Recruitment agencies

02 May 2010
This has been something I have wanted to vent for some time, but I decided it best to wait until I was safely in a job. In all my job-hunting, I can only conclude that in most cases recruitment agencies are not much more than an expensive way of finding out company names. Overall they have caused me more problems than they have solved. And these problems seem very common.

Can't just bypass them..

Go onto any jobs website, and enter whatever terms you think match your interests/skills. The vast majority of the returned job specifications will be those posted by agencies, and quite often the same specification will have been posted to multiple job-sites. I have known cases where the job specification was a cut-n-paste from the actual employer's own website, but most are wise enough to make sure that Googling the job specification does not bring up the employer's actual website. The biggest problem with this is that finding non-agency job adverts is exceptionally difficult, with most job websites being next to useless.

No candidate or employer benefit

In some cases agencies will have a formal relationship with the actual employer, but more often than not they will simply speculatively submit you CV (sans contact details, of course). Several companies who I had subsequently spoken to at careers fairs have stated that they are cutting back intake via agencies, because they find that more often than not they are poor matches. Most have bitten the bullet and decided to automatically reject all agency-routed CVs.

To make matters worse, many head-hunters need to be chased up, which is rather off considering how much they charge. To this day I have yet to be informed how my Imagination Technologies application went. Admittedly I know that I botched the interview, but any self-respecting company will have the decency to actually inform candidates who got as far as on-site interviews of any failure, and this reflects very badly on the companies themselves. I suspect this is why, at a careers talk I gatecrashed last week, the person stated "don't apply via agencies - they drive us up the wall".

Automatic disadvantage

Of course agencies need to make their profits somehow, and this comes from billing the employer for candidates they take on. This fee seems to typically be 20-30% of candidates starting salary, which works out at around £4,000-9,000. You might rate yourself as worth (say) £25,000, but it means the employer is really deciding whether you are worth £30,000+.

Samples of previous work? Forget it.

Pretty much all the program code that I am both willing and able to let the general public see I have already published. This does not include code used during the course of my PhD because much of that would be in violation of the licensing terms of various software packages, let alone various confidentiality clauses. For all I know the caller could be a dirt digger at a rival university/company - the not-even-promise of a possible job interview is simply not worth it.

No sense of geography

Many recruitment agencies based in London seem to have complete ignorance of what non-London travelling is like. Langley and Enfield may both be about the same distance from Berkhamsted, but they do not have equal travelling time: For one you are going in the opposite direction to all the traffic, and the other is driving through the most congested highway segment in Europe (and that's even before you consider all the roadworks). Unlike a train/underground journey, you cannot doze off during an hour-plus car trip.