Agencies Do Not Respect You

After a couple of months looking for a job in the UK, I need to share* my experiences with other unemployed or ex-unemployed people. I wonder if all the people and companies who earned lots of money during the new economy bullshit are very poor now: "Who's scared of the future? Not me!"

* "share" here is Wiki-speak for "vent".

Anyway, IT people are very specialized--it's hard to do another job, especially when you're a geek - so we're a temp work force: millionaires if you have lived between 1996 and 2000, unemployed afterwards ! What about having a world strike and stopping all the systems to show who is the master of the world?! [It's a joke!!]

In London, if you want to find a job, you need to deal with recruitment agencies. The cliche about people who work in an agency is that they don't know anything about technology - they just think they do!

Here is an example of communication failure:

I did not get the job. They should focus on your potential and what you can do, not what you don't know! They don't care finding you a job and they don't care finding the best person for clients, all that they want is???. Can someone explain to me why companies use agencies to recruit their staff ?

Because recruiters are cheapie non-technicals ordered to assess technical things?

The average conversation with an agent lasts 2 minutes; they just forward your CV. As they have no time to check it, you can invent anything (12 years of Java?). So why does the client pay for nothing? Is it because of the presents the agent gives him every year? Have a look at

They present the top ten tricks used by recruitment agencies. Everything is true - I experienced it.

-- An EuropeanWikizen?!
On the other hand agencies that send blatantly unqualified people for interviews on the basis that they have 'potential' and are quick-learners will find that employers stop using them. At the moment employers can afford to wait till someone who exactly matches their requirements turns up for the right price rather than hiring someone who then has to learn to do the job.

Lie! Fight BS with BS. Honesty is poverty. I am not so upset with my kids for lying as much as I used to be. It is a crucial survival skill which I lack. Read "The Art of War".

See HowToSurviveInaJobMarketThatSucks

Sure, being an orator with a funky speech is better than a shaking voice. But what are you supposed to do if they do not let you talk ? I wish I had an electro-phone, to electrocute agents who are naughty!

See SoftlySoftlyCatcheeMonkey, TheJobMarketSucks
One of the problems I kept coming across is that companies are so fed up of being sold things that they just say "You-are-not-on-our-preferred-suppliers-list-bye" and that's the end of the conversation in response to any phone conversation that sounds like you're trying to sell them staff. They won't look at taking a phone number for a consultancy and giving them a nod at jobs AFTER having had people from them before - because HR & purchasing will only work with the preferred suppliers list.

The PSL, of course, was written two years ago, scheduled for an update in 3 years and no, you can't get on it until then.

Parasol couldn't even apply to be a UK government supplier until they next revised the PSL... in 2006

Why do people keep using the same crap agencies that piss off the contractors and lie to the companies? Because once they're on the PSL it's impossible to get purchasing to remove them for reasons as trivial as "they're not any good".

-- KatieLucas

An agency gives a company a way of filtering out the many cv's that have to be waded through. It is true that a candidate should be judged on much more than what specific tools/platforms they have used. However, when there is a surplus of candidates, then it is simply not possible to interview everybody, and some initial filter has to be applied - usually experience. If a company is trying to fill a short term contract position, then it does not make any sense what so ever to get somebody who does not have the specific platform experience. For longer term contract or permanent positions, other filters may be applied (education, achievements) and the axiom AlwaysHireIntelligence? kicks in, but the company still has to bear in mind the cost of training and timing effects on the project/projects for which the candidate is being recruited.

It is not true to say you "need an agent". As you go through your contracting career, keep a book with names and contacts of every other contractor you know, and stay in touch. You may be able to get them jobs or they may be able to get you jobs, and in a short space of time you become part of a "personal referral" network that cuts out the agent.

If you don't want to use an agent, don't complain - just go and do all the cold calling, research, arse-licking and other generally distasteful and degrading activities that many agents have to do to find out about jobs. Agents are a commercial service, not the spawn of Satan, and you have a choice.

-- KeithBines

I don't complain, the system of agencies is perfect. I have no network in UK bc I have never worked in UK. As most of the companies use agencies to recruit, I have no choice. As many agents do not check anything about your skills and experience, you can invent anything and get an interview even if you don't have the right set of skills. I don't know others jobs where you can earn a lot of money just to talk to someone for 2 minutes and forward his CV. The return on investment for companies is 0. I have also the impression that recruiters (agents, companies) don't understand that we have a brain and therefore can learn. Especially when you are unemployed, you don't have to do always the same tasks and can learn new (open-source) tools!!!

And what you call a degrading activity is the normal way to find a job in other European countries : you just send your CV to the HR!!! I don't understand what is distasteful in doing that. Fortunately, HR people do not talk to you like piece of shits ... Or maybe English agents should learn what respect is. :-)

-- An EuropeanWikizen?!

I'm not sure why Agencies seem to have much stronger position (and I am not defending or criticizing them) in the UK than in the rest of Europe - one reason is that people believe that the only way to get a IT job is to use an agent - which is not true. Everybody who is currently looking for IT work in the UK has a choice - send a CV to an agent and let them do the job of researching for open vacancies or research the vacancies yourself. Phone, write and email and ask if they have any open vacancies, check the companies websites, just like you would in any other country. The UK IT job market is pretty bad at the moment, the combination of the IR35 ruling and the downturn has killed the contracting market which means more consultants chasing fewer jobs. 10 years ago if you had six months of Oracle, C, C++ then you could write your own cheque. Today, employers are asking for very specific experience (technology, industry and often package products) and the agents are simply responding to their customers (the companies who are recruiting) demands and requirements. Yes, some of the agents are rude and obnoxious but I have found that 99% of the time if you are polite and understanding and work with the agent then they are ok - often easier to deal with than HR departments. If they tell you that you don't have the skills for the job then don't get upset with them it is not going to get you anywhere and if a job does come up that matches your skills guess whose CV is going to be at the bottom of the pile?

-- KeithBines

Someone told me that there are 45000 agencies in UK, how many IT workers? It seems that the ratio agencies / people is much higher in UK than in the rest of Europe. When there are a lot of unemployed people, no agency will research a job for you : you are just a CV among other. Of course, I am polite with agents -I am not crazy the coconut- I have learnt to bullshit about my experience. But, when they ask me if I know OO instead of oriented object and are only able to read the job spec, it makes me smile. When they call me to know which clients are recruiting bc they do not want to send my CV twice (see top ten agency tricks at, it makes me laugh. When they say they will call me and never do, it makes me lol :-))) A question Keith, when was the last time you were looking for a job? Because the agencies you are describing do not exist anymore. Or maybe you are a high class programmer so that they can make a lot of money selling you. They don't need to respect people who were born after you with a small brain ...

-- An EuropeanWikizen?!

There were, at one point, something in the region of 3-4000 agencies. Most of them were, when you actually talked to them, single-person operations, from people who'd left the bigger agencies so they could have ALL the commission.

The death of the contract market killed off most of them, and cut the larger ones to shreds. The result is kind of interesting.

There are a number of agents out there who are extremely good. When they get decent candidates they go out looking for stuff to place them - can recognise when they have a product to sell. They remember your name, your skill set, where you want to work. Things like that. These guys have worked out that the market is crap, and therefore they need to work smarter, and that having good people to place is important so they'll invest in finding those people out of the flood of CVs. These people will know their way round the industry and will know all the roles going, even if they aren't dealing with them. They're the people who remember that, for example, my partner is also a software engineer and recognise his name when he starts looking for work a few months later {Really, he only gives out his mobile number to agents, so when one of them phoned on the land-line he asked how come they knew it - they said "You're Katie's partner, so I got the number from her record..."}

There are also a number of agencies which hire, in essence, phone monkeys. These people sit at desks, don't really want to do the job and grab at the easy stuff. They're the ones that fax-bomb the clients and THEN phone me up and say "I put you forward for <completely unsuitable role at wrong end of country>". These agencies are DESPERATE to place people. As far as I can tell, their process is "contact potential opportunity, get fax number, fax-bomb company, move on to next opportunity". If you call them a week later about a role they couldn't care less, because they've already moved onto something else. They don't return phone calls, they post ficticious jobs in order to harvest CVs (because obviously, the more CVs they send to their clients, the more chance the client will pick one..) and use every trick they can think of to not talk to the candidates because that just uses valuable time better spent trying to extract fax numbers from possible clients.

One of the tricks is to attach a ficticious agent to a set of job details: when someone calls to talk about it, they ask for that agent. Of course, that name is just a trigger to ditch the caller ASAP. If the client calls back about someone they can call the candidate and have "just taken over the role from my collegue."

It's the latter lot that people hate. And bluntly, they're the ones that have driven companies way off agencies in general. I've spoken to a number of companies that simply won't use agencies anymore: they can't see any "value add". Other ones have started to hire an agency on a fixed-contract arrangement - essentially outsourcing part of their HR operation. But since the agency doesn't make commissions, they just get paid to have some agents working on behalf of the company, they don't act like they're insane.

I kind of feel sorry for the former ones, because they're the ones I'd happily have around -- they like being "people-persons" in the same way I like being a software engineer - they can be bothered to do the job properly. It's just that the IT industry had stupid amounts of money floating about and it attracted too many vultures who can't.


Pardon my ignorance (possibly from my AmericanCulturalAssumption), but what is a CV?

See CurriculumVitae - it is a list of what employment, education etc the candidate has to offer. That is the name used generally in England.

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