Do recruitment agencies work? An industry insider’s view.

Are recruitment agencies effective at what they do and can they always find the right staff for your business? As industry insiders, we’ll tell you the truth.

It’s a question that strikes at the heart of the recruitment industry. Does what we do really work or are businesses better off looking for staff themselves?

At Anne Corder Recruitment (ACR), having been around for more than 25 years, we’ve seen the recruitment sector change significantly and recruitment agencies come and go. And the truth is it is a range of external and internal factors that determines whether an agency is effective or not.

In this article, we’ll provide you with the expert industry insider’s view of when recruitment agencies work and when they don’t.

When recruitment agencies work

When they focus on quality rather than quantity

It may sound obvious but the best recruitment agencies are in the business of finding the right people for the right businesses and ensuring there is a perfect match between the two.

However, over the years there has been a gradual shift away from agencies focusing on the quality of the candidates they put forward in favour of focusing on the number (quantity) of applications they receive for jobs they advertise.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all agencies, and the greater the ‘pool of talent’ that applies for a job, the more choice an agency and an employer obviously has. But those agencies that look for quick returns often overlook the importance of quality over quantity and can recommend candidates who are a poor fit for the employer.

By contrast, those agencies that focus on the quality of the candidates they put forward take a longer term view and know that they don’t need hundreds or even thousands of people applying for a role. They just need the right one.

When they really get to know their clients

A business is much more than just the products they produce or the services they provide. The best recruitment agencies know this and really get to know their clients before advertising their vacancies.

They spend time understanding the company culture and its philosophies. They meet with the key business staff, whether this be the Managing Director / CEO or the Head of Human Resources (HR). And they take the time to understand the business’s aspirations and ambitions.

Armed with this in-depth information, they can then source exactly the right staff for the business, ensuring the candidates they put forward not only meet the skills and experience required, but also are a perfect cultural fit for the long term.

When they know candidates

Very few recruitment agencies nowadays spend the time really getting to know candidates that apply for jobs they advertise. Many have cursory telephone calls with those they believe best fit the bill, however, candidates often never hear from these agencies again because they have moved on to someone else they believe is better suited to the role.

The best agencies – those that have proven to be effective year in and year out – take a different approach. They know that today’s candidates may be tomorrow’s business leaders, and that developing relationships is important regardless of whether they work with them or not.

At Anne Corder Recruitment we meet candidates face-to-face whenever possible to really understand what they are looking for, their working preferences and style, their life and career goals, and, importantly, their values and beliefs.

When they offer more than just job advertising

Virtually every recruitment company advertises job vacancies on behalf of their clients. For many, this is essentially the key thing they do, putting less emphasis on filtering applications and carefully selecting the best candidates to put forward.

But the very best agencies offer far more than just advertising roles. They become a strategic partner for their clients, providing everything from management reports to insight into market trends.

At ACR, as well as doing this, we take part in candidate interviews with our clients when required and host a number of employment law (and other) seminars for HR professionals and business leaders throughout the year.

In addition, we are proud founder members of the HR Pay Club, working in partnership with a leading reward management consultancy (Paydata) to provide the latest guidance and insight into salaries, pay benchmarking, and reward strategies.

When they are trusted

This perhaps more than any other factor is key to whether a recruitment agency is effective and ‘works’ or whether it doesn’t.

There are a plethora of recruitment companies operating today, including many online only agencies, but only those that are trusted thrive and flourish despite external conditions and shocks (such as the recent global Covid-19 pandemic).

Typically these agencies have built up a good reputation over the years and have deep relationships with employers, something that many agencies find hard to develop, particularly if their focus is always on new client acquisition rather than servicing their existing customers.

When recruitment agencies don’t work

When they don’t understand the jobs market

No recruitment agency is going to survive or prove to be effective if they don’t understand the jobs market (or markets) they operate in.

You may expect that no recruitment agency would be established unless it (or its founders) had a rudimentary understanding of the jobs market, however, this sadly isn’t the case.

In recent years, a number of agencies and recruitment services have been set up that see recruitment as merely a transactional process, encouraging people to apply for positions, without any understanding of market trends and the changing world of work.

Whether it’s local, national, or international, recruitment agencies need to be experts in what both employers and candidates are looking for and have their finger on the pulse of changing habits, work preferences, and market innovations.

When they lack expertise in recruitment

Similar to the last point, recruitment agencies are ineffective when they don’t understand how the recruitment sector and recruitment processes operate.

Finding the perfect match for companies involves much more than just advertising roles and bringing together candidates and employers. Often it requires liaising with internal HR staff, working with creative and marketing teams, creating job specifications, undertaking in-depth candidate testing (such as psychometric testing), creating management reports, developing long term recruitment strategies, and much, much more.

In addition, the best recruitment staff are qualified professionals, certified by organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and work for agencies that are recognised as experts in the recruitment sector.

When they rely on technology alone

Some recruitment agencies and services rely solely on technology to attract candidates and match them to jobs.

Artificial Intelligence and clever software has transformed many business sectors, however, the best agencies know that recruitment is based on relationships not algorithms.

A computer programme will never be able to fully understand a company’s culture or a candidate’s values and vision. For that, you need specialist human skills and experience that the best recruitment professionals provide.

When they’re unable to adapt

During the global pandemic, many recruitment companies around the world were forced to close. Demand for many jobs disappeared almost overnight as businesses of all sizes implemented the furlough scheme or had no choice but to shut down.

But some recruitment companies adapted quickly and changed their focus from filling vacancies to supporting their clients through this unprecedented period. They helped them implement hybrid or remote working arrangements, they researched the skills that they would need when lockdown was over, and they prepared them for anticipated shortages in the labour force.

Whether it’s global health related circumstances or more local economic changes, recruitment agencies need to be ready to adapt so they continue to offer value to employers.

Those that don’t will fall by the wayside.

When the client and the agency don’t fit

An employer wanting to recruit top-flight international executive talent is unlikely to find the right candidates using a recruitment agency that specialises in finding production staff for factories.

Likewise, a recruitment agency is unlikely to be able to place construction staff into a company that specialises in accountancy.

The client and the agency must be a good fit for recruitment to work effectively. The right recruitment company will have strong experience in the client’s business sector and a track record of sourcing exactly the type of staff they are looking for.

Unless there is this fit, both employer and agency are likely to be wasting their time.


Recruitment agencies can be highly effective at finding the perfect staff for employers, however, it is vital you choose one that has the expertise and experience you need.

The recruitment process should be built on a solid relationship between the client and the agency, not one driven by a focus on quickly filling roles whatever the cost.


Alex Smith

Recruitment Specialist

I’ve worked in recruitment for the same agency for over 12 years, covering finance, office support, construction, and engineering. Temp and perm. Previously, my line of work was within banking and estate agency.
Favourite food: “Curry (Hot)”
Favourite film: “Heat”

Outside of work

“Gym 5 days a week. Home life consists mostly of entertaining a 3 year old! (for clarification – my son)”

Alex on ACR

“Very refreshing to work for a recruitment agency that genuinely care for their candidates and clients”

T: 01733 235298

Sarah-Jane Bond

Recruitment Specialist

I have spent the majority of my career working in Operational and Project Management roles. I first worked with ACR about 25 years ago as a candidate. ACR secured me a role at RNIB, where I stayed for 15 years, finishing as Head of Operations. Recruitment has always been a big part of the roles I have undertaken and is something that I really enjoy. When you match a fantastic candidate with the right client there is no better feeling!
Favourite food: “Has to be any dish from the Mediterranean”
Favourite film: “There are many, love a chick flick, especially ‘The Holiday at Christmas”

Outside of work

“I love socialising with friends, can always squeeze a bit of retail therapy in around volunteering at Deeping Rangers FC, running their hospitality on match days.”

Sarah-Jane on ACR

“I couldn’t have been more delighted when Nel asked me to join the company and have felt at home since day one. They really do care about providing the best service for their clients and candidates, building genuine relationships with both. The team culture is second to none, everyone supporting and looking out for each other. It is a pleasure to come to work every day.”

T: 01733 235298

Emily Roach

Recruitment Specialist

Emily was a Primary School Teacher for 10 years, before moving into the EdTech space, as a Relationship Specialist for MATs. She joined ACR in July 2023 and particularly thrives when recruiting for Account Management, Customer Service and Sales roles.
Favourite food:
“Spag bol or pizza”
Favourite film:
“The Notebook – or any romantic chick flick really!”
Outside of work
“I have a 1-year-old, so love fun family weekends with my fiancé and son more than anything. Time socialising with friends and family is where I’m happiest.”
Emily on ACR
“The unique culture, values, and style at ACR is polar opposite to other recruitment agencies and what I believed recruitment was. Having previously been a Relationship Specialist, I feel I’m doing the same thing! No hard sell, we truly care about our candidates and clients, and the team culture is 2nd to none!”
T: 01733 235298

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