Guide to Retail Recruitment Consultancies

Thu 2 Jul 2009

In a retail sector that is going through a downturn employers are recruiting more and more direct on We recognise that recruitment consultancies play a major part in recruitment in the retail sector and particularly online recruitment. This Guide provides job seekers and employers an insight into the advantages of having a recruitment consultancy represent them and the best ways to go about it. We have asked leading figures in the retail recruitment industry on their experiences; there is an opportunity for you to make your comments, discuss the issues and check out our Directory of the best retail recruitment consultancies to work with depending on the retail roles you are looking for…

The recruitment industry finds itself in a candidate heavy market

The fact is that there have been redundancies in the retail sector and less jobs being recruited for than over the last few years, the retail recruitment industry finds itself in a candidate heavy market – more candidates looking for fewer jobs. In such a marketplace Tom Irwin, Commercial Director at Quest Search & Selection says “with so many candidates out there, speculative applications or firing off your CV to lots of different businesses in a non-tailored fashion can lead to long lead times, be very frustrating and is often disappointing”. Working with retail recruitment consultancies ensures this doesn’t happen. Kate McCarthy, Managing Director at McCarthy Recruitment explains “a professional retail recruitment business will ensure that candidates are assisted with understanding what options are available to them and will be realistic about their career history, matching opportunities with their experience and cultural values”.

You will receive 1-2-1 advice from an account manager

It is to a retail recruitment consultancies’ advantage to place candidates into their client’s vacancies so they will do their upmost to ensure their candidates are best prepared for the jobs they are submitted to. Tom Irwin points out “by using a recruitment partner like Quest in your job search you will receive 1-2-1 advice from an account manager who is a specialist in their field, providing you with insights & advice on how best to get yourself through the interview process”. Kate McCarthy says that “this should include aspects of the recruitment process such as offer negotiation, CV writing, interview preparation and research”.

Specialists and ex retailers know the retail industry inside out

Working with retail recruitment consultancies seems to be all about building relationships. Firstly there is the candidate relationship. Kate says “candidates should be provided with a dedicated consultant that works on their behalf and able to build a trusted partnership with, most are ex retailers and they know the retail industry inside out, they champion their candidates and as such reduce the time taken to get them an interview and ultimately back in to employment”.

All about building relationships

The consultant-client relationship is a big factor in using a retail recruitment consultancy to represent you. Elaine Mulvihill, Business Development Manager at fashion recruitment consultancy People Marketing says “many employers are choosing to use a retail recruitment consultancy with whom they have a close relationship to find the right candidates for them therefore you can then be considered for exclusive roles which you otherwise would not have heard about”.

CV Bank

The best way to get yourself in front of the retail recruitment consultancies is to upload your profile and CV onto the CV Bank and to search and apply for roles on

Pick your agency wisely

When is a consultancy working in your best interest? Neil Oviatt, Managing Director at Global Retail Recruitment, says "some perceive the business as a sales game; you’re a number pushed into job roles that might not be to your advantage by consultants who have not worked in the industry to which you’re applying so a fee can be secured. However pick your agency wisely and they will certainly deliver an honest appraisal of your abilities and prospects of securing the right role for your career".

Have realistic expectations and keep track of applications

When being represented by a retail recruitment consultancy there are a couple of points candidates should take on board. The first having realistic expectations. Mark Coed, Managing Consultant for Retail Head Office at Quest Search & Selection, says “Consultants are frequently asked by candidates if they can be considered for roles different to what they have much experience within; but feel that their skills are transferable. Although there have been occasions where this has occurred it is often difficult. Consultancies are employed to source applicants ideally with experience gained within that field. In this instance candidates are often more likely to be successful applying directly to companies”. Another very useful thing for candidates to take note of is the procedures when submitting an application through a retail recruitment consultancy. Luke Marshall, Senior Consultant for Store Operations at Quest Search & Selection points out “one thing that a candidate should always be aware of when registering with a recruitment consultancy is we can not represent you to an employer if candidates have already submitted their CV directly. Our advice is to keep track of your applications & only submit them to a company if you’re confident of a positive outcome”.

In a nutshell…

In tricky times retail recruitment consultancies can ensure your CV is put in front of the right employers and prepare you fully for any interviews they submit you to increasing your chances of landing your ideal job. This is done through building relationships between candidates and the consultant and relationships built between consultants and employers. Pick the companies you work with carefully ensuring they work in the sectors you have experience in, have realistic expectations and keep a close eye and track who you have applied to.

You can view all contributions to the Guide in the Blog where you have the opportunity to comment and discuss the points raised.


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