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When to use recruiters, and when to apply direct

If you’re trying to find a new job, the best strategy may appear to be one of numerical inundation: send your CV to every conceivable place that could possibly hire you, sit back, and wait.

Unfortunately, this may not work.

Although, logically, your chances of getting a response should increase the more CVs you send, in reality this is not the case.

Recruiters are often unwilling to work with someone who’s already working with lots of other recruiters. And, as we noted last week, they’re also unwilling to work with anyone who’s applied to a lot of banks directly and is already on banks’ internal recruitment systems. In the latter case, this is because banks usually won’t let recruiters charge a fee.

All of this makes life a bit difficult for the average logical candidate. If this is you, and you’re are uncertain how to proceed, what follows may be of assistance.

1) Apply direct to banks if you’re going through a contact in that bank

Rather than simply sending your CV in response to a role being advertised directly by a bank (or uploading it to their site in the hope that it might be spotted in future), Linda Jackson, managing director of the City practice at careers advisory company Fairplace, says the best thing you can do is to send your CV to someone in your ‘network’ who can get you an introduction with the hiring manager.

“Unless you have a contact in the bank, direct applications tend to be the least effective method of getting hired,” says Jackson. “There’s a danger that your CV will be one of many that lands on someone’s desk and you’ll be shuffled off to one side.”

2) Apply direct to banks if you’re quite sure that the job you’re after isn’t being advertised elsewhere

Although most recruiters will claim that banks are incapable of filling their vacancies on their own, the head of EMEA recruitment at one US bank says this isn’t quite true.

“Only a small minority of our roles are now out with agencies. We just don’t need agencies for most of our roles, and would encourage you to apply directly through our corporate site,” he says.

3) Apply direct to banks during a downturn

When they don’t have much money, banks do a higher proportion of their hiring directly.

“In a downturn, it’s difficult for banks to get sign off for recruitment fees, and comparatively few roles are out with agencies,” says one recruiter. “In that environment, it makes sense for candidates to apply to banks directly,” he confesses.

4) Apply direct to banks if you’re sending your application to the ‘decision maker’

Even if you don’t know the line manager/decision maker in person, you’re more likely to get your CV looked at if you despatch it to a particular individual at a bank.

“I’d advise against applying through agencies if you know of a specific role and can get your CV directly to the decision maker in the bank,” says Andrew Pullman at City HR consulting company People Risk Solutions.

5) Apply direct to banks if you’re happy to wait for six months before pushing your CV through agencies

If you want to send your CV out to all the big banks, be prepared to wait 6-12 months before agencies can collect a fee on it and are therefore willing to consider you for alternative roles within the banks you’ve applied to.

At least, this is the worse case scenario. However, the head of recruitment at the US bank said it’s not always this bad: “If an agency comes to us with an idea about a candidate we hadn’t thought of, we will generally pay them – even if that candidate’s also on our system,” he says.

6) Apply indirectly through recruiters if your skills aren’t particularly unique

The big advantage of using a recruiter is that they should push your CV for you. This will be particularly helpful if your CV doesn’t contain anything particularly exceptional.

However, this also assumes that you have a good relationship with your recruiter, and that the recruiter is the kind of person who will push your CV on your behalf.

“You need to have a good relationship with an agency you can trust and who will represent you properly,” says Linda Jackson at Fairplace. “It’s no good just sending out your CV to all the agencies and sitting back and relaxing.”

7) Apply indirectly through recruiters if you need to have your hand held

The big advantage of applying through a good recruiter is his/her ability to offer special insights to smooth your way through interview and the hiring process.

“We offer a lot of extras, like interview coaching and salary negotiation,” says one headhunter. “The best people tend to have a few good headhunter relationships. They’ll usually only apply directly if they’re going through their contacts in the bank – or if they’re desperate.”

Comments (9)

  1. Alternatively – apply for jobs that actually match your skill set. That should help somewhat!

    Bored of hearing it Reply
  2. Can I have the 2 minutes I spent reading this back please? Common sense!

  3. what about list of good recruiters …

  4. Apply direct if you have not got the right skills for the job, or if you have been out of work/ industry for over a year.
    Only go to a recruiter who knows what they are talking about, this should be easy to tell, there are fewer of us about now after last years epic rec con cull.

    recruiter anon Reply
  5. Recruiters go on your skill set so if you are looking for a job outside of your current experience then seek professional advice and change your CV to a funtional one. Generally recruitment consultants do not have your best interests at heart as they make fees from placing you so finding a good contact is worth their weight in gold they are few and far between in the City so stick to your guns as to what you want to do.

  6. Yes where are professional recruiters?

  7. Profesional recruiters I think I am going to avoid recruiters at all costs I am guilty of sending my cv to everyone and no-one wants to know ! Maybe it’s my skill set…..?

  8. great article. good followup to “When direct recruiters don’t play fair” article.

    What would be great is the inhouse people realise they are generally only blockers to filling roles and moving forward. From a candidate perspective, I never understand why HR always takes triple the time to go through a recruitment process vs experienced agents.

    And how often HR thinks you are unsuitable but when an agent gets you in front of the REAL hiring manager for the exact same role you are deemed suitable. And many months after being in the job its proven in the results delivered.

    The whole argument about who gets fees is also ridiculous. The person who should be paid is the person who DID the job of getting you into the job NOT the person who collected your information. In no other industry in the world is there argument over this. For example, does a car salesmen get paid the fat commission on a sale or the advertiser who advertised the caryard?

    The decision who gets paid should be up to the candidate because they know who did the work. Its the candidate that has to pay back the commission via their results. It also rewards the doers over database sitters

  9. Professional recruiter = oxymoron

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