Thursday, 22 March 2018

Recruitment Agents are not bad people...despite what you might read

Welcome to WIN at IT contracting: A FREE guide showing YOU How to get the most out of Recruitment Agent Relationships. My name is Gethyn Ellis I have been running a SQL Server consulting and training practice for the last ten years. You can check out my website and blog gethynellis.com and feel free to connect with me on twitter and LinkedIn – we follow back 

In this short post we will discuss why recruitment agents are not bad people, we’ll talk about some urban legends myths and horror stories that I have read about

Urban Legends, Myths and Horror stories

Some of the horror stories I have read on various sites over the years regarding recruiters remind me of school. Going to secondary school in particular. Someone, maybe one of your friends from primary school who may have had an older sibling or older cousin attending your soon to be secondary school telling you tales of “getting your head flushed down the toilet” or “thrown down the hockey banking”…You get a little scared or anxious then when you turn up and realises that nothing like happens at all you can relax and get on with your education.

Some of the worst stories I have heard include this one:
A recruiter phoned up a contractor, had a chat, asked for details about your current client, contract and fees etc. Asked who the hiring manager was (the decision maker at the client). Which is a very common occurrence as a contractor. The agent then phoned up the hiring manager, told them that the contractor was leaving and they could replace the contactor for less money and the client took the deal and the contractor was booted out.

Now I don’t know if this is true, I have never encountered anyone that this happened too and it has not happened to me. It seems like one of the secondary school stories I mentioned earlier . It probably happened to someone once, but it’s definitely not a regular occurrence. If you are in a contract you will have a relationship in place with the client and you won’t be getting replaced because some other agent can find someone fractionally cheaper. If this happens, it’s because something is fundamentally wrong with your relationship with the end client. I’ll talk more about that relationship and managing it in a later post.

Don’t get me wrong, details of your current contract and work are valuable to an agent. Again a good thing to know in building your relationship with any business partner, knowing what is valuable to them. If you are working a contract for a company and an agent has no connections in that organisation then they know you have information that would be valuable to them. They hire contractors, they have active contractors working on site, they might have other requirements that the agent could help find solutions for. 

Why do Recruiters sometimes get a bad press?

In fairness, most of the bad press I hear about comes from contractors, not the end client themselves. With the end client paying all the fees and the agents controlling the relationship it can feel sometimes the odds are stacked against the contractor. Agents work in a cutthroat business with tight targets. If an agent doesn’t fill a position, one of their competitors will – the targets set in recruitment agencies are pretty tough too. They get a bad press because of some one the less ethical recruiters out there not all of them are like that though, but as sales people they are trained to gain as much information as possible to help them make sales, some of things I have encountered included:

  • I have contract doing x – anyway tell me about what you have been up to for the last two years. There is no contract x
  • I have a contract doing x I’m going to need at least two references from your last two clients with no further details on the contract. There is no contract x – just a fishing call looking for details of people that engage contractor
I don’t put references on any documentation – why? The information is in fact valuable. If I feel like I’m getting hoodwinked I just give the details of the agent involved in setting up that engagement for me – if there is one. When I have secured the contract offer then its common practice to supply some references and testimonials of  work that you have done but I don’t  provide those details until we get to the stage where I have been offered the work. I’m sure other contractors out there have other scenarios and stories they could share and I’d be happy to read those in the comments.

Recruitment Agents are not bad people


Most of these agents are trying to build up contacts and connections who they know hire contractors. They are working to sell your services. Always remember that recruit agents work in a cut throat business. Talking to their suppliers (IT Contractors) can help build up their network and list of warmish leads. If a client has hired contractor before they don’t need to be sold on the benefits of using contractors for current and future projects. Yes there are some unethical ones out there BUT these are few and far between. It will be helpful for you to be able to identify those early on. Most agents are very professional. All the agents I have ever had a business relationship have been excellent. Just be aware how you can identify people who fishing ultimately so I don’t invest too much time in that particular situation.

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