NOW Recruitment's boss on how to form a great client–agency relationship
Any recruitment agency worth ITS salt works on the principle that it must develop relationships with the firms that use its services if it is to to gain and keep their respect. This respect has to be earned by the agency – sometimes it can take years to build up – but the rewards are beneficial to both sides.

Ultimately, what you as a client want to get is the best out of the professional hired for a specific project. If used properly, your recruitment agency can be instrumental in ensuring that this happens.

Your ideal candidates will only register with an agency that is respected and is used to the best of its abilities by the client. So, the consultant has to know all there is to know about your field and be up to speed on current legislation, training, health and safety and other key issues. A good agency will have forged a relationship with other clients.

Use an expert
"It's so important that a recruitment consultant knows their market well," says Neil Sherreard, director of Cowlin Construction. "There's nothing worse than dealing with a consultant that has no idea what we as a client need. On the other hand, there are some good agencies out there – agencies in which consultants know their market and deliver quality staff and labour to us time and time again. These are the ones that we keep going back to."

It is imperative for a good agency to be instrumental in the staff planning process right at the start of any project. By being a key part of these initial meetings, an agency will be able to work out with the client when the labour peaks and troughs will take place during a project. An agency can then plan, source and fulfil staff requirements, thus ensuring that the whole staffing process, and the whole project, runs smoothly – almost becoming a virtual human resources department of the company.

Temporary measures
One of the main gripes that clients have about recruitment agencies is the quality of temporary workers, who are often brought into a role at the last minute. A project manager may realise that there is a lack of the right kind of skill and will contact a few agencies trying to find skilled professionals. In some cases this can work out well, but more often than not, the client does not really get what they want and the outcome is unsatisfactory for both parties.

As a candidate, you will hear cases in which the agency–client relationship has not been a good one – especially in construction. The main reasons for these gripes are usually a lack of quality candidates, qualifications, health and safety issues, reliability and high staff turnover.

As with every industry, there are good and bad – the good agencies will constantly strive to promote best practice and the bad will tarnish the good work that is being done to build relationships – it's a constant struggle.

Do your research
If you are looking for that perfect agency partner, keep your eye out in the trade press for recruitment companies who have landed big human resources contracts or have been selected for preferred supplier lists. Talk to agencies that you are interested in using. Use your industry contacts and find out whether they source labour in-house or use an agency – and if so, how they have got on. Talk to agencies, ask them questions about their relationships with other clients and projects they have supplied professionals for. If you do, your search for the right candidate and their job placement and satisfaction, will be that much smoother.