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Recruitment consultants

24 July 2008 by

Arguably, recruitment consultants make the hospitality world go around. But at what level should you start using them - and how can they help? Rosalind Mullen looks at the benefits for employer and employee

Right then… you can spend hours flicking through job ads, trawling job sites on the internet and sending your CV into the wilderness. Or you can sign on with a recruitment consultant and let them find you the perfect job. What's it going to be?

Perhaps it isn't as simple as that, but you get the picture. Certainly, if you use a recruitment consultant it's more likely that your CV will be read by your prospective employer than buried in a pile of applications. And with a good consultant, you'll also get advice on how to present yourself at interview as well as guidance on whether you need extra training or experience and how to go about getting it. In fact, they're particularly useful when you reach managerial level as they help to negotiate salaries and benefits.

The benefits work in reverse for employers, who can be assured that they will have to read only a limited number of CVs from candidates, all of whom have the qualities, training and experience required for the role. This means less time wasted and a better end result.

Some might be sceptical about using consultants, but with research you can find the right one for you. As in any industry, there are unscrupulous operators, but equally there are measures in place to ensure ethics are adhered to which protect both candidate and client.

As Lynn Robey, a fellow of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), which sets standards for recruitment consultants, advises: "Look for an affiliation with a professional body [www.rec.uk.com]. There is a code of practice that any member of REC has to abide by."

If you choose a consultancy with REC accreditation, you can be confident that it will respect the laws of confidentiality and privacy. This is important, as it means it will not tout your CV and private details around scores of companies indiscriminately.

To get the best results, Robey suggests that both employers and candidates should think about using an industry specialist. In such firms the consultants are likely to have worked in the field and will have a keen understanding of the skills and training needed for specific roles.

One message that comes across loud and clear from Caterer's interviews with both recruiters and jobseekers (see below) is that it's important to build a strong relationship with your consultant. This is particularly true for candidates as it's good to be in the forefront of the consultant's mind when a tasty vacancy comes in.

And for those who still feel wary of using consultants, it's worth noting that a good recruitment firm thrives on building professional trust. As Jo Morgan, managing director at Rockford, says: "For us, it's all about building a long-term relationship with candidates who will then become clients if you look after them well enough and the cycle is created. Candidates are our asset and how we look after them will reflect our reputation."

The candidate

  • Who? Sonia Conrad, 39
  • What? General manager
  • Where? Ashurst law firm, City of London
  • Which caterer? BaxterStorey

At what point in your career is it useful to use recruitment consultants?

I think it's important to start using them when you move into managerial roles as they tend to have better jobs on offer than those advertised in the press. One of the main benefits is that they offer a bespoke service, so you're not sending your application form in with 500 others.

Have you used a consultant often?

Not really, but they have been useful for my career. I used one to get a job with Catering & Allied, where I worked for about 14 years, and then when I joined Holroyd Howe, which was taken over by BaxterStorey.

How do you get the best out of them?

It's important that you ensure the consultant has the right information so they can match you with the right company and working culture. Even when you're in a good job you should nurture your relationship with them. You need to keep thinking about your next move or at the very least to ensure you're being paid correctly.

When is it time to find a new consultant?

When you get sent bizarre jobs, or find yourself wondering what you're doing in an interview, you start to realise that the recruitment consultant is only after their commission.

The candidate and the employer

  • Who? Ronan Harte, 38
  • What? Operations director
  • Which caterer? Avenance

Why should anyone consider using a recruitment consultant?

They're the way we move around the industry, particularly at managerial level.

Tell us how it all began

I started using recruitment consultants for my career about eight or nine years ago. They helped my career to progress - they understood where I wanted to get to and every few years they helped me to find a new position.

What should you beware of?

You need to understand where you're going. Some big agencies will throw your CV out to everybody, but I don't think it's good to have your CV shopped out all over the place. You need to trust that your recruitment consultant has a reason to submit your CV.

How do consultants help you in your role as employer?

They take away the paperwork for me by weeding out unsuitable candidates. I give them a specific profile and they find the right person for me. I guess I tend to use the last recruitment consultant who found a good manager for me. I let them have exclusivity for three to four weeks and then I open it up to other agencies. On average it takes about three months.

Are you always happy with the results?

It's not necessarily foolproof as candidates sometimes present themselves differently to what they are - but that's rare. It's important to work with an agency that listens to the brief - and writes it down.

What advice would you give to a jobseeker?

I think you need to build up your relationship with the recruitment consultant. That way they'll remember your name and when something suitable comes up they'll know who you are.

Where next for you?

I've been at Avenance for the past 18 months and my next step within the company will be as regional managing director. My career is progressing. Before I worked here I was with Sodexo at Ascot, and before that I ran my own food supply business. I started out as a chef on board Aurora and Oriana.

The recruiter

  • Who? Jacky Isaac
  • What? Director of human resources
  • Where? Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City FC

Presumably you recruit through consultants because of the sheer volume of staff you need?

Yes. In my previous jobs at Compass and Delaware North I was recruiting up to 3,500 casual staff per match. In this job I have a venues team and we recruit 350 staff for a match day.

How do you get the best results?

It's about building up relationships and trust - as an employer you need to be honest and upfront about what you need. You have to let a recruiter get into your head and make it a long-term relationship. It also helps if you let them understand your ethos so that you're well represented in the marketplace. This is particularly important if you're recruiting temporary staff.

What are the benefits when recruiting full-time staff?

Consultants are useful because they can find somebody with specific skills that fit your company. In that way they're cost-effective. I know it can look expensive but it's all about saving time and getting the best candidate.

Do you need to plan ahead?

Absolutely. If you know that you'll need to recruit at some time in the future it's wise to get your recruitment consultant lined up in advance before the pressure builds up. That way you can build up the trust and develop the working relationship in order to get better candidates. With regard to temporary staff, it's equally important to give them plenty of lead time so they can find good people.

Is there anything you should guard against?

You should recognise that your recruitment agency might be a specialist and so you might spoil the relationship if you give them unreasonable demands. You need to understand their expertise and use a different specialist when necessary - for instance, to recruit somebody with financial skills.

Any other tips?

When choosing a recruitment consultant, you should check their references. If you use only one consultant you're more likely to get a good rate. You should review the results after using a recruitment consultant. It helps to give and receive feedback so the next time you can improve the results.

A recruitment consultant must have the right information to match you with the right company

A recruiter should build up trust with a consultant and develop the working relationship in order to get better candidates

If you know that you'll need to recruit at some time in the future it's wise to get your recruitment consultant lined up in advance before the pressure builds up

Top tips for jobseekers

Are you a tense, nervous jobseeker? Well, according to Nick Gourley, managing director at Blue Arrow Catering and Blend Recruitment, finding a new job shouldn't be a nightmare experience. Here are some tips to help ensure it's positive and exciting instead.

  • Select a recruitment consultancy that has expertise in your chosen field. While the generalist recruiters are not a lesser option, dedicated businesses can give you specific support, guidance and advice. Often the consultancy teams have a background in hospitality, giving them a head start when it comes to matching you to the ideal job role.
  • Before you schedule an appointment, think about the type of job and company that would suit your skills and experience. While you need to have an open mind, being concise and clear about your career future will allow the recruiter to focus in on only the "right fit" jobs, getting you to interview quickly.
  • Don't hide anything. It's really important to develop an open and honest relationship with your recruiter. After all, how can it represent you accurately if you've hidden some important information or even something you think is a gap in your expertise.
  • Keep in touch. The recruitment consultancy you choose should explain how it will work on your behalf, and how it intends to keep you informed about opportunities as they arise - but don't wait for a call. If you want an update on progress or have questions to ask, be proactive and phone in.
  • Go to an interview fully prepared: your recruitment consultant should have told you all about the job, the company, how to handle the interview and even what you should wear. Do your own research, too - look at websites and the trade press.
  • A reputable recruitment consultancy will offer candidates a range of services to help them in their search for a new role, including CV writing support, evaluations and training, interview technique advice and on-job experience. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • And finally - it's best to work with one agency at a time. If you show it your commitment, it will show you commitment in return. But agree on a timescale for finding you a job. If it's taking longer than you both agree, it may be appropriate to talk to another company that has contacts in different areas or sectors of the market.

With thanks to…

Rockford 020 7643 4035

Blue Arrow Catering and Blend Recruitment

A list of affiliated recruitment consultants can be found on www.rec.uk.com

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