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3 steps for researching a recruitment agency before accepting a job offer

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Compared to other big decisions like moving in with a partner, getting married or buying a house, we choose a new job relatively quickly.

We rummage round the agency’s website and social media, chat through a couple of interviews – and off we go. And then we’re surprised when the reality doesn’t live up to the promises.

Which is why it’s important to do proper research – so you don’t end up signing your life away to a company that won’t make you happy.

But what should you look out for? How can you tell if the sales pitch is more fiction than fact? Here we break down our top recruitment agency research tips so you can make an informed decision.

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Step 1: Identify common areas of bluff

In the same way that some candidates fluff their CV and exaggerate in interviews, some agencies make promises they can’t (or won’t) keep. Thankfully, recruiters tend to exaggerate the same kinds of things, so if you’re eagle-eyed, you can spot the bluffs before they cause you any problems.

Client relationships

You know that person who tells everyone they met Alan Sugar, when really they just walked past him in the street once? Some recruitment agencies are like that with clients.

They’ll name-drop big companies and make out they’re clients. But they don’t actually know the decision makers and influencers within the company – they just know someone from HR or are on a preferred supplier list. Watch out for excessive name dropping that isn’t backed up by concrete examples or figures.

Culture

In interview, no one is going to tell you the annoying things about working there. After all, they know you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

Recruitment agencies have a bad habit of saying you’ll have lots of independence and that there’s great teamwork. But in reality, there’s a culture of back-stabbing, managers breathing down necks and pressure over KPIs.

Look at employee turnover rates, signs of micromanagement and evidence of true teamwork to see if the culture matches the hype.

Development

Many of us (particularly in the recruitment world) picture growing billings fuelled by enriching development opportunities and possibilities for promotion – and these pictures are enhanced by interviewers who promise us the world when it comes to support.

If your interviewer can’t share a career pathway framework or give stats on employee promotion, warning bells should start ringing.

Step 2: Do desk research

Now it’s time to get knee-deep into internet research. We’re talking LinkedIn stalking, Glassdoor reviews – the lot.

LinkedIn

Not only can you look at what an agency posts on their company page, but you can look at the profiles of people who work there to get a feel for things.

Is the agency full of new starters or do people leave after 12 to 18 months? That suggests something is off-putting. How many employees have promotions listed on their profiles? That tells you how seriously the agency takes development.

Glassdoor

Like LinkedIn, Glassdoor is a goldmine. You get the honesty that comes with anonymity (although you have to be conscious of employees with axes to grind because you don’t get both sides of the story).

Have a read of recent Glassdoor reviews, paying particular attention to ‘bluff’ areas like development, client relationships and culture.

Senior management

How long have they been in their roles? Are they active in the industry, attending events, writing articles and posting on social? Do top people in the industry engage with their social media posts?

Culture needs to come from the top down, so if you don’t like what you see from the public-facing persona of the leadership team, you may not like what you find once you start.

Step 3: Ask probing questions

We say it to candidates but often don’t follow our own advice: don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions. Here are a few to get you started:

What technology and tools do you use to support consultants?

In an increasingly connected world, it’s important to have the right tools to do your job. A good CRM, LinkedIn Recruiter licences and data analytics tools are all vital to be a successful recruiter in this day and age.

How do you personally maintain client relationships?

It’s comparatively easy to learn about vacancies and put candidates forward. It’s not as easy to nurture client relationships so you get the inside track on lucrative roles. Any recruiter worth their salt should be able to talk at length about the steps they take to maintain and strengthen their existing relationships – and give you examples.

Can I speak to current employees and clients?

Testimonials aren’t just for marketing services to clients. They’re also invaluable for understanding a potential employer. If they won’t let you speak to current consultants or clients, that should be a massive red flag.

An agency that tells it to you straight

We work as the recruitment partner for leading companies in insurance, financial services and legal – and pride ourselves on being a straight-talking kind of agency. We’re looking for ambitious recruiters to join a team built on long-term relationships and teamwork (and we have the proof to back it up).

Contact Richard on richard.martin@idexconsulting.com or call 0333 700 4339 for a confidential chat about opportunities in Birmingham, Manchester, London and Scotland.