Tag Archives: effectiveness

Recruitment Agencies – Advocates or just Adverts?


I would like to think that I can see the constructive side of every situation I am in, but with recruitment agencies, I am really struggling.

In my recent working past, I have been employed by Government agencies through a recruitment agency. In theory, this is a situation that should have symbiosis that works well for all concerned:

• the client/employer gets (supposedly) a wider choice of high quality, skilled candidates employed quickly for short-term and/or specialist jobs;

• the contractor/employee gets access to employers through relationships already established to give priority. They may also get paid directly through the recruitment agency who acts as a payroll company (saves a lot of paperwork and messing about with tax and GST), and;

• the recruitment agency, of course, makes money as the middle-person between both parties, by finding and vetting high quality skilled people required and advocating for them to the client/employer.

But in reality, who is it really working for?
My experience tells me it is only really working for the recruitment agencies, who make huge amounts of money from either ongoing contractor employment, of which they take a cut by the hour or from one-off placement recruitment. This is for very little in return, as the recruitment agencies themselves are short of skills, proper systems and even, in fact, the relationships which their business should rely on. It may work for the candidate, should you be lucky enough to land a job, and for the employer, should they be lucky enough to get a decent short-list of suitable people.

To take my own example, when I worked for an agency they were taking $24 per hour over and above my agreed hourly rate. I worked just over 1400 hours with that agency in 15 months, which is a gross sum of $33,600 and not including the GST they collected- $18,760. In return for that, they collected my money owing, paid me an amount including super and paid tax on my behalf. They also did the contracting paperwork, which is actually not that difficult , except that no-one, including Government workers, seem to be informed about their own procurement processes (another HR issue which will be discussed another time).

In the case of a one-off placement, the recruitment fee is usually somewhere between $5,000-$10,000 or more, not including advertising costs. This may seem steep but if it includes a rigorous and targeted short-listing process, this can save a lot of expensive Government time, and also opportunity-cost – what do policy makers really know about good recruitment? And wouldn’t their time be better spent developing policy?

However, this scenario only really works IF the short listed candidates are very closely matched to the job specification.

And herein lies part of the problem. Getting clarity about what a job entails, it seems, is difficult. The number of times I have asked recruitment agencies for more information than the 5 lines provided in the job advertisement, doesn’t bear thinking about.
It seems to me that many Government workers are unclear and slack about what real recruitment is about and want the easy way out. I think their HR departments need to take some responsibility for not providing that clarity for their people, and not keeping job specifications up to date, which include suitable selection criteria.

So, what is the recruitment process with recruitment agencies? The Government agency/Dept puts out a request for quotation (RFQ) to recruitment agencies on their panel of recruitment providers OR else chooses a select number of agencies OR just one to do the job. (I recently responded for a group of jobs that were put out to all 136 agencies on their panel).

Each agency will “badge” the information received from the Government agency/Dept with their logo and requirements – differing deadlines, and requirements for candidates to respond – and advertise on their own website and other wider websites such as SEEK. A huge amount of the look for candidates seems to rely on this type of advertising. If you are lucky, they will trawl their own database of candidates to look for a match. How they go about this I am unsure, but the recruitment agencies do not seem to look any further than the job title. So, if you are like me and have done training before, every job with trainer in the title will come your way. In fact, if I was being very rude, I would say that most of the recruitment agencies barely seem to know how to read, and are actually unable to read resumes and job applications, much less be able to offer advice on how to place candidates forward more sensitively.

Whichever way the candidate responds, the job agency will “re-package” your resume (CV) and your selection criteria to be put forward to the employer agency. This “re-packaging” involves putting your work on their template and usually some fairly indiscriminate editing. I have only recently become aware of this and can say sincerely that this re-packaging does not add value, in fact, detracts from the original work of the applicant.

In summary, we have an employer who may be less than clear about what they require in an applicant or if they are clear, unsure about how to go about getting that type of person. Fair enough. They then deal with their HR department (?) or go directly to a recruitment agency, who seem unable to help them to get the clarity they need to enable a targeted, effective and efficient look for suitable people. Suitable people might well emerge but what chance have they when they are re-packaged to an employer who is unclear in the first place?

It seems that like life itself, recruitment of people muddles along in a gloriously serendipitous way….until the mortgage payment is due. Work your way out of that one.

Nora Stewart

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