Guidance on choosing a recruitment agency

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Choosing a recruitment agency

A recruitment agency will help you save time and reach candidates. However, looking for a recruitment agency can be a very daunting task as there’s so much to consider, but don’t worry because we are here to help you make that step.


First, let’s clarify the definitions. 

The following definitions are contained within the Conduct Regulations/the Act: 

  • An employment agency (or recruitment agency) – introduces candidates/jobseekers to be employed or engaged directly on a permanent or temporary basis including for a fixed period by the client. 
  • An employment business (or staffing agency) – engages and pays workers directly and supplies their services to a client who will direct or control the worker in the course of their work. 

In this article, we will be talking about recruitment agencies, supplying candidates for permanent positions. 


If you were looking for a particular skill, e.g., IT or teaching, you could look for a niche or specialist recruiter. The most persuasive reason to hire a specialist recruiter is that they know your industry inside and out. Specialist recruiters, like us, are already experts in their relevant areas and do not need to be bought up to speed with language, jargon, and industry requirements. They already have a database full of candidates with the right qualifications and experience. The downside, you may need to engage with multiple specialist agencies, for each “specialist role”, e.g. HR, Accountancy, Supply Chain Operations. 

That’s not to say, of course, that generalist recruiters have no skilled workers on their books, but a specialist recruiter can save you vital time in your recruitment drive.


Contingency recruitment is effectively a no-win-no-fee arrangement. Retained recruitment means you pay a fee upfront for an agency’s work on the search. The advantage of retained recruitment to you is evidence of commitment to hire and a closer partnership. It is usually used when hiring senior executives or niche specialists. 

Contingency recruitment would normally mean working with several agencies and, therefore, potentially access to a wider pool of candidates, but it can be more “messy”, with several agencies to brief and coordinate with. It’s a good choice if you’re a large business with many vacancies opened, that would help to fill them quickly. If you are a small business, you can also use a contingency recruitment model, but use a maximum of 2 agencies or even offer exclusivity to the agency you trust in return for a discount. By offering exclusivity, not only will you get a better price, but also a commitment to find the right candidate. This particularly is relevant when there is a skill shortage in the market.  


A larger agency might have a huge number of potential candidates, but smaller agencies, by their nature, are more personal to you and more personal to their candidates, meaning they can assess how well an employer and candidate will match. Large recruitment agencies tend to be more generalist in their services because they cover a wide variety of job roles. Both have their advantages, of course, so you need to think about what works best for your company.


Don’t be afraid to “interview” your potential agency. Meet with them and ask them anything you feel you need to know. A reputable agency will be happy to meet and go through everything you need.

  • Ask them how they advertise roles to see how up-to-date they are with their recruitment practices. If they reply that they advertise only on their website or on one job site, you should be concerned. Check if they have active social media pages, with at least one of the social media channels. E.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (depending on vacancy it could be a different social media channel)  
  • Ask them what is their recruitment process. Do they just advertise or also use third-party CV databases, and is any headhunting involved. This part is particularly important if you consider offering exclusivity to the agency. 
  • The more they get to know both sides – the business and the candidate – the more likely they will choose appropriate candidates for your business. You should check that they meet with the candidates by video call or in real life and the same goes for their process of getting to know you. The questions they ask you about your business will reflect their diligence in the type of service they provide.
  • Ask what happens should a new employee not work out. Of course, this can happen for many reasons outside of anyone’s control, but the agency’s policy will highlight their aftercare processes and their confidence in finding you a great match.
  • Do your research on costs. Look up how much you can expect to pay agencies in general and consider your recruitment budget. You can usually get a discount from the agency if: you offer them exclusivity /or/ and multiple roles within a short period (e.g. within a year). 
  • Check with the Agency if they are members of a recruitment body. This will give you the assurance that they are trained, and follow best practices and within the law. Ask how they ensure they comply with GDPR when dealing with employees. You want to deal with an agency that is taking good care of people’s personal data. 
  • Be careful with the agency that tends to do hard sales on you. You don’t want to engage with an agency that first “hard sale” their services on you and then “hard sale” your job to candidates. Starting a new job is a risk for both candidate and employer. Both need to make an informed decision, without pressure, and rush. 

Once you picked your agency/agencies speak to them regularly about your future recruitment needs. This will help recruitment agency, to plan their talent attraction activities, and focus more on profiles you are looking to hire in the near future. 

If you are in the food or drink business and would like to discuss any of your needs with us or have any questions about what we provide or how we can help you, please do get in touch at 0192 394 3939 or