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How to spot a good recruitment agency


Signing up with a good, reputable recruitment agency is a reality of modern jobseeking. But how do you select a reliable and honest agency that will put your interests first? In this feature we explore some of the ways to use a recruitment consultancy to find a job in the most efficient and painless way possible.

It’s a fact that you are more likely to obtain your job through a recruitment firm, but choosing the wrong firm can hurt as much as help your chances. So it’s worth taking some time to select the best company for you.


It may seem common sense, but make sure that the consultancy you choose has a retail specialism. Large, generic agencies might be fine if you’re looking to change industries; but if you’re serious about making retail your career, you’ll want to look at companies that really understand the sector, preferably one where the staff themselves have experience in retail. Take a look at their website and check which retailers they work with. The more, the better!


Of course, it isn’t always possible to tell how professional a company will be until you begin working with them, but there are things you can look at that will give you a good indication. Firstly, check whether the company has any awards or accreditations. Some to look out for are ISO accreditation, which is an internationally recognised measure of a company’s standards and the quality of its service.

Another one to watch for is an Investors in People award, which is awarded to companies who go above and beyond to value and develop their people.

The Sunday Times’ list of Best Companies to Work for is also a great indicator of a company, as this reflects what the people working for that company really think about it. You can look for the logo on an agency’s website to check at a glance whether this has been awarded.


You can tell a lot from whether an agency is prepared to meet you face-to-face. A good, thorough interview will let the consultant get to know you properly and understand what you are looking for in your next job.

When a consultant puts your name forward for a job they are putting their reputation on the line so they need to know you're right for the role; and the best way of doing this is a face-to-face interview at some point in the process.


Always trust a company that gives you lots of information throughout the process, but be aware that their job is to help you through the door by matching your skills to the needs of the client, not get the job for you.

When sending you to an interview with a client, they should point you in the direction of information on the company and the role, as well as provide some tips on the kind of things they will be looking for in the interview. But bear in mind that you will need to put the work in, so don’t rely on them to write an interview script for you.

What you can do

As much as a recruitment agency should be working for you, there are of course things that you can do to contribute to the process. Firstly, try not to work with more than one agency – your consultant will be sending your CV to various companies that are right for you; but, if you have your CV registered with multiple agencies they’ll all be sending it out and you’ll risk the same company getting your CV multiple times, making you look desperate.  The relationship you have with your consultant is a partnership — but if you don’t do all you can to drive the process,

you’ll only have yourself to blame if things stagnate. It's up to you to drive the recruitment process and make sure you're in control of it. This includes agreeing timescales for when your consultant should get back in touch.

Most importantly of all, don’t just back out of agreed interviews or assessment centres. If you are having doubts, tell your consultant as soon as possible, don’t just not turn up. It will damage your consultant’s relationship with the client and your relationship with the consultant as they’re going to be extremely unwilling to put you forward for a role in the future; meaning you could miss out on the job of a lifetime!

Tips to get your agency working for you

• Be professional from the start. Treat the interview as if it were the employer of your dreams asking the questions.

• Be realistic. Recruitment consultants work on vacancies determined by their clients and if your profile doesn't fit the job requirements there's not a lot they can do at that moment.

• Take their advice. If they tell you to visit some stores before the interview, visit some stores. If they suggest you learn as much as you can about the client's competitors, do it!

• Stay on top of the process. It's up to you to drive the recruitment process and make sure you're in control of it. This includes agreeing timescales for when your consultant should get back in touch.

• Never stand them up. This is the most important point, as failing to turn up to a client interview or assessment centre wastes the client's time and damages their relationship with the consultancy. What's more, your unreliability will be attached to your digital record with both firms.

• Don’t complain or hold a grudge if you didn’t get the job. If you can learn from your mistakes so you're better prepared next time around it will have been a worthwhile process...and chances are you'll end up with a new job that’s perfect for you.