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How to use a recruitment agency

Finding the best recruitment agency when hiring new employees is a great way to help reduce the recruitment burden. Read our guide on how to recruit staff using a recruitment agency.

Most small business owners lack the time and resources for a lengthy recruitment process, so it’s easy to understand why so many turn to recruitment agencies to help recruit staff. It’s far more time effective to hire someone else to advertise and then whittle the number of applicants down to a manageable number, while allowing you to concentrate on managing your business. A recruitment agency will sort through applicants, filter the best ones and check references, meaning you only have to interview and choose the one you want.

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Recruitment agencies often have hundreds of candidates on their database and, with excellent contacts and network, have access to skilled employees. Using an agency may also remove the cost of advertising a job, and hiring temporary work through a recruitment agency can be cheaper than paying existing staff to work overtime.

Choosing the best recruitment agency

Research agencies to find the best match for your company. Some agencies are specialised to the industry or job level you’re looking to recruit for while others cater to a wider audience. Agencies that are tailored to agriculture and food industries are known as ‘gangmasters’ and are regulated by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

Consider whether the agency has worked for businesses similar to yours, check any testimonials from previous customers and decide how involved you want be in the recruitment process.

Recruitment agency costs

Using a recruitment agency can be more expensive than directly recruiting yourself. The amount a recruitment agency charges will depend on the role and its salary range. With permanent positions, fees typically consist of a percentage of the recruited employee’s annual salary, with percentages ranging form 10% for junior positions all the way up to 20% for senior roles.

Different fees apply for temporary workers and temporary positions that become permanent. A temporary employee fee will tend to be their salary plus a percentage on top. If a temporary worker becomes a permanent employee, the agency has the right to charge a transfer fee to cover the loss of that worker’s value.

To avoid dispute down the line, always check and clarify an agency’s fee structure before entering into a formal contract.

Get the best from your recruitment agency

Following these top tips will let you get the best from a recruitment agency and help you hire the best staff.

• Write a precise job specification for the vacancy. The more detail you provide, the easier it will be for the recruitment agency to find someone suitable. Consider which criteria are essential and which are optional.

• Make time for the recruitment agency and process. If you’re too busy to reply to your recruiter or interview candidates, you risk losing good candidates who are offered jobs elsewhere. Using multiple recruitment agencies often has a negative effect, so consider giving exclusivity to just one. An exclusive contract should have a lower fee.

• Provide regular feedback about candidates you’ve interviewed so the agency can find applicants who are a better match for the role.

• Consider using the same agency to hire multiple staff. Not only will you have continuity in communication and process, the more jobs you offer them, the less you may pay in commission.


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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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