Job agencies: A story of fail.

I’ve never been a fan of agencies. Most of the time you spend there is completely wasted, as the consultant you may or may not ever meet scrabbles desperately to find your information. Most of the time I get the impression that, as glorified HR salespeople, they’re not up to the job. Thursday’s adventure just reaffirmed that impression. Being in a confident mood and armed with a bag of CVs, I went to five or six agencies to apply for jobs. Two incidents are particularly memorable:

Reed, a company that literally doesn’t want to meet you. I could only speak to the receptionist, a pretty clueless-acting and slightly posh young woman of about 20.

“I noticed a couple of jobs in your window that look interesting and I’d love to make some applications”
“Ooo..K. Have you got a CV on you?”

I hand over my CV, which lists a great number of IT-related skills and experience, and some brief but important details of admin and office tasks. It’s pretty fat, to be honest.

“So you’re working in admin at the moment?”
“Well, my last job title was ‘Support Supervisor’, and it involved some admin, but mostly I was working on their network upgrade and getting their new software together”

I see her scrawl the word “Admin” above the section on IT training and documentation.

“So you’re not working at the moment?”
“Well I’m temping for Homebase, entering and checking orders, doing reports, you know”

She writes “entering bookings, reports”.

“I can’t sign you up now, because that’ll take about an hour and none of the consultants are around at the moment, but we can give you a call next week?”

Whatever. All I really expect is to be able to meet with somebody who’s in touch with people looking for staff. But before you can even get that far, you have to summarise your skills, experience, and what you can bring to a company into a few sentences, which are briefly noted by a receptionist who clearly couldn’t give a damn.

Still, it least I got to meet the receptionist. Pertemps, just down the road, didn’t even give me that privilege. A few tempting looking temporary jobs were listed in their window, along the lines of product support and office co-ordinator for various local firms. A tiny Post-It note stuck to the front door told me to “press buzzer to right for entry”. I looked inside to see the receptionist speak into a microphone:

“Yes?”
“Uh, hi. I’d like to apply for a couple of the jobs in the window”
“What job?”
“Well, there’s one for an office co-ordinator for the local council, I’ve done that kind of work before”
“Do you have experience?”
“Well, yes, several years in fact”

I’m still speaking into the intercom. I’m being interviewed through a door.

She rummages through some papers on her desk and gets up. She then opens the letter flap in the door and passes me a business card. I take it, and see it’s an old card that’s been modified with a biro. Before I can look up ask what to do with it, she’s back at her desk. The intercom crackles back to life.

“You have to send your CV to the address”
“No problem. I have one here, maybe I can show it to a consultant?”
“They’re busy. You must email it to the system”
“You’re kidding?”
[Pause]
“OK, speak to you soon”

I stand paralysed on the spot, trying to shake off the suspicion that at some point I’ve walked through a looking glass, or crossed into a bizarre circle of hell. I seriously had to go over to a nearby bench, roll a cigarette, and have a sit down to go over what I’d just experienced.

12 comments so far

  1. Jason Gulledge on

    Wow. It’s sad how so many more things are turning impersonal. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case here though? Maybe that particular location was a front for some mob activity?

  2. Monkeyget on

    I heard about the agencies in Australia ( http://angryaussie.wordpress.com/2006/10/30/why-is-it-recruitment-so-bad/ ), that’s pretty fucked up.

  3. Matt on

    You should quit smoking you smell bad and they just didn’t want to open the door.

  4. raincoaster on

    Yes, agencies are meat markets, and they ALL want to put you under Administration rather than any specialized skills, because they can get you into a job faster that way and off their books. Targeting companies may be a better route for you.

  5. theindianapolisan on

    that’s the most depressing temp story i have heard in a while.

    i got interviewed through the buzzer (first interview) for an alarm company, but only because they have to monitor sounds and couldn’t have some dummy off the street making too much noise in their bullpen. and they were sorting people by how well you could handle odd situations and follow instructions (kinda clever, truthfully).

    but to be honest, this is pretty close to the description of every tech temp position i have sought after 2000. a waste of time. networking with people seems the only way to find a decent gig anymore. *shrug*

  6. Andrew Williams on

    Yep, Reed, Pertemps, Adecco, you name it they’re all the same.

    I’ve had it where a temp agency wanted my CV in word format so they can edit it, it turns out they edited out all my IT experience as it “wasn’t suitable for the role”. When I was asked in the interview about IT experience I rolled off a list and the interviewer wondered what the hell I was talking about.

    Similar happened to my girlfriend who has a MSc, a agency edited out all her degree work and she was then rejected for a position for not having a “higher standard of education”.

    Avoid agencies at all costs.

  7. Enna on

    Wow, you remained WAY calmer than I would have!

  8. cozumelkid on

    I’m suprised that you took the time to write the blog, which by the way was easily found on my dashboard, but didn’t take the time to put a visible link to you CV.

  9. cozumelkid on

    I’m suprised that you took the time to write the blog, which by the way was easily found on my dashboard, but didn’t take the time to put a visible link to your CV.

  10. matthewjamesorlando on

    I agree! I’ve wasted my time with numerous job agencies over the last 13 years. There is nothing worse than sitting down with someone that has absolutely no clue what you do for a living.

    I recently finished using an agency called The Porter Group and they were outstanding. I was looking for a job in NYC and they put a great plan in place. They called me before every interview they helped me get to go over the company. They gave me the five questions the company asked other job seekers, which allowed me to sell myself better.

    I would highly recommend them to you if you are in NJ or NY.

  11. matthewjamesorlando on

    by the way…I worked with Danielle who was awesome.


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