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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Thursday May 04, 2006
07:41 AM

Job agencies don't work

[ #29528 ]

I love employment agencies. I've had such fun with them before. Sometimes I've managed to get them talking. I remember one saying

Sometimes we have to fuck the employer. Sometimes we have to fuck the candidate. Sometimes we have to fuck both.

Another told me the ratios of 1st interviews, 2nd interviews, offers, and acceptances she was supposed to get. I'm kicking myself for not writing them down, but at each stage they were typically 5:1. It seems to be a policy of fling enough ess-ache-one-tee and see what sticks, rather than make any real attempt at trying to match people and positions.

Another recruiter made a comment about "having to pretend to be a Java developer this afternoon" - I can only assume that he'd faked a CV and was putting himself up for interview via some other agency in an attempt to find out who the employer was and steal business. That same agent was the one who got me a job. He cajoled me into starting in February, apparently because my new employer wanted it. Only when I started they weren't really ready, and I believe that they had agreed to February because they thought that I was pressuring them. So I assume that the agent had a February target he wanted to meet, and messed us both around.

Another agent from that same firm got me to go back for a second interview, for a firm I was pretty sure wasn't me. She made it sound like they were keen on me. Only when I got there it turned out that they'd brought someone junior in as the second interviewee, because they wanted him to benefit from our chat. They had no intention of offering me the job - they knew it was too limiting for me, but they too had been talked into a second interview by the agent.

So you maybe you can see why I love them so much. I've met a few good, honest agents, but I've met far more who are two faced, self serving greedy opportunists. My experience doesn't seem to be atypical, and employers don't seem to like agents much either. So why doesn't the free market sort this out...

I believe I know what the problem is. Any conventional agent, for example an estate agent selling your house, paid on a commission related to and deducted from the sale price, is motivated to work in your interests, even if (perish the thought) they were was driven purely by their own greed. You approach the agent to start the business arrangement, their gain aligns with your gain, and ultimately if they're not performing you can pull the plug on them and take your business elsewhere. The interests of the agent and the agent's employer align.

But "recruitment consultants" typically don't work like this. Their fee is paid by the employer, as a (high) percentage of the starting salary. So their interest is to maximise the salary to maximise the fee. But the employer's interest is to minimise the salary. Contradiction. And in most cases employees approach the agent, who then speculatively bombards employers. So unlike selling the house, this isn't the case of the fee paying party approaching the agent, which means means that the employee doesn't have the final clout of "I'll take my business elsewhere then". So who is the "recruitment consultant" working for? Not the employer, else they'd be trying to get the best staff at the lowest salary. Not the employee, because the employee is just a pawn in the game of getting paid. It's in their interests to be self-serving, and I can't see how to resolve this, short of changing the system so that the employee pays the fee, a change which feels like a non-starter, as where does the employee find the money from?

So, with all that, it's time for me to find a new job. Oh joy.

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  • Any conventional agent, for example an estate agent selling your house, paid on a commission related to and deducted from the sale price, is motivated to work in your interests, even if (perish the thought) they were was driven purely by their own greed.

    You might be surprised. Although their interests are closer to being in line with yours, it's not all roses. In the US, the typical real estate agent commission is 6%, but that gets split a bunch of ways and they generally only take away about 1.5%. A $10,00
  • I could not agree more, recruitment-agents are parasites with little in common with either party.

    However, I'd have to say that even estate agents, who you would think have an interest in selling property at the highest possible value are pretty useless too. That could be be because of the past few years it's been a sellers market in the UK - I should know as I'd like to buy. Now that it's a buyers market they are equally useless, only nothing is selling now...

    -- "It's not magic, it's work..."