You've sent your CV, made numerous phone calls and you still have no job interviews lined up. It might be time to contact a recruitment agency. According to a survey conducted on the DestinyConnect Facebook fan page, people have had mixed experiences with recruitment agencies. But research indicates that building up a strong relationship with your agent boosts your chances of securing that dream job.

We chat to Ashley Swanepoel, managing member of recruitment specialists Talent Desk, to get the lowdown on using a recruitment agency.

What is the main role of a recruitment agency?
The recruitment agency is there to offer a placement service to both client (the company) and job candidate. This service is not merely one of bringing together like-minded people who share a similar vision, but also to enrich the client's overall performance as a business with the right "fit" for the position, thereby adding value, and aiding the candidate's career development. The agency is there to sift through talent and provide the client with the right candidate and, in turn, provide the candidate with an opportunity to develop their careers.

Should recruitment agencies provide interview training?
Interview preparation, or informal training, is an imperative step in the recruitment process. It's the responsibility of the agency to ensure that the candidate is well prepared with the necessary information for their interview, including the clients' interviewing technique. Often, successful and lasting placements have nearly not happened because a candidate or client is not prepared for the interview process (they haven't studied the job description or have been incorrectly briefed) when, in fact, they are a perfect fit.

When approaching a recruitment agency, how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates?
Funnily enough this is not a difficult thing to do and many candidates are successful at this because they pay attention to the finer detail. A recruitment consultant is trained to have an eye for detail, because even the smallest thing can have an effect on the candidate's success in being placed with a client and vice versa.
Ways to stand out include:
– being professional and friendly
– dressing for the position you seek
– being proactive and asking questions
– building a relationship with the consultant
– providing feedback on interviews
– being honest and transparent about other interviews you have

How often should you follow up with your agent?
If you are in a process with the agent (ie you have been interviewed and your CV is being assessed by a client), stay in touch at least once a week if you have not heard from the recruiter. If you have nothing on the go, contact them at least once or twice a month. Perhaps alternate between a call and an email – this is less intrusive and keeps you "top of mind", should anything come available that would be suitable for you. Keep an eye on your recruiter's website and if you see something you are interested in, email them and let them know your interest.