A good recruitment consultant can be a career-maker. So what do they offer jobseekers and are there any downsides? Rosalind Mullen reports
The great thing about a crack recruitment consultant is that the benefits work both ways. The jobseeker gains from their industry experience and contacts, ensuring they are matched with the perfect role for them, while the employer saves recruitment time by filling a vacancy quickly with the right talent.
Many consultants will give you advice on how to write a sparkling CV and handle yourself at interview, although they work in a variety of ways. At Caterek, managing director Emma Kelleher says candidates are held on a list and approached when a suitable vacancy comes up. Before her team sends an applicant for interview, they brief them on the company's website, history of the company and so on. They also encourage the applicant to visit the business - to have a drink or a meal.
"Our job is to get the right candidate," says Kelleher. "We have more knowledge of the employers as we have worked with them for a long time and we can match them with a better candidate."
A good consultant will certainly only send out your CV if it fits the job requirement and company culture. The other advantage is that if the consultant's judgement is respected by the employer, your application will get straight to the decision-maker rather than being lost in a pile of CVs.
An experienced consultant will also know which companies would give you relevant training, and they are particularly useful when you reach managerial level as they help to negotiate salaries and benefits.
Arguably, they are also useful if you fail at interview. "We stay involved and get feedback from the company if the candidate is unsuccessful. This then helps with the applicants' next application," explains Kelleher.
As in any industry, not all agents are reliable. But a list of affiliated recruitment consultants can be found through the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (www.rec.uk.com). In addition, there are some pointers that sort the good ones from the bad. Read on for first-hand information on what to look out for…
The cruise ship consultant
Who? Paul Rutterford
What? Marine recruitment manager
Where? Viking Recruitment
Which roles are in demand and which are the hardest to fill in the cruise ship sector? We always have positions to fill, from stewardesses on super-yachts and waiters on cruise vessels, to high-ranking managers, including sous and executive chefs. Super-yacht chef positions are probably the toughest to fill as the owners have high criteria, including specific dietary and cuisine requests that chefs need to be able to cater for.
How do you help someone to progress their career? If a candidate with little experience contacts us, we advise them how to get suitable experience in order to break into the cruise or yacht industry. It's reassuring then, when they come back a year or so later and you can see they have followed our advice to get into the industry. Most employees we deal with require some previous high-end hospitality experience - even for the most junior positions.
What level of staff do you work with? We work with all levels. Within the cruise sector we seek stewardesses, waiters and bar tenders with some experience relevant to a high-end luxury cruise brand right through to executive chefs and hotel managers and directors with a careers' worth of experience. It's worth noting that there are plenty of opportunities for hospitality professionals to cross over from hotels and restaurants as the skills are transferable.
How do jobseekers get on your books? We have an online database where candidates register their details and CV. We also have a website showing vacancies. The jobseeker makes contact. We don't always see them face-to-face as we work for international employers. As a result, their CV is crucial.
What should the jobseeker look for in a recruitment consultant? Experience. I previously worked onboard cruiseships for over 10 years and so we have relevant industry knowledge on what employers require.
Are there any pitfalls in using a recruitment consultant? Only that it can be frustrating when using a recruitment consultant as opposed to going direct to the company due to the time it can sometimes take to get answers. However, our clients come to us because they are looking for suitable qualified professionals to fill their positions. Many vessels are constantly recruiting, others want someone yesterday. It varies.
Any tips on how jobseekers should market themselves? The CV is the key - make sure it is concise, professional and to the point - two pages is the maximum with relevant information for the position you are going for. Make sure it stands out. We do see CVs that don't sell the candidate enough and, therefore, wouldn't get the attention from the client they should. You have to sell yourself. Many employers now require a photo as they are always looking for the right fit.
The cross-sector consultant
Who? Krishnan Doyle
Are there many vacancies in hospitality at the moment? We've noticed a big upturn on the numbers we handle - especially in the international sector. In the UK, the main areas of growth are within business development (sales-led) and finance positions.
Why would a jobseeker use you to advance their career? We cover vacancies in a variety of sectors - retail, events, leisure, catering, hospitality, facilities management, pubs and clubs. We can give applicants advice on new sectors to move into. We take time to get to know the candidates we represent - listening to their expectations, not only in terms of salary but culture-fit and other conditions, which are also important.
What roles do you handle? Broadly, we cover management (assistant manager, department head through to board-level roles); chefs (chef de partie through to executive and development roles); head office, including all levels of finance, marketing, HR, sales, and so on.
What should a jobseeker do to get on your books? We have an internal database of 110,000 applicants. A high percentage of our placed applicants come from referrals. We've found a huge increase in the number of people applying direct on our website. We also advertise on many different websites, although over the past few years we have found this less effective due to the number of non-relevant applicants.
How can a jobseeker get the most out of their recruitment consultant? Choose an agent within your sector or the sector that you want to work in. Write a tailored application and try to focus your CV for the job role you are applying for. Some of our consultants receive up to 300 applications a day, so it's a good idea to try to make your application stand out. Our consultants have all also worked in the sector so they are best placed to offer solid advice to jobseekers.
Any advice on choosing an agent? It's important that you use an agent who you trust and is knowledgeable about the market. The advantage of using one is that they already have the established connections into businesses, but make sure you track what they are doing. Ask them to confirm when and who they are sending your CV to. It's also important that you are completely honest with your consultant - it doesn't help you, the consultant or their client if you're interviewing for a role you're not interested in.
Any tips on how to write a great CV? Try to be bespoke - tailor your CV to the roles you are applying for. Make the most out of your CV by giving as much detail as possible. It's always a good idea to put in websites or a small description of the businesses you have worked for as the employer may not know them.
The upmarket consultant
Who? John Silvert
What? Managing director
Where? Silvert Service
What's different about your consultancy? We specialise in the high-end and work with lots of Relais & Chateaux, Michelin star and AA Red Star employers. We do straight recruitment, then you could come back here in two or three years when it's time to move on. I am a door-opener for places that people would be scared to contact.
What do you set out to achieve? We focus on helping people to have a career rather than just a job. We have experience in this industry and work with clients whose businesses we understand. This industry can lose good people because many agents don't understand it. We make sure we know what the kitchen looks like, the number of bedrooms the hotel has and whether the employer is on the way up or the way down, so we can make the best match for the candidate.
How do you get the right match between jobseeker and employer? We get to know that person - the logistics of family, location and the type of role that would suit them. We help prepare the candidate for interview and give pointers on the sort of information the employer will need to know. This bespoke method gives a far greater success rate. We improve their confidence.
But what do you need from the jobseeker? There needs to be mutual trust and we need to know that the applicant can do the job before we send off their CV. We need to know what their ambition is so we can give them a comprehensive view of opportunities.
The chef consultant
Who? Murray Chapman
What? Chef consultant
Where? First Contact Chefs
Tell us about your pet project Well, I am a co-founder of a Passion to Inspire, which was developed as a forum for the employer to meet, talk and work with their future employees in colleges. In addition, it offers an opportunity for lecturers to network with high-profile local employers.
And how do you help jobseekers in your day job? If I believe someone is a bad employer I don't work with them. We look at the applicant and understand them. If their jobsearch criteria doesn't match their experience, we nurture them to grow. With some employers, I negotiate a training structure for the applicant.
Tell us how you guide job seekers towards the best job for them We have a mentorship system to help applicants go into the interview confidently and prepared. We research the job and brief them. If the applicant is invited to do a stage, we tell them to open the fridge - see the quality of food, feel the ambiance of the workplace. If you don't like it walk away. There are other jobs out there.
What should applicants be aware of when choosing an agency? A lot of agencies just spin CVs out. Applicants must trust the agency they work with and must tell them not to send their CV out without permission. You need to be honest, as the information you give us becomes your personal search criteria and through that we match you with a suitable job.
job hunting tips
â- Find out where your CV is being sent. Be aware that some less scrupulous agencies will fire off your CV to lots of employers without respecting the integrity of the individual
â- You need to stay in the loop and be active in choosing the jobs you are interested in