At some point in your job search, someone might have suggested to you that you try a recruitment agency. These are organisations that help client companies, small and large, fill temporary and permanent job roles. Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the big ones, Hays, Kelly Services? You might be less aware of some of the smaller niche outfits though. But they are worth considering.
Remember recruitment agencies are driven by the need to fill vacancies. Make sure you consider carefully what you want to do and don’t expect completely impartial careers advice. But consider also that recruitment consultants have a good understanding of the current job market and access to regional, national and international employers.
So how can you best make use of their services? I spoke to two recruitment consultants – Victoria Walker, Team Leader at CK Science and James Windridge, Regional Manager of SRG – with 20 years of experience between them – about what you can do to make best use of their services. This is the pick of what they had to say:
1. Get to know your specialist consultant:
Whatever you’re interested in, there are specialist agencies and consultants – you can use this site to find them. According to James Windridge;
“All of us have backgrounds in science industries so we can talk with science graduates about their interests and degree. Each consultant specialises in a certain area – food, chemicals, life sciences, etc. We can also talk to students about what area they’re interested in.”
Victoria Walker of CK Science, commented;
“In the chemical sector that I deal with, there are roles in regulatory affairs, technical sales, quality assurance, as well as data entry and auditing roles – a broad range.”
2. Keep the Dialogue Flowing:
Check in regularly with your consultant or agency. Victoria Walker suggested;
“If you check in regularly, approximately once a month (or straight away if you feel you’re a perfect match or if something has changed with your circumstances), we get to know what sort of thing you are looking for and we are better able to feed back to you on your applications.”
Try to get at least 10 minutes on the phone with a consultant who knows your target area when you sign up to an agency. Check in if you need more information on a job role, an opinion on your CV. But avoid being a pest!
3. Be flexible but honest:
Being even a little more flexible with your job requirements can pay off in the long term.
“Try and be as flexible as possible and consider relocating or driving a bit further if you can. Be realistic about salary – £16k-£18k is more realistic for entry level roles in the chemical field than £20k-£25k at the moment.”
On the other hand, Victoria suggested that graduates have a tendency to say yes to a job role when they’re not genuinely interested. Think carefully about your concerns or reservations. Also check the job details to make sure you’re eligible. Whatever you do, if you’re scheduled for an interview, think about the consequences before pulling out.
“Graduates sometimes get cold feet before the interview and don’t turn up. This is a shame – it gives a bad impression. Interviews are a great way to practise so you get more confident – you can also chat to people at the interview and other opportunities may present themselves.”
4. Consider the value of testing an employer out
Agencies offer temporary opportunities that can lead to permanent roles. At SRG about 60% of temporary placements end up in offers of permanent employment.
“Our temporary roles average 7 months in length due to the requirement for lab training so they offer a balance of stability and flexibility – if you don’t feel you fit in, then you don’t have to stay.”
This means you’re not locked in to a job that doesn’t work for you. In addition, agencies are a source of jobs not advertised elsewhere – that’s true of approximately 50% of SRG’s jobs!
5. Don’t rely on Agencies to do all the work
Although recruitment consultants can be an excellent source of market knowledge and will give you feedback on your CV if you ask for it, don’t sit back and expect the roles to come to you without any work. According the James Windridge:
“We will always review your CV against the criteria required for the job but we do send your actual CV to the clients so make sure you get evidence on your CV that relates to the job role. Many students leave off important information – projects, research they have done. Also check spelling, grammar etc. Employers will reject candidates however much we push them if they get a bad CV. We do give free CV advice.”
In addition, most employers are still looking for evidence of some work experience or areas where you have developed key skills. Victoria Walker again:
“I recommend candidates do work shadowing, volunteer, get IT training, learn a language – anything that avoids gaps developing on your CV”.
Our recent blog on what to do if you don’t have an internship might help you to think of how you might use your time to boost your CV. The suggestions can apply just as well to what you do after university as to vacations.
Remember an agency can be part of your job search strategy , it shouldn’t be the whole of it!
6. Agencies may be a good source of niche roles
Although SRG has seen fewer graduate roles come onto its books in recent years, the demand for Chemistry graduates is still high.
“Chemistry as a degree is more in demand, particularly as fewer universities offer a pure Chemistry degree now. But what I would say is that we are seeing more opportunities for Masters and PhD students, so I would encourage postdoc candidates to consider us as part of their job search strategy.”
If you are a Chemistry Student looking for opportunities, you may find CK Science Chemistry Careers pages useful – they have industry overviews and case studies you can view.