A recruitment agency provides services to both employers and job seekers. They make profits by successfully placing job seekers into specific jobs and charging the employers (not the job seeker) a fee for doing so. They also place temporary staff in organisations, charge employers an hourly rate and the worker is paid by the agency. The use of a recruitment agency to find staff is very well developed in the UK and is an industry worth about 25 billion pounds annually. Over thousands of agencies exist and like any diverse industry, agencies come in all shapes and sizes.
There are important differences between temporary agency workers, and people who have found a fixed-term or permanent job through an employment agency. Companies often use an employment agency to find them suitable candidates for a vacancy, for reasons outlined below. In this situation, your employment contract would be with the company that hires you, rather than the employment agency.
As an agency worker you will either have a contract for service or a contract of employment with the agency who finds you work. This work is often called ‘temporary work’, ‘temping’ or ‘agency work’.
The firm who hires you pays a fee to the agency, and the agency pays your wages. Flexibility for both worker and employer is one of the features of agency work. As an agency worker you have the flexibility to take up and leave jobs at short notice. The hiring company also has the flexibility to finish temporary work without being liable for unfair dismissal or redundancy pay. You should check your contract with your agency as it may include a notice period you may be obliged to give.
There are a huge number of recruitment agencies in the UK. They are also known as recruitment companies, recruitment consultancies, and search and selection companies. The clients that they serve and the role that they play vary considerably. Agencies can be High Street-based and deal with a wide range of opportunities such as Reed or Office angels. There are also specialist agencies that focus on a particular area or sector. This is often the case where the skill set required by the client company is very specific, such as in IT. There are also a number of large recruitment companies, often based in large cities, which deal with graduate-entry jobs through to senior executive roles. These companies are often divided into specialist departments focusing on a particular trade sector or business area.
Recruitment agencies are profit-making, and their primary aim is to make money, not to ensure your happiness. The implications are that often agencies will be interested only in those people they can place in jobs fairly easily, so if you don’t have much in the way of experience or skills, or you have struggled a bit in terms of your qualifications, they are quite within their rights not to help you. In addition, time is of the essence. Agencies need to place people in well-paid jobs, and the quantity of placements is important for them. There is a question of whether you end up in the right job for you, or whether you get the first job on their books that might suit. Regardless of these more cynical insights, it is true to say that recruitment agencies do rely on repeat business. Many also have to refund a percentage of their fee to an employer, if the individual doesn’t stay with that organization for an agreed period of time. This does mean that there is a longer-term relationship between the agency and the employer, as well as the agency and the job seeker, which means a successful placement is important in business terms as well.