Recruitment agencies: why I hate them

What is the purpose of a recruitment agency? Is it to bombard a prospective employer that happens to be advertising a role under their own steam in the news media? Or are they commissioned by an employer to find a great candidate to fill a specific role?

Or is it their overall mission to make the candidates who are mug enough to respond to an advert feel as little and insignificant as possible? To fail to recognise that those who are applying for a job quite possibly don’t have one at the moment, and might need a little help hand if not moral support?

I find dealing with recruitment agencies really quite soul destroying. They want my CV this way, or that. One wants it one way, another wants it completely different “because that’s what our clients tell us they want”. So I jump through hoops to give them what they say they need.

Then they challenge me on my skills and experience. I tell them that I only apply for jobs that I know that I’m a good match for. “What’s the point of wasting your time, and mine, in applying for something completely inappropriate?”. But they still don’t get it.

It’s impossible for a recruitment agency to know every nuance of a particular industry or niche professional role, especially website management in the public sector. They use sweeping generalisations far too often, and fail to see the value that a candidate with a broad range of relevant skills and experience can offer.

But the biggest problem I have with recruitment agencies is that you have no choice – very often – than to deal with them.  I would far rather apply direct to an employer than have to deal with an agency. If there’s a particular vacancy that you know you’re a great match for, but the agency rep doesn’t see it, you’re absolutely stuffed unless you can persuade said rep to submit your details to their client.

Not so very long ago I responded to an advert in The Guardian for a great social media job. I was referred to Execucare’s website which stated that if I wanted to find out more about the job I would need to register online. I started that process, but one field (mandatory) asked which company I was representing.  Well I wasn’t, I was applying for a job.  So I was unable to complete the form. I zipped off an email to said agency explaining that I was having difficulty registering on their website, highlighting what had happened and the irrelevance of the question to someone in my position.

Oh no they don't!

You would not believe the torrent of abuse I received back! Not just once, but three times. I simply couldn’t believe that they’d react like that to anyone, let alone someone experiencing a wee problem with their online registration form.

Moving on, so I’ve submitted my CV to an agency for a job I’m interested in.  The next thing that happens is an email to say that they’d like to talk some more, can I go and see them.  Er, I’m in Southampton, and you’re in London? So? Perhaps they’re just plain ignorant on how much train fares are these days (£71 day return from Southampton to Waterloo), and that’s a lot of money if you’re out of work, if not downright impossible to fund.

And when you do manage to get in to see them, you get five minutes (ten if you’re lucky) with the ‘consultant’, who asks you things off your CV that could have been posed by email or telephone. I guess they just want to see what the prospect looks like, but what purpose does it really serve, except to make the ‘consultant’ feel good? It certainly doesn’t do anything for my ego (or bank balance).

And there’s still no guarantee that your CV will be put in front of a prospective employer.

I could go on, there’s so much to get off my chest.  But you’ve probably picked up the general angst by now.

So, in conclusion, a big plea from me to all the lovely employers out there that need a web/digital/social media champion, please advertise and recruit yourselves rather than going through an agency, or better still just contact me direct and let’s talk!

4 thoughts on “Recruitment agencies: why I hate them

  1. Keep at it. Often agencies fail to produce appointable candidates (quelle surprise) and the post may turn up via another agency (less candid about the job title) or direct from the employer. (You are always welcome to send me examples to investigate, I like solving mysteries and have a lot of time on my hands!!). But yes, you are right. They only exist to make money from your ass. One positive about the recession is that many organisations/companies can no longer afford them and are going direct – though the downside to that is that employers get inundated with applications (which is another reason why they turn to agencies who filter applications for them). I hate being patronised by people who think they’re better than me cos they have a job and I don’t, but that’s one of the many joys of being unemployed. 😉

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  3. I’m with you there Julie, and I do do as you suggest, honest. But sometimes you simply have no choice but to go through the agency, and no amount of Googling will tell you what you need to know: the holy grail that is the client’s name!

  4. Solidarity, my friend. Avoid, avoid. Well-meaning friends keep asking me which agencies I’ve registered with since I became unemployed. I tell them: none. For all the reasons set out above and many more. Work round them, John. If you see a vacancy advertised with an agency, use Google to find out where the job is and approach the employer directly. This is actually better for the employer too as it means they don’t have to pay 10%-15% of your first year salary to the agency. Everything you say in this post is correct, so don’t waste another moment of your precious time with these people – all they can do is erode your self-worth. Reminds me of the time I went to sign on as unemployed 20 years ago, having just got my honours degree. The sweet girl in the employment office told me that I should do a City & Guilds as it helped her get her job. Bless her. If it seems like bullshit, it probably is. Far better to write direct where you possibly can. Good luck xx

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