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Tips on How Candidates Can Best Use a Recruitment Agency

If you are a new to using a recruitment agency or you have tried to use a recruitment consultancy in the past but have not had the results you were hoping for, then I hope the following blog will give you some guidance as to how you are likely to get the best results in the future.

My main piece of advice is to prepare fully before using a recruitment consultancy.

Let me elaborate on this. I can speak from experience on this, when I say there are genuinely not enough hours in a day to be a recruitment consultant. Often they are juggling numerous assignments for numerous clients whilst speaking with many different candidates on a daily basis. All this on top of actually doing arguably the most difficult part of their job which is trying to establish relationships with companies and winning their trust to let them have their vacancies when they arise.

Therefore a recruitment consultants time is precious and prioritising who they speak to is a major part of what we do in order to make us successful.

1. Research which Recruitment Consultancy is best suited to what you are looking for
For example, if you are a Quantity Surveyor looking for a job in the Middle East then research which consultancies are best suited to finding Quantity Surveying positions in that region. Ask friends who work in the Middle East already if you have them, do some research online or scout the consultancies web-sites and see how many Quantity Surveying positions they have in the specific location.

If you view their web-site and the majority of the vacancies advertised are for jobs in banking and there are only a couple of Quantity Surveying positions advertised, then maybe you need to consider whether they are likely to be the best company to help you find the job you are looking for.

Choose one, or a maximum of 2 recruitment consultancies to start with and use more later if needed.  A recruitment consultant is more likely to be willing and able to add value to your job search if you are not already in contact with many other consultancies. Finding out that you have already given a number of recruitment consultants your CV is a big turn off to the better, more professional recruitment agencies so it makes sense to choose wisely from the start.  In addition, not telling a recruitment consultancy that you have send your CV out to other agencies can cause a variety of problems when this is found out the hard way.

2. Prepare your CV in Advance
I know when you see a job advert that you like the look of, the excitement that it is a perfect job for you may lead you to think sending your CV over that instant is the best thing to do. However wait and think a second; is your CV in its current form going to adequately sell your capabilities to perform in the specific role you are applying for and give the first impression you are hoping for?

Some points to consider relating to preparing your CV:
Make sure any dates are correct on the CV - A good example being, if you are not currently in the most recent position on your CV, make sure this is clearly stated rather than leaving 'to present' in the dates. This is the most common inaccuracy that I see on a CV and it can give off the impression that you have been in too much of a rush to update it. Even worse, it can give the impression that you are trying to give a misleading impression of your current employment situation.

Customise you CV to a specific vacancy where necessary - Most job adverts will clearly state what experience is required to do the position. Use that information! 

Whether it be particular qualifications required or a particular type of project experience that is required, if you have it then sell it. Customise the CV to focus more attention on the aspects of the CV that the employer is looking for and less about previous experiences that are not relevant 

Covering Letter - The art of a covering letter seems to have died out with the rise of internet portals to upload CV's to. Often there is no option to also upload a covering letter. 

However, just because you cannot upload a formal covering letter does not mean you should not sell your suitability for the position where possible. Either write a covering letter and have it built into the 1st page of your CV or if you are allowed to write additional comments with the application then use that to sell your relevant experience. Keep it brief and to the point though. The purpose is to instantly tell the reader what they should be looking for in the CV that is most relevant to the application. This is particularly important for more experienced candidates with varied work experience.

Keep the CV to an absolute maximum of 4 pages - I've always been taught the ideal CV should be 2 pages long. This is great if you can fit everything you want to say into 2 pages. This is my personal opinion, but I do not see any harm in it being slightly longer than 2 pages if it makes the CV easier to read and the extra information is worthwhile.

Avoid huge blocks of text that give it the feel of reading a novel rather than a CV & avoid more than 4 pages as it demonstrates that you are unable to prioritise and summarise.  Further information can be requested if the summary is interesting enough!

3. The Initial Conversation / Interview with a Recruitment Consultant
This is an important one. In my experience these 'conversations' are often far less formal than an actual job interview; at least mine are anyway. This doesn't mean that you aren't being assessed though. It also doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared.

The purpose of a recruitment consultant’s interview with you is to:

1) Determine the suitability of your experience for live vacancies and priority employers

2) Determine a clear brief of what type of position you are looking for. This will include job title, type of company, location, salary expectations and your availability

3) Determine whether you are actually committed to moving jobs currently 

4) Determine whether your expectations are reasonable

5) To determine whether we can achieve a match and successfully sell you to our clients

Be prepared to be asked about salary expectations, notice periods and why you want to move jobs. These questions should come up in every single interview you have. Be ready for them and have the answers ready.  We are regularly complemented on the detailed & rigorous interviewing we do at Maxim – this sorts the premium candidates from the average ones & increases the success rate at interviews that our selected candidates achieve.

4. Know What You Want
This follows on nicely from point 3, but is a big enough issue to be discussed independently. 

Most good recruitment consultants are willing to share their knowledge and experience with you when it comes salaries and locations. I've been recruiting in the Middle East for a long time now and despite never living there, I've spent a good amount of time in the region and with the experience that I have I can advise on the basic living costs and salary bands for construction staff at all levels.

However, if you are looking for a new position (particularly overseas) then I would expect you to have done a certain amount of research into what you are looking for. 

For example if you are looking to move from the UK to Dubai for a quantity surveying, engineering or construction job, this is a big change and not something to be taken lightly. At the very least I would expect the move would have been discussed with the relevant family members involved in the move. Eg. your partner. I would expect a rough plan to be in place to relocate, for example plans in place to rent accommodation in the UK whilst working overseas. Also it is expected that some research would have been done into potentially suitable locations and living costs in each location and what income would be needed to make the whole idea sufficiently attractive.

A recruitment consultant will be far more interested in representing you as a candidate if you can give them confidence that you are serious about a move and this will often be determined by your ability to present to them that you have a clear plan in place for a relocation. A failure to do this may give off the impression that you are just testing the market and do not have intentions to actually make a move.

5. Work Closely with Your Consultant and be Open Book from the Start
Last but not least. In fact, this is arguably the most important point on this list. The key to working with a recruitment consultant is to work together professionally from the very start. Honesty and trust going in both directions is critical.

From the very start the recruitment consultant will be trying to establish a clear brief of what they need to be doing to find you a job that you will accept. If you are serious about working with them then it is vitally important that you are upfront and honest when giving them this brief. 

Don't exaggerate salaries to try and get a better deal. Don't hide other interviews that you are attending or companies you are already in contact with. 

I can guarantee that the recruitment process works most effectively if both parties work together to find the ideal job.  The construction industry is a small world – both in the UK and in the other key regions we regularly recruit for – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore & Malaysia etc.

We all have a vested interest in building a good reputation & believe nearly all the best construction industry candidates use agencies to secure exclusive roles not on the open market and to progress their careers and earning potential.

We look forward to being of assistance!

Stuart Hackett
Maxim Recruitment
Middle East & UK Regions


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