What should I look for in a recruitment agency?

Recruitment agencies must meet the standards set by the Employment Agencies Act 1973.
If you are looking for temporary work, the agency must agree with you:
The terms and conditions of the work you will do
The type of work you will do
How much you will be paid
How and when you will be paid
How much notice you will have to give (if any), and
Details of any paid holiday
An agency must not:
Refuse to pay you because they have not been paid by the person you work for, or
Charge you for finding or trying to find you work (there are some exceptions, mainly with entertainment and modelling jobs).
You do not have to use any of the services that an agency charges for, for example training courses and getting help to write your CV.
Agencies must give you all the information about:
The employer you are working for
The type of work you will do
The hours you will work, and
How much you will be paid.
The agency will make sure that you have the skills and qualifications you need for the job.  They will also make sure that you are not breaking any laws by doing this work.
They must tell you in writing about any changes to your agreement.
When you register with an agency they will ask you for information about yourself so they can find you a suitable placement or job. Information may include proof of your identity (such as your birth certificate, passport), your experience and any training or qualifications you have.  They will also make sure that you are willing to do the job before putting you into it.
An agency can offer you a job at short notice.  They can also finish temporary work at short notice without being responsible for any unfair dismissal or redundancy pay.  Always make sure you understand your contract.
How do I get the most out of a recruitment agency?
To get the most out of a recruitment agency, it is important you think about how you can best work with them.  Remember, you are telling them about your skills and they will help you find a job.  You are working together.
So, to make the most out of your recruitment agency, make sure you:
Keep in regular contact with them
Give them all the information they need (including your contact details and references)
Are honest
Keep your CV accurate and up to date
Tell them if there is a particular type of job you don’t want (be up-front and save time)
Listen to any advice from your consultant about improving your CV (remember they are professionals and they want to help you get a job), and
Talk to your agency if they are not finding you work.  It may be because there is not enough of the type of work you want and you might want to think about other types of work you are willing to do.  Or, you could register with another agency that offers the type of work you are looking for.
Where can I get information and advice about recruitment agencies?
If you need more advice about recruitment agencies in your area, consult your local Jobcentre, library, phone book and online.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) is an organisation that supports and represents recruitment agencies.  The REC can give you more advice and a list of some recruitment agencies.  All REC members must follow their code of professional practice.  Visit their website www.rec.uk.com
This section only tells your about some of the rules that agencies have to follow.  If you would like to know more, please phone the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) helpline or read ‘Employment Agencies Act 1973: Guidance on the Act and regulations.’
You can also write to or e-mail BERR
Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Bay 488
1 Victoria Street
Helpline: 0845 955 5105
E-mail: eas@berr.gsi.gov.uk (for questions about employment agencies only)