Using recruitment agencies to find a job

Updated on 7 June 2024

Many employers, from large multinationals to smaller organisations, use recruitment agencies to fill their vacancies. They can allow you to tap into a wide range of unadvertised jobs, both temporary and permanent.

On this page

What are recruitment agencies and how do they work?

Recruitment agencies are commercial companies that find suitable candidates for their clients (employers).

Agencies should not charge candidates registration fees. The employer pays the recruitment agency to advertise its vacancies. Agencies have targets for sending candidates for interview and they receive payment when a vacancy is filled through them.

Some recruitment agencies may charge you for additional services such as CV writing. Remember that the Careers Service can provide free advice and guidance on your CV and applications.

Types of recruitment agency

There are essentially three main types of recruitment agency:

  • High street agencies - well known recruitment agency chains such as Adecco, Office Angels, Hays, Pertemps, with offices throughout the UK. Others may be independently owned with one or two branches in a particular region. These agencies tend to handle a wide variety of vacancies ranging from administration, accounting, and catering to manual work in both temporary and permanent roles.
  • Specialist agencies - some recruitment agencies will specialise in particular areas, for example: accountancy & finance, languages, education, scientific, IT & engineering, marketing & market research offering temporary and permanent positions. Other agencies also focus on graduate recruitment e.g. Hays, Reed, Discovery.
  • Online agencies The number of online recruitment agencies is growing. There are a number specialising in graduate recruitment such as the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and the Big Choice.

Many sites are genuine but you do need to be aware of scam job websites. Scam job websites may ask for money up front and/or your personal details such as your date of birth which could lead to identity theft. Read the Guardian's guide to spotting job website scams.

How to find a recruitment agency

You can identify recruitment agencies through the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) which promotes good practice and sets standards amongst its member recruitment agencies.

You can check whether a recruitment agency is a member on their website. You can also identify relevant Recruitment Agencies through the Consultancy search tool.

With such a huge number of recruitment agencies (both online and offline), how do you narrow your search?

  • Find out what types of job the Recruitment Agency handles, who their major clients are, how many vacancies they have available and how long it typically takes to place candidates.
  • Look online for any awards, articles or reviews.

You can register with more than one recruitment agency but keep this number manageable otherwise you may be inundated with many unsuitable offers. Local recruitment companies may have the same clients and so may forward your CV to the same employers - check the details in advance.

The following sites offer further advice on using a recruitment agency and allow you to search for agencies by sector:

Registering with an agency

The registration process typically involves completing an application form or submitting a CV. You may also be given a test such as a typing test, a personality or psychometric test, and be interviewed by a recruitment consultant. Your details are then kept on a database until a suitable vacancy arises.

If shortlisted and you are interested in the role, your CV will be forwarded onto the client. It is quite common for the client to be kept confidential until the interview stage. At this stage, you will be given more information about the company.

It is important to contact recruitment agencies on a regular basis to let them know you are still looking for work. It is also a good idea to ask for interview feedback to help you improve your performance.


  • Be clear about the type of role you are looking for and be honest about your skills and experience.
  • Seek advice on the current job market and how employers will view your qualifications and experience.
  • Take as much care over an online CV as you would a written one. Make sure it is up to date before registering. Contact the Careers Service to review your CV
  • Contact the agency with any new updates including new skills and/professional qualifications so they can promote you more effectively.
  • Using an agency should complement your job search strategy rather than replacing it. Be reliable and professional, even when temping.

DUTE (Dundee University Temporary Employees)

The University of Dundee in-house agency allows University graduates a chance to find paid employment within the University.

Learn more about Dundee University Temporary Employees (DUTE)

Employment agencies in the Dundee area