A Guide for Working with Employment Agencies

If you have decided that you want a professional to guide you through your job hunt, then a commercial employment agency is the place to go to. Now comes the tough part. Finding one to suit you needs from around 20,000 such agencies in the United States can be quite a task in itself especially in an industry which cannot be trusted too much. The terminology used is rather confusing and unless you are well prepared as to what you should expect, there is a definite chance of being lost jungle of headhunters. The following explanation is an attempt to ease this bumpy ride:

  • Outplacement Organizations: They charge for private outplacement (of individuals) as well as corporate outplacements (individuals backed by the employer) for their services. The fee known as a retained fee is paid at the beginning and the firm markets the candidate.
  • Employment Agencies: Their primary service is to find you an employer or if you are a prospective employer, to find you an employee. And of course charge for it, but only when they succeed. This is knows as a contingent fee.
  • Contingent Search Firms: They are hired and paid by an employer to find a suitable candidate and hand him over. All the intermediate responsibilities, such as locating a candidate to fulfil requirements and interviewing him, are shouldered by them.
  • Retained Search Firms: The only difference between these and the Contingent Search firms mentioned above is that these are paid as and when a progress is made, i.e. on a retained basis.

Once you have made your decision to allow an employment agency to handle your case, be very clear about the hidden costs monetary and otherwise. Here are some tips that you must keep in mind:

  • Beware of '900' telephone numbers. As per the Federal Trade Commission rules, you will be charged either by the minute or a flat rate for your call. Reputed firms will generally make this clear to you from the beginning.
  • It's a good idea to pay attention to the classifieds. If you notice an agency that's advertising on a regular basis every week you can be sure they are collecting resumes for a client.
  • All that glitters is not gold. Advertisements that promise a huge pay packet topped with fat bonuses that look too good to be true are exactly those too good to be true. Don't fall for such traps since they are, more often than not, an easy way to attract clients.
  • Make it clear that you want to know all the details concerning the job, such as the number of employees is the firm, the pay package etc. Don't bother asking for the name of the company because it's generally against the agency policy to reveal their clients' name.
  • Firmly ask for only fee-paid jobs. This is to make sure you don't end up paying the agency for little effort they put in to find the job for you.
  • Be extremely careful of signing anything in fine print. Fine print is never good news! A person qualified to understand what's on it should first peruse any contract that you are asked to sign. Make sure you've understood every single line of the contract. Once you sign it you are bound by it and there'll be no turning back.
  • If the agency refuses when you ask to verify the existence of the job you were originally after, either leave or file a complaint with Consumer Protection.
  • Demand a hardcopy of the job specification before you attend the interview.
  • Make sure you attend only relevant interviews. Some agencies bully candidates into attending a barrage of interviews in the hope of getting their commission. Many firms have a policy not to allow a candidate to be interviewed twice in a stipulated period of time. Hence, attending an interview for which you know you are not qualified can only hamper your opportunities for the future.
  • Be choosy. Don't be bullied into taking whatever you get. Such bullying only lands the agent his/her commission.
  • If you experience anything unethical make it a point to complain. Such things will keep happening unless someone brings it out into the open. Bring it to the notice of your area's consumer protection agency or the like.