Once upon a time, (a long, long time ago - 1988), there was a little girl (well...21 years old) who needed a job. She could type, and was pretty good with computers. She'd only just received her work permit, and so needed money quickly, so that she wouldn't be totally dependent on new husband.
This little girl popped along to her local recruitment consultant - aka temp agency - aka Reed Employment. She spent a profitable few years working contracts for them, on and off and gained valuable experience.
Since then, she has had 'real' jobs, and temp jobs, and worked for big agencies (and companies) and little ones. She's even done motherhood - but that's another tale.
Then, this girl was no longer a little girl, but rather a (getting-larger-by-the-day) grown woman. She worked, for the most part, in permanent jobs.
Then, the armpit of London became too much for her, and she left her job in that forsaken locale, and decided, for lack of any better ideas, to temp again.
OK, enough of the gimmicks! The Truth.
As you may have gathered, I am that person. And yet again, I find myself temping - this time for a small agency in Richmond-upon-Thames. I have until recently, been working for them (on and off, for that is the nature of the business) for quite a few months.
After I returned from my annual summer holiday, I realised it really was time to get a job. I looked at job ads, applied for a few 'standalone' (i.e. not through an agency), and then spotted an ad for an open day at a local recruitment agency. The ad told me that Corcoran Parker were just opposite 'Supperdrug' (yes, that's what it said), and that we could just pop along.
I put on my glad rags...then put something on that actually fit, and went along with my CV and my fingers crossed. The agency is down Golden Court, so a bit tucked away (no picture windows a la Reed Employment), though not difficult to find. I climbed a couple of flights of stairs, and found myself in an airy reception, where a young and pleasant receptionist took my details, asked me a couple of basic questions (to ensure that they could help me and, indeed vice versa. One woman came in whilst I was waiting wanting teaching jobs - Corcoran Parker are largely administration, with a smattering of Sales and Marketing), and gave me the usual forms to fill in.
Since I was looking for both temporary and permanent work, I filled in the Temp form (as well as giving my CV in), and was (after a bit of a wait - one of the computers was down) tested on typing and on Word (they called me a Word geek when I'd finished...but in a nice way).
I was then interviewed by the temporaries consultant. She was (and, I would expect, still is) very young, bubbly, friendly and actually good fun to chat to. She warned me that she knew little about the permanent side, but that someone else would talk to me shortly regarding that.
Soon after, the permanent consultant did much the same. She interviewed me fairly comprehensively - what could I do, what was I looking for, what would I take. She seemed very confident that she would soon have me in permanent full time employment.
I was then asked to email my CV as soon as I could, as they often send their CVs electronically, and evidently don't have a scanner.
After a process taking I would guess a couple of hours, I went home and waited.
The Downs and Ups
Within a day or two, I had my first permanent interview, and my first temporary job.
Having said I didn't want to go back into Sales in a big hurry, the first interview I had was to become an IT recruitment consultant! Having said I would not take a temp job below a certain salary...I was working below that salary (though I have to say, I agreed to it because it was local and casual dress).
The interview seemed to go well...and then I heard nothing. Nada...not a thing. Other interviews seemed to have a similar result. Communication would start well...and then go silent.
For many temp jobs, the same held true. In this climate, many companies are interviewing even for temp employees, particularly long term ones. I had a couple of interviews - in one, I 'got' the job, but it later transpired that the department within the local council for which I was supposed to be working had not received permission to use a non-approved supplier.
Another difficulty I had was that they seemed (and indeed, still seem to) think that I am an accountant, or that I desperately want to be. This baffles me, as nowhere on my CV have I mentioned a love of accounting.
For temping, they also seemed to struggle a bit with the word local. They kept trying to (and, in a couple of cases, succeeding) send me further afield than I wished to go. They did not always 'do their homework' - I was once sent to the entirely wrong branch - it was even in the wrong town!
They are a small agency. This can mean that there is not the selection of either temporary or permanent vacancies, and they may have less flexibility regarding pay and conditions than a larger, more powerful agency may have. They have a variety of staff, both older and more experienced (though all under 40, I'd guess), and very young and somewhat less experienced (though very keen).
However, there is an upside.
The staff, without exception, are friendly and caring. When I have been ill (most recently with some interesting dental issues, but that's another story), they have been genuinely concerned, and have informed the client immediately.
The offices are welcoming, and the staff always seem pleased to see me. I feel comfortable talking to them, and can (and have) expressed any concerns I may have had. I feel like a real person, not just a source of income!
They do pay holiday pay (though I believe they have to now by law), and they are flexible when it comes to timesheets (you don't lose pay if your timesheet is a bit late). They also often work outside of office hours, so they are contactable before a normal working day begins and after it ends.
Being a one-off, small company, means they do not have to run to head office every time you have a query about pay or any other issues. They can make many decisions on the spot.
Like many small firms, they also seem to inspire loyalty from their clients. I am currently working on a long term temp assignment, and I am told that the person responsible for staff here has followed the MD from one agency to the next.
They are nice people, however they as a business are flawed. I no longer use them exclusively (and, to be fair, they fully support candidates who register with other agencies and seem to understand the advantages to the individual of doing so).
I would recommend them with reservations, but would suggest to a potential candidate that they communicate very clearly what they are looking for, and understand the advantages and limitations a small agency gives.
Interesting responses to this subject although maybe a tad predictable. As someone who's worked in recruitment for 12 years it's illuminating to see how much 'mystique' there still appears to be about recruitment agencies. Can't help but feel that this mystique is perpetuated by recruitment agencies themselves to justify their outrageous fee levels! Yes, I know, I'm in recruitment and yes, I really do believe that most agencies charge way too much for doing little more than acting as what can only be described as a 'CV Warehouse'. However I do accept those comments from other recruiters that specialise in niche markets that their services are of greater value than those who aren't, especially if they have an in-depth knowledge of the business sector they serve, are placing people with specialist skills and aren't one of those 'smile and dial' merchants who work for agencies with names like 'peppermint personnel' (made that name up, hope there isn't actually an agency with that name!) But I do feel that many people are missing the point. Too many people talk about the level of service the job seeker gets (or doesn't get). Why? They're not the ones paying the fee. Whats really criminal is the level of service the client gets (so eloquently illustrated by kenjohn). So, why are these fees so high? Agencies operating at the lower to middle end of the market (where most people fall into in terms of salary), actually place between 5-7% of all the candidates they interview (and I use the term 'interview' here loosely). That represents an enormous amount of wasted activity ('interviewing' candidates of which at least 90% aren't going to get placed). So somebody has to pay for this wasted time... yes you've guessed it... the client. So why does the client pay (albeit grudgingly in many cases)? Here's some possible explanations: T
he client is too lazy. The client doesn't know how to find the right candidates themselves. The client is too busy to find the right candidates themselves (although I personally find this a pretty weak excuse). The client doesn't care how much it costs because it's the company's money not theirs. Would there be so many recruitment agencies (especially the 'generalists' rather than the specialists) if none of the above were true? I doubt it. I've worked for a couple of large recruitment companies in the UK and the ethic that drives virtually all agencies is "how can we generate more fees" rather than "how can we improve the clients ability to make their recruitng more cost effective". Good recruitment is a process (and this applies to both candidates and companies). There is never a 'quick fix' solution to either filling a job or finding a job. And statistics prove that the worst performing employees in companies (in terms of length of stay) are those that come from agencies (by the way, the best are those that come from internal recommendations). The problem often is that too many candidates who use a recruitment agency do so because they 'need another job' rather than 'want a better job'. And as we all know, need is a negative motivator. Often this need tends to blur the job seekers judgement in terms of choosing his or her next employer. If only both companies and recruitment agencies could become a little more proactive rather than reactive when dealing with recruitment issues (and by that I mean put systems in place that reduce the whole 'knee jerk' approach of hiring the first good person that comes along), I feel that everybody would be a bit happier with recruitment agencies and the whole recruitment system. The bottom line is that there's way too many recruitment agencies out there, all doing the 'numbers game'. Many of
the best employers out there are those that rarely use agencies, because they've made the effort to develop their 'employment brand' (HP, Cisco etc..) and built internal systems that allow them to achieve for themselves what most agencies are trying to offer them. Last comment before I fall of my soap box with exaustion. Anyone out there who is looking for a new job... go out and buy a copy of 'What colour is my parachute' by Richard Bolles. Easily the best book ever written on the whole 'job hunting jungle'... and choose agencies that are either specialists in your field or who are running a 'real' ad for a client for a job that you feel you 'genuinely' can do.
I currently work in a care recruitment agency and have often come across the opinion that agencies are the scum of the earth! If you are thinking of joining an agency, here's my advice- - The best way of finding a good agency is to ask around. Don't go for the ones with the biggest adverts or well known national branches. -Be confident that you have enough experience/qualifications. You could end up wasting your time applying to agencies who can't help you. -Find out about their recruitment procedure- better agencies will be thorough in checking you out(face to face interviews, references and checks) -Agencies offering higher rates of pay will have better staff (clients will expect to pay more for quality staff) if you have limited experience, try one offering less pay untill you have enough experience to move on! -Agencies are, at the end of the day, trying to make money out of clients. The more agency staff impress clients, the more they are valued by the agency and will therefore get the plum jobs. -If you go into an agency, the best way of impressing them is to be friendly and enthusiastic. You may find you're offered a job on the basis of your wonderful personality!
A bit of a daft title you might think, but what it stands for is the good service I have received from a number of agencies I have been registered with over the years. From time to time I have found myself out of work (three of my last 4 jobs ended in redundancy) and with a wife, two kids and a mortgage to see to I didn't have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for a new opportunity. Also, in younger days when I wasn't sure the direction my life was taking, I did quite a bit of 'temping'. Therefore I have used up to about half a dozen employment agencies in the Leeds / Wakefield area, and I have to say, I was very impressed with each one. They always manage to get you work when they promise, even though sometimes these jobs arean't the *best* in jobs the world. However, when you are trying to keep house and home together, *anything* is better than nothing. On the other hand, some assignments are really excellent. One of the customer service jobs I did through Manpower turned into a full time position, which was great. This is often what happens. Many of the positions available are 'temp to perm', which is excellent when you are trying to get a foot in the door somewhere. For those who have never tried one of these recruitment agencies, I would say definitely go for it. You won't be out of work long and the accounts they have with companies provide far better jobs in many cases than the ones you see advertised in job centres. To say I have registered with a number of different ones over time, you would think I would have had a bad experience here and there - but no. I have nothing bad to say about these agencies based on my own experience. They provide an excellent service, especially for those who need to be earning straight away.
As a student who has managed to amass a huge overdraft I have found it impossible to survive the summer holidays without earning myself some money. Call me a snob but however desperate I am - packing boxes would never enter the equation!! From typing my assignments etc I have become pretty much computer literate and so decided to get me a nice little office job. With no money to be loyal about the situation I enrolled in all the temping agencies in the Bradford area, and found that work came rolling in for the beginning of the next week. Horizon were the agency that came up trumps and have provided me with employment all through the summer- their moto being 'our people come first' or something like that! Although this seems pretty cringe worthy it is actually very true. Whilst on an assignment in an office near by the agaeny, the lady who I dealt with came in with a dognut for me - how very nice!!! So if you're trying to clear your overdraft over the summer I highly recommend temping as a pleasant way of doing this and if you have a Horizon Recruitment Agency nearby then I would definitly recommend them to you!
I have been temping for several years now, and for the last couple of years have been working through Spring Personnel. They were one of the first agencies to fully embrace the concept of paid holidays for temps, and are now leading the way in organising financial services such as savings and life assurance (in conjunction with Legal & General). When registering with some agencies, you effectively become an "employee" of theirs, which can become awkward when needing time off for job interviews, etc. At Spring Personnel temps are officially known as self-employed contractors, so effectively when temping with Spring Personnel it is possible to "be your own boss", and work when you want to.
I recently decided to a change of career was in need and duly handed in my notice at my present position. Subsequently I did the rounds of the agencies to register for permanent vacancies and have found that Office Angels are just that. I'm registered with about 10 agencies and with the exception of one other Office Angels have worked tirelesly to find me a suitable position. The consultant I have seen is really friendly and helpful and goes out of her way to keep me updated with what she is doing on my behalf. If your looking for either temp or perm work they are the people to go and see!