The majority of UK contractors will make use of recruitment agencies to secure their contracts. It is the easiest way to locate and apply for a relevant contract, making your job hunting time more fruitful. Most clients will give their vacancies to recruiters as they will have a bigger search pool and can therefore generally fill the contracts quicker, so for most, both clients and contractors alike, recruitment agencies make useful and highly beneficial intermediaries.
However, most contractors will not get the most out of their agencies. Too often contractors feel like they are being taken for a ride, and although this may sometimes be true, it is also often the case that the contractor is not making the most out of an opportunity. Recruiters generally want to get a vacancy filled as quickly as possible. The less time spent per vacancy the better and they will be juggling a number of vacancies at the same time. So with all of the other people they might be dealing with at a given moment, you need to get yourself noticed.
- Business Profile.
Your business profile (the IR35 friendly term for a CV) is your first opportunity to get yourself noticed. When applying for a specific role, ensure you have tailored your business profile to that role. Critically, you will want to make sure the important information is clearly laid out on the front page. The recruiter is likely to be flicking through a bunch of profiles very quickly (time is money remember) so putting what grade you received for an irrelevant subject you took at secondary school is a waste of space on the front page. This is where you want every aspect that the recruiter is looking for listed, with your experience in that subject, preferably with measurable results, e.g. “I boosted my client’s sales by 12% over three months by…” Don’t forget to keep it to short bullet points, no recruiting agent has time for your essay.
It is very common that contractors will use the online application for a job and then wait for a response. That’s it. You need to be proactive in chasing down leads by following up applications with a phone call to the agent. An e-mail is not enough. Don’t forget to chase up a week later and two weeks later or when an agent has promised you a response but not adhered to their deadline. This will not only ensure the agent knows you and perhaps build a relationship with the agent, but if you are not going to get the job, then you will know straight away and can move on with as little wasted time as possible. If you’re not comfortable with a direct chasing phone call, then dress it up with questions about the role. Remember to be polite, friendly and firm but not too pushy. You don’t want the agent to be annoyed by your calls but neither do you want to be left at the bottom of the pile.
- Know Your Worth.
Probably one of the keys to job hunting is knowing your contract rate and how low you are willing to go, will you take a contract which is not IR35 friendly if it is for the right rate, will you take a contract which is not necessarily right for you etc. It is also important to take note of the current market health. At times when there is a lot of demand for contracts, you may want to be less picky as there will be lots of candidates for the same role, whereas at times of demand for contractors, you may be able to negotiate better rates and hold out for better contracts.
Remember when using recruitment agencies, that they are mutually beneficial. They help you get contracts that you might otherwise not have found and you help fill them. Having a killer profile, maintaining good rapport with agents and knowing when to quit are key to getting the most out of your job hunting.