancy that is working for you. This could result in them refocusing their efforts on other candidates where there is more chance of a result. Remember that agencies are commercial businesses and need to make fees to stay in business.

â- Be open and honest with your consultant. If there are gaps in your employment or possible issues with references from previous employment, then it is important that you discuss them up front and decide how to address them. Take the registration interview seriously and consider any areas of flexibility - for instance, with regard to salary, the distance you are willing to travel and so on.

â- Communicate often and keep your consultant up to date with any developments in your job search.

Source: David Harrington, director,Admiral Group


â- Any recruitment consultant worth their salt will meet a candidate to conduct a thorough registration interview. This should include a detailed competency assessment so the consultant can gain a good understanding of your goals, aspirations and key motivators for the job search.

They will also explore which firms are of interest to you and areas where you are flexible, such as salary, travel time and so on.

â- A good consultant will offer well-considered advice on the job market and best firms to work for.

They will also work proactively to find you a company that will provide you with future opportunities and be a good match on culture. They will listen to what you want and be realistic with their advice.

A less proactive or experienced recruiter will often try to push you into unsuitable roles simply because they match your salary or geographical requirements.

â- The consultant should keep in touch with you to see how your job search is progressing, even if they don't have the right opportunity for you.

A recent survey of jobseekers conducted by Admiral found that candidates were particularly frustrated about consultants who failed to keep in touch following the interview. If the consultant can't help you - either because they feel your experience is unsuitable or your expectations are unrealistic - then they should tell you up front.

As a candidate, you should respect their honesty and then decide how you wish to proceed. You are under no obligation to work with the consultant if you don't want to or don't feel they are right for you.

â- Worthwhile consultants will already have a good network of contacts within the industry that they can use to your advantage - for instance, in getting you interviews that are not advertised on the open job market.

Many of our clients, for instance, recruit future talent based on the strength of the individual and whether they are a suitable fit with company culture. They then create a role within the company so that they don't miss the opportunity of catching the talent.

â- A consultant should never send your details to any client for any job without discussing their intentions first. Confidentiality and data protection of personal details is both a legal and moral requirement in our business.

Source: David Harrington, director,Admiral Group

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