6 Things Recruitment Consultants Wish Job Seekers Knew


Recruitment agencies play an important role in the current job market. For businesses, we serve as a skilled and knowledgeable task force to make the process of finding the perfect new employee easier for them. For job seekers, we serve the purpose of connecting you straight to the ideal position in the ideal company.

And while recruitment agencies are dedicated to finding the best solution for their clients and candidates, it’s a process that has to work both ways. That’s why we have put together this list of things every agency wishes all job seekers understood about the recruitment process.

1. You have to apply like you mean it

Recruitment agencies receive hundreds of CVs every day. Depending on the size of the agency, this can make the screening process pretty overwhelming for the consultant handling the position. As much as we would like to thoroughly go through each and every CV we receive, sometimes it’s just not possible.

That’s why it’s so important to a) know exactly what the job you’re applying for entails; b) know where the job is; and c) have a neat and updated CV that is easy to follow and that contains all the information we would need to gauge your level of skill and experience.

It’s immediately apparent to us whether you are applying for the job because you genuinely want it or are just applying for any position you see. If you haven’t taken the time to read through the job advert to make sure that it’s relevant to your studies or previous work experience, it’s unlikely that your CV will make it past the screening stage.

To have the best chance of being successful, ask yourself the following questions before applying:

  • Have I read through the advert and do I understand what is required of the successful candidate?
  • Do I meet all of the minimum requirements listed in the advert?
  • Will I be able to fulfil all of the duties and responsibilities listed in the advert?
  • Will I enjoy this position? (This point is vital.)
  • Do I have a neat, updated CV typed in a clearly legible font like Calibri, Arial or Helvetica?
  • Does my CV contain all of my necessary personal information (name, surname, ID number, contact details, marital status and number of dependents)?
  • Does my CV contain the details of my secondary and tertiary education, including the place of study, highest qualification and the year it was completed?
  • Does my CV contain a list of previous positions I have held, the companies I worked for, the month and year I joined and left each company as well as a brief description of my duties and responsibilities in each position?
  • Have I included a list of people that the agency or company can contact for a reference?
  • Have I made sure that my CV contains no spelling and grammar mistakes?

Once you are sure that you can answer ‘yes’ to all of the points on this list, you can be sure that your CV has a good chance of being shortlisted.

Even with all of this checked off, however, there are still a few snags that you could encounter in the application process, which brings us to our next point.

2. Photos are not always helpful

You’re 100% certain that you’re exactly what the client is looking for, you’ve updated your CV and are sure that you’ve done everything in your power to guarantee that all the information in it is correct, relevant and that it communicates well. The only thing you still need to include is a photo. Being able to put a face to the name has to help the process, right?


Well, sometimes wrong, anyway.



While some of the examples in the image above are admittedly a bit on the extreme side, they do go to show just how much a picture can influence how you perceive someone you don’t know. Selfies, angled photos or candid photos where you do not look neat and professional could lead to us immediately disregarding your application. Since all we know about you is what you send to us, the kind of photo you apply with can say a lot about who you are and your approach to your career.

If you’re planning to send a photo along with your CV, you should be sure that the photo is going to help sell your application to the company. This isn’t a situation where just any old photo of you will do and if you’re at all in doubt, rather don’t send one at all.

There are times when your consultant may request a photo to send along with your application, however, in which case you can use the following tips as a guideline for a great professional photo:

  • Always take a front-facing photo of your head and shoulders
  • While it’s not necessary to use an expensive camera to take the photo (most cellphone cameras take decent enough pictures these days) it’s important to make sure that your photo is not too dark or too bright and that it’s a high enough resolution so that it doesn’t look blurry and pixelated
  • Pay attention to what might be in the background! There are few things more off-putting than seeing a toilet bowl or a messy bedroom over someone’s shoulder. A blank stretch of wall is an ideal background
  • Make sure that you look presentable, that your hair is neat and, if you wear makeup, that it is professional and work-appropriate
  • While suits and ties aren’t always necessary, make sure that what you are wearing is along the lines of what you would wear to a job interview. If we have already contacted you and given you a bit of information about the client, it’s a good idea to have a look at the staff photos on the client’s website to get an idea of the company dress code
  • While there are companies that are more relaxed about things like tattoos, colourful hair and facial piercings, as a general rule of thumb it is better to assume that the company you are applying for is conservative and to present yourself accordingly

A photo could be a brilliant addition to your application provided that it is done correctly. Now that you have added a good one to your application, you’re certain that you should be able to apply without any further worries.

However, before we shortlist you, there is another place where we’re likely to look to get an idea of who you are and it’s unfortunately where so many applications fall apart.

3. Social Media can either make or break your application

A good recruitment consultant will do their utmost to make sure that the candidates that they send to their client are not only qualified to do the job, but are also a good culture match for the company. It’s not always possible to do this just based on a short CV and a photo, so the consultant will use what the majority of recruitment agencies and companies nowadays use when vetting potential candidates: Facebook.

While it’s not possible to see all your posts, your public posts can give us an idea of who you are and how you think. If what is posted is crude or offensive, or doesn’t line up with the client’s values and ethics, we may have to disregard your application.

To combat this, go through your timeline and look for posts that you think might harm your application and either delete them or change your privacy settings. While no one is expecting you to police everything you post, it’s helpful to know that Facebook is never as private as you think it is, and because it’s something most people use daily, it’s a useful tool for recruitment consultants and potential employers to get an idea of your personality and values.

4. It’s not always your fault

So you’ve double and triple-checked the advert and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you could do this job. You’ve scoured your CV and are certain that it’s up to date, contains all the necessary information and that it’s neat and professional. There is nothing crude, offensive or unprofessional on your Facebook timeline and you’ve sent in a great head-and-shoulders photo.

And yet, despite all of this, you don’t get a response to your application.

It’s at this point that many people become disheartened and doubt themselves and their chances of finding the perfect job. What we sometimes wish we could tell you, however, is that it might not be your fault.

Sometimes clients are looking for candidates from a specific age group or candidates with rare skills and experience that not everyone has. Sometimes, even though you are a wonderful candidate, we’ll hesitate to put you forward for a position, knowing that your personality and the personalities of those already at the company will not mesh well. None of these things is because of you or your application – it’s just the way this industry works.

Don’t stop applying for positions that interest you just because you haven’t been successful in your previous applications. The perfect job, one where you will thrive and the company will flourish from having you there, is out there and the only way you’ll find it is by trying until you do. Most of the time, if you are a truly brilliant candidate but just not right for the position that you applied for, we will hold onto your CV and remember your name when the perfect position does come along. So don’t give up!

5. Interviews are your responsibility

Recruitment consultants, more than most people in the world, understand how difficult the job market is. We know that the application process can be daunting and intimidating, especially as it’s not a process that you often go through. And so, as much as our goal is to find the perfect candidate for our client, at the same time a good recruitment consultant should be looking out for you, the job seeker. By the time that you have been shortlisted, we should consider you as much as a priority as the client we are sending your CV to.

That is why it’s frustrating and disheartening for us when you show up unprepared for your interviews, or otherwise don’t show up at all.

The harsh reality is that not showing up for an interview, or receiving negative feedback from the client after an interview, harms your professional reputation. And since we don’t know you personally and can only work with what we know from dealing with you professionally, this can often lead to you being marked as non-referable, meaning that you won’t be considered for any future positions that you apply for with us.

This is all completely avoidable, though. We’re human. We understand that sometimes things outside your control happen and that often doubts and second thoughts might arise. We understand that navigating interviews while you’re currently employed is difficult. We understand that you don’t know all there is to know about the company and the position that you are being interviewed for. So communicate with us! If you have questions, ask them. If you have concerns, voice them. If you have difficulty finding a time to schedule your interview, let us know so that we can help you.

At the end of the day, we can only do so much. The rest is up to you to ensure that you have everything you need to market yourself to the client as effectively as possible.

6. You have to play by the rules

The reason clients hire agencies to help them with their recruitment needs is that it saves them time and energy that they can then use in other areas of their business. We take over the task of screening CVs and communicating with you so that our clients aren’t bombarded with calls and emails from hundreds of different people. By applying for a position through us, you as the job seeker agree to follow our terms and procedures. This allows the recruitment process to run smoothly and in a way that benefits everyone involved.

This in part means that when you apply through an agency you shouldn’t, under any circumstance, approach the client yourself. In approaching the client directly, you make yourself as well as the recruitment agency look unprofessional. This may hurt your chances of being hired and can also damage the relationship between us and the client, meaning that we will likely not put you forward for any future positions for fear of the same thing happening again in the future.

Always ask us if you are unsure of anything, whether it’s an aspect of the job or even just for directions to the interview. If we can’t give you an answer straight away, we will certainly ask the client for the information on your behalf. This also means you should make sure that you keep your lines of communication open. Not answering your phone or emails on a regular basis will make you look unreliable and unprofessional.

It’s also vitally important that you know what you want from your career before you commit to a position. While you are perfectly within your rights to withdraw your candidacy at any time after applying for the position, only voicing concerns or accepting other offers and counteroffers after you agree to take our client’s offer is just as frustrating for the client as it is for us and will likely make you a non-referable candidate going forward.

At the end of the day, our main goal as recruitment consultants is to match the perfect candidate to the perfect position. To have the best chance of being that perfect candidate, you have to be on our side and help us in the process as far as you possibly can. Google what you aren’t sure about and if you’re still not certain of something after that, ask about it. Prepare as much as you can. Make sure that you know what you can bring to the position that you’re applying for and market yourself enthusiastically and professionally at all times.

The main thing your recruitment consultant wants you to know is that they are there to help, but they can only help you as much as you let them.