Monday, December 13, 2010

Staffing / Recruiting Agencies - Blah!

For many years I have had questions about the staffing industry.  This past week I saw a representative from a staffing agency on television and her remarks prompted me to think about this subject.  I've never seen an ad that states the placement rate of staffing offices, those who got a job vs those that filled out an app in the agency office.  I think the reason is - placement ratios is not that good.
Many of you, right now, are out there without a job and have put your hopes into a placement by an recruiter or agency.  You could be beating yourself up because you aren’t getting any interview hits and maybe telling yourself you aren’t good enough – or maybe the placement recruiter has actually done that (told you “you aren’t qualified”).  Please don’t beat yourself up – BUT make sure you have a very diversified job search that is not limited to placement agencies.
First of all I have to thank staffing agencies because during the times when I haven’t had full-time employment they have kept me busy with temporary placements.  But that is about where it ends.
Back in the 80’s one of the top accounting recruiting companies had labeled me as a “trouble shooter”.  As a “trouble-shooter” they would bring me into companies that were having difficulties for any reason with a particular department and it was my job to “fix it”. Back then, being a “trouble shooter” was an excellent thing to be – I received a nice salary, could pretty much call any benefits package I wanted.  I would come into the company work 2 – 2 ½ years to bring a department around and then I would move on to the next “problem department” in a different company.  Every move (always suggested by a phone call from the recruiting company) came with a huge increase in pay.  Little did I know that the job hopping I did back then would give me an “unstable work history”.
It was the “unstable work history”, combined with the buyout of the Fortune 100 company that I was working for that sent me to academia to pursue advanced degrees and teach.
When I decided to quit teaching it took me two years to get an office job.  At one of the employment agencies the recruiter told me they would have a hard time placing me - they had to be honest with me (of course) and told me that “my actual office experience wasn’t recent enough, I was too old, I was too educated and my weight was an issue.”  My anger that day was amazing – not only was I an expert in Microsoft Office (having taught it) – but, education is office work – it is working with Word and Excel and doing budgeting and approving bills and doing forecasting.  But the sentiment was “Those that can, do - those that can’t, teach”.
After I quit teaching it took me two years to find a full-time office position.  For two years I worked temp jobs.  (That’s one reason you have angry burnt-out professors in the classroom – they don’t see an option to another/different job and experiences such as mine do not give them hope that they could move on.)
During my adventures looking for a full-time office job I encountered the following situations
  • Placement companies that would advertise jobs they didn’t have.
  • Placement companies advertising jobs that didn’t exist.
  • Placement companies advertising jobs at a higher salary than was actually being offered.
  • Placement companies doing “discriminatory-based screening” for their clients.  Because they can – they aren’t the employer.  They are the placement agency. This is the truth!  I would not lie to you.
  • Most recently a recruiter told me that my accounting experience was too old and no longer relevant (for a job that I was absolutely qualified for). I use my accounting skills every day for a small company – so the question driving home was have debits and credits changed in the “new, larger” systems, is a chart of accounts no longer a chart of accounts in the “new, larger” systems, or have journal entries changed in the “new, larger” systems.  I was pissed – because it doesn’t matter what accounting software you are using – accounting happens the same way on all of them - regardless of how new the software is. (I think they really meant I was too old).
  • I have seen three and four syllable words on vocabulary tests that only a scientist would know (I looked them up when I got home).  The words are not used in the normal work environment, do not represent a "bonafide job qualification" and can only be interpreted as covert discriminatory testing.  (I missed one interview by 0.99999%, which was probably in the vocabulary section).
  • Now, they are recommending / advertising that you should do a video that the recruiting agencies can send to employers.  If this isn’t a blatant discriminatory practice, I don’t knowwhat would be.
  • AND, for me – THE MOST HATED  - the personality assessment.  We don’t care about your qualifications – we only care if you are a good organizational fit, preferably an ENFP.  (See my October entries on personality assessments.)
Finding a job really is our responsibility.  I know.  You’ve heard it all before but, I have faith in you and I know that you will be able to find the position that you want and need. Here’s a list of things I have done:
  • The most important one - Apply for jobs that are in your field and on the border of your field, include advertised positions where the qualifications are too high – or you think you don’t meet "the advertised qualifications".  If you know you can do the job, APPLY regardless of the qualifications listed.  "Advertised qualifications" are a screening technique used by business and industry - to weed out applications - to make people afraid to apply because of the qualifications.  You just never know what can happen if you apply.
  • When you are tested at a recruitment center – ask for a copy of your scores and include that information in your resume or cover letter, it’s a selling point. 
  • Be open with your friends that you need referrals – don’t be afraid to beg, I do it on a quarterly basis. 
  • Find a job club in your town – even if it’s across town and go to it – let people you don’t know, know that you are looking for a job. 
  • Volunteer to work at industry related conferences and local meetings that you can no longer afford to be a member of and then network!  If they say no, call again in three weeks – tell them you will do anything.  If they still say no, call two weeks before the event and then two days before the event.  You just never know what can happen.  
  • If you are willing/able to move, start looking elsewhere -  there are jobs in other states (suggestion Tell them in your cover letter that  you are willing to move on your own dime or with little financial assistance (Check with your accountant - last time I did this  - I wrote if off on my taxes.)
  • I have yet to understand why people use or recommend – it’s an annoying meta-system that repeats the same job a million times from different websites.
  • Bookmark actual company web pages (I have 90 company web pages bookmarked and check them on a regular basis).
  • Bookmark newspapers within a 60 or 90 mile radius – the pay may be less, but at least it’s a job and may have decent benefits.  You might need a change right now.
  • Bookmark local colleges and universities employment pages.   Teaching is not the only thing they do and the educational benefits are amazing (aka go to school for almost free or free).
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t getting any hits from recruiting companies that you have signed up with and don’t tell yourself you aren’t good enough just because the recruiters aren’t calling.  Please don’t beat yourself up.   BUT make sure you have a diversified job search that is not limited to placement agencies.
Tags:  Recruiters, Robert Half, Office Team, ProStaff, AppleOne, Job search, Employment Discrimination, Finding a Job, Employment Agencies

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