Graduate recruitment agencies can certainly help you start your career, but there are some things you need to know before you sign up.

Graduate recruitment agencies connect graduates with employers. Employers typically use recruitment agencies to handle the legwork involved in sifting through applications, while graduates will find recruitment consultants to be a great resource in finding the perfect career with an ideal company.

If you're thinking of using a graduate recruitment agency, here are a few things you need to know before you dive in.

1. Specialities

Before firing your CV off to every recruitment agency in the northern hemisphere, have a think about the kind of role you are looking for. Many recruitment agencies specialise in specific areas and have built a range of contacts in their field. A little bit of research will help you find the right agency for you.

For example, if you want to work in Media or Marketing, there is Aspire /gjs/aspire.jsp. If you want a career in Property, there is Trident International Associates. There are also numerous general graduate recruitment agencies, such as Wiser Graduates , Vine Graduate and Graduate Fasttrack.

2. Agencies are businesses

A common misconception about recruitment agencies is thinking they operate similarily to a job centre or Careers Service. In reality, recruitment agencies are businesses looking to make a profit for their work. But don't worry, they don't charge you… at least not initially.

Recruitment agencies succeed by placing candidates in roles, a service for which they either gain a fee directly from the employer or receive a small percentage of the candidate's salary for several months. This means they only get paid if you get paid.

No initial fee means you can spread your bets and use several recruitment agencies. Don't just hope one agency will find you your perfect job, sign up with as many as you can!

3. Screening

Agencies are always eager to find quality candidates to put forward to their clients. Once you make contact, you may be invited to a screening interview to discuss your career ambitions, your experience and work through your CV. Agencies will use this opportunity to vet you as a candidate.

Treat this meeting like an interview. It is imperative you show your recruitment consultant that you are the real deal and you will perform if they put your forward for an interview. The usual rules apply: dress appropriately, be punctual and show some enthusiasm.

Your consultant may suggest some alternative career paths in this first meeting. Keep an open mind and remember they are professionals with a greater understanding of the industry and job market than you.

4. Your own personal agent

If you prove yourself a viable and impressive candidate, the consultant will likely become your point of contact at the agency. From here, they will work to find you the best graduate job. Consultants can become contacts for life, so make sure you cultivate a good relationship—you may turn to them again a few years down the line when you are ready to progress in your career.

Be available and helpful, but don't badger them. Recruitment consultants don't aim to find you just any job, rather they will search for the right job. After all, if you leave after a few weeks or months it reflects badly on them. Keep in mind that you both have the same aim and try and help them as much as you can—which means returning calls and keeping an eye on anything they send through.

5. Don't rely on them

As mentioned earlier, you should make use of as many recruitment agencies as possible. The more people you have helping you with your job hunt, the sooner your dream career will be found. But while your recruitment consultant will do their best to find you a position, don't rely solely on them—you still need to do your share of the work.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Try out the range of new search functions on graduate-jobs.com which help you filter relevant jobs. Or upload your CV to our database—it's free and is used by hundreds of graduate employers.

6. Who are you working for?

Recruitment agencies are often quite secretive about who you might potentially work for. The main reason for the lack of disclosure is to make sure they aren't cut out of the transaction. Don't worry too much if you're not sure which company the position is with. Try instead to match the role to your skills and ambitions.

One more issue to be aware of is that recruitment agencies often recruit through their own services. Recruitment consultant opportunities are popular amongst graduates and sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are applying via a recruitment agency, or to a recruitment agency. If you are unsure, reach out to the advertiser/employer and find out.

On the other hand, if you are interested in the possibilities offered by becoming a recruitment consultant, read our two part, in-depth feature on Being a Recruitment Consultant.

Recruitment Uncovered: Part One

Recruitment Uncovered: Part Two

With their industry knowledge, career advice and CV expertise, recruitment consultants and agencies can be incredibly helpful in your graduate job hunt. While they won't do all the work for you, they will improve your chances and shouldn't be forgotten as one of many options to ease your route to employment.

Image Credit: Pavan Trikutam