Is it just me, or is the term ‘agency’ simply shorthand for ‘middleman who will get in the way and make something which should be straight-forward incredibly complicated’. Estate agency. Design agency. Employment agency. I’m hard pushed to find any positive examples.
Things is, when you’re searching for a job these days, there are very few companies who do direct recruitment. Preffering instead to put their staffing needs in the hands of an agency. I truly hope employment agencies treat the recruiters better than they treat the candidates, otherwise I really cannot understand why companies would use them?!
I would be lying if I said all of my experiences with employment agencies had been negative, just the vast majority of them! And the experiences which have been good have been because of individual agents who go above and beyond, not their firm excelling in anyway.
Here are some of my experiences…
The I’ll keep talking at you until you say yes one…
Always a favourite. You’re not sure about the role they’re trying to put you forward for. They ramble on without pausing for breath (and allowing you to ask a question or interject) until you relent and say yes to the interview just to shut them up. If this happens to you – stand your ground and tell it like it is. If it’s not the job for you – tell them. If you end up being talked into something which you later regret, don’t be afraid to contact your agent and tell them that now you’ve thought it through it’s not for you.
The do you have two heads or a hunchback test.
Most agencies will want to see you in person before they put you forward for any roles. Some handle this better than others. A good meeting is where they take a full brief from you, so they can find something which fits in with your aspirations. A bad meeting is one which is blatantly a form filling exercise. I had one pre-meet with an agency where they told me to be enthusiastic in interview. I really had to stop myself from saying ‘No shit Sherlock’.
I’ve got the perfect role for you. Is Outer Mongolia commutable?
Always a favourite. One of my clear objectives with my job hunt was to cut my commute time, so when an agency called me to ask if Northampton was too far away (66 miles fact fans) I rolled my eyes and politely answered ‘yes’.
The we’ll put you forward for a job which you know nothing about whilst you’re on honeymoon one.
Yup, despite telling the agency I was away on Honeymoon they continued to phone me. When they couldn’t get hold of me (thank goodness I had put my phone on silent, there’s quite a time difference between Birmingham and Singapore!) they decided to put me forward for the job anyway. I had no clue and it caused considerable confusion when another agency put me forward for the same job later (with my permission). I never worked with the first agency again as I didn’t trust them.
The we’ve not really taken the brief properly one.
Initial conversation: “Yes, it’s a Marketing Executive role. We’ll put you forward for it.”
Feedback: “Erm, apparently they’re looking for a Marketing Director, sorry about that.”
The back fill/side fill one.
Too many questions about the role you’re leaving, or the other interviews you’re attending means they’re more interested in creating opportunities for themselves instead of you.
There’s also the times when they can’t get your name right, when they ring you twice in the same day about exactly the same job, when they text you and ask you to ring them (erm, I’m not working but don’t worry about my phone bill?!). There’s the times when you say you can’t make that interview time and they lay on a huge guilt trip, when they don’t give you any feedback post interview, when no matter how hard you try you simply can’t get hold of them (agencies are the world champions of phone tennis).
As I say there are exceptions to the rule and those exceptions have been the ones which landed me my temping work and my current role. Which shows if it’s done properly – it works!
Before I go, I want to leave you with a final anecdote about dealing with agencies. Before I left my previous job an agency called me with an ‘exciting opportunity’ (aren’t they always?!). As he was talking me through the role he began to tell me about the various ‘elephants’ of the job. Obviously he meant ‘elements’ – I was dying to laugh but he was taking himself so seriously that I just couldn’t. Bless.