What to look for in a recruitment consultant


As any experienced jobseeker can tell you, there are plenty of recruitment consultancies out there but, with each varying significantly in terms of experience, expertise and style, how do you find the one that’s right for you? Here, with the help of our experts, are five key questions to ask…

Are they a specialist in the area you’re working in?

Job roles are increasingly specialised, and it’s frustrating for a candidate to talk to someone who claims to have in-depth understanding of your sector and discipline, but, when you scratch the surface, it’s clear that they don’t really understand your area at all. How can someone represent you credibly to potential employers if they don’t really get what you do?

“You want to look for functional expertise in your area,” says Thomas Hartenfels, Director Robert Walters Düsseldorf. “If you are a digital marketing candidate, for example, you want to be sure that you are talking to a recruiter who has a demonstrable track record of recruiting in that area – or who can at least draw on a large team, backed by appropriate experience, that does.”

“What you don’t want is someone who’s a jack of all trades and a master of none,” says Marco Hermle.

Marco Hermle, Associate Director Robert Walters Frankfurt, adds: “Someone who was working with a lawyer yesterday, has a marketer today and a receptionist tomorrow. Look for evidence of knowledge of your industry or sector – throw a few keywords at them and see how they cope.”

Do you have people on the ground?

For candidates considering an international move, it’s vital to have people on the ground who know about your target territory. If you are looking to relocate from London to Singapore, you’re about to move somewhere that’s very different in all sorts of ways to what you’re used to. You need someone who’s physically based where you’re going, so they can advise you on all those vital details beyond work, such as tax, housing and culture. This kind of local knowledge and experience will help you as a candidate decide if the location is a good fit for you.  

Do you work on commission?

“When consultants work on individual commission, the dynamic changes,” says Marco Hermle. “Without the pressure of commission, there’s no need for a consultant to over-sell a specific role or  try to shoehorn you into something that’s not really the right fit for you. So, it’s really worth taking the time to find a recruitment consultancy that incentivises recruiters to work in the long-term interests of candidates and organisations,” Louise advises. “In my experience, this approach removes the aggressive ‘salesiness’ you sometimes see and means you can trust your consultant to work in your best interests rather than their own.”

Thomas Hoffmann, Director Robert Walters Hamburg agrees. “Ask yourself: Is this consultant in it for the long haul? Do they care about me? Some recruiters are very transactional – they just want to get you placed so they can pick up a commission and move on to the next one. But as a candidate, I want a recruiter who cares about me and my future, who’s in it for the long-term relationship.” 

Will you have the whole business working for you – or will you be working solely with one person?

You want a consultant who’s interested in finding the right job for the right person. Good recruiters will introduce a candidate to other experts within their business, she says, all of whom will be happy to contribute their skills, contacts and knowledge of different territories.

“You want access to the widest possible pool of opportunity – the whole array of jobs and opportunities even up to the global scale,” Marco Hermle says. “This is another disadvantage of the individual commission-based agency, where you’ll only meet the one consultant, who’ll be desperate to place you among their contacts and won’t be able to take account of the wider network of possibilities that might be out there.”

Will I have to work with one agency exclusively?  

It’s never wise to go with a recruitment consultancy that demands you work exclusively with them, says Thomas Hoffmann. “A good consultant should make you feel you’ve no need to go elsewhere, that the whole market is being covered for you – but they should never try to pressure you into any kind of exclusivity agreement.”

Ready to start your job search? View and apply for our latest opportunities.


Complete interview guide

Read more »
brauner Pfeil

Work for us 

Read more »
Blauer Pfeil

Sign up for job alerts

Read more »
Lila und pinke Punkte

Check your market value

Read more »
Straße mit Auto und Bäumen

Refer a friend and be rewarded

Read more »

Latest jobs