You and Your Career / Guide to preparing for the Personal or Executive Assistant job search in 2020 and beyond / Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Chapter five

Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Most Assistants will work with a recruitment agency when conducting a job search. These are the steps to take to make it work for you.

Dealing with recruitment agencies can be a mixed bag and a frustrating experience, particularly if you are desperate for a new job.

In my experience, some terrible agencies out there don’t understand the Assistant role and will put Assistants forward for jobs that are unsuitable for them.

Dealing with employment agencies like this can be exhausting and a complete waste of time.

There are dedicated recruitment agencies out there who understand the role and want to place candidates in the right organisations, but you need to know how to work effectively.

In this chapter, we will cover:

Five considerations when working with recruitment agencies

Here are a few things I’ve learnt about agencies over the years:

Agents are salespeople

They are there to broker a deal between you, the candidate and the organisation who are their client. The agent’s interests are in the organisation, not you. Most agencies want to place a candidate in a position they have experience in, ideally one they have done in the past and have a proven track record. This is great if you are looking for a similar job to the one you have currently but not brilliant if you want to move up the career ladder or try a new industry. This is why you must tailor your resume before approaching an agency; otherwise, you will do what you have always done.

Agents are not there to further your career

They want to find several suitable candidates and place one in the role at a cost-effective price that makes them a commission and keeps their client (the employer) happy. Agencies have several jobs and will select the candidate that fills the requirements, and they won’t proactively look for a role that suits you personally. It is worth bearing that in mind when looking for a new position. Ensure you are clear with the type of position you want and stick to it, so the agency doesn’t keep sending you unsuitable opportunities.

When applying for jobs through a website such as LinkedIn, or, ensure your CV has all the keywords appropriate for the job you are applying for. The agencies will only call you if your CV has passed their keyword algorithm.

Quality, not quantity

When you first start job hunting, only join a few agencies, so you are not bombarded with calls. If your search takes longer than you thought, you could join a few more depending on how urgently you need to find a new job. Remember, it is quality, not quantity, and as I’ve already said, some agencies are better than others.

Interview them too

Once you are invited to see an agent remember that they are gatekeepers to the organisation you want to work for, do think of it as an interview. Dress appropriately and be prepared to answer questions about your career to date and experiences. Also, remember that you can interview them too; they are making money from you, so you have every right to ensure they are the kind of agent you want representing you.

CV template for Assistants

CV Template for Assistants

Use this template to craft the perfect resume for your Assistant job search. 

Cover letter template for Assistants

Cover Letter Template for Assistants

Use this template to craft the perfect cover letter that promotes you.

10 questions to ask a recruitment agent

Here are a few questions you can ask the recruitment agency to help you understand how hard they are working to place you in a relevant position and not waste your time.

1. What type of organisations do you tend to recruit for?

If you have always worked in Insurance and want to stay in Insurance, a recruitment agency with only clients in the hospitality industry will not find you a relevant role.

2. Who are your top clients?

This will give you an idea of the organisation you can expect to work in and the calibre of the agency’s clients. If you are used to working for a global organisation, you will want to know if they have similar clients.

3. How do you select the candidates that go forward for job interviews?

It is helpful to know how the agency selects its candidates. Is it solely based on qualifications and experience, or do they spend time speaking to the candidate and finding out a little more than what they can read on the CV?

Ultimately you can spend hours speaking to a recruitment agent, and they will still select you for a role based only on your experience but at least asking this question will give you a chance to see how they react to it and if their answer is genuine.

4. How will you contact me, and how often should I expect to hear from you?

I have spent my hours chasing recruitment agents, for example, to find out if my CV was forwarded, if there was any feedback following an interview and if I got the job.

It can be a nightmare.

Again this question will give you an idea about their communication methods.

5. Do you currently have any positions that match my preferences (type of role, location, salary, industry, etc.)?

It is worth asking this question straight away. Why waste your time registering with them if they don’t have any jobs you want? There are loads of recruitment agencies, and only some of them will be suitable for you.

6. Have you got any feedback on my CV?

What I really mean is: “Have you read my CV!”

7. How many people are you putting forward for this job?

Once you have been selected for a job, this question will give you a sense of what and who you are up against.

8. Which skills make me suitable for this role?

The agent will have spoken to your potential employer about you and your work experience, so it is worthwhile finding out what they said to the organisation and what skills they have promoted on your behalf.

The answers to this question will also help with your interview prep.

9. Have you placed people with this firm before?

If they have placed people in this organisation before, you can ask many more questions about the organisation and what it expects of its employees.

10. Can you tell me a few details about their personality type?

I asked this question to a recruitment agent, and they said the personalities tend to be quiet and studious. The organisation was an old law firm and was not a particularly social bunch. In other words, not an organisation where I wanted to work. I didn’t go for the interview because it would have been a waste of time, and I would have hated working there.

All in all, finding and dealing with recruitment agencies can be a challenging process. Although there can be pitfalls along the way, finding an agency that understands the Assistant role and is passionate about getting you into the right organisation is still possible.

You don’t have to go through it alone either – courses such as our Accelerate your Assistant Job search Online Course exist to guide you through this often stressful process, giving you tips on how to make sure you get the job you want. It’s an invaluable resource for Assistants of all levels, so why not take advantage of it today? With the right information and support from a recruitment agency, the perfect position could finally be within your reach!


Next Chapter:

Preparing for an Assistant Interview

Chapter six