Employment Agencies and How They Work

Some companies may decide, for any number of reasons, to turn their job openings over to
an outside employment agency; it’s then the responsibility of that employment agency to
locate candidates for those jobs. A lower quality agency may submit a volume of applicants
that may or may not fit their clients’ needs very well. On the other hand, a quality agency will
provide insightful guidance to their clients, and only submit candidates that are nicely
matched to the job opening; with time the client will come to appreciate and depend on the
quality work of that agency.

    Note: If a company chooses to use an outside agency, the company may or may not
    still have the jobs posted on their own website.

An agency’s two most important assets are its relationships with its clients, and its database
of candidate resumes. When a client company gives them a new job to fill, the agency
recruiter will typically check their database first to see what candidates they already have in
their system that match the job, because it’s certainly easier to look for candidates already in
their database than it is to go out and find new ones. When that becomes necessary, there’s
typically a two-stage effort:

    1. Posting the job online so candidates can find it and apply for it
    2. Searching for candidates

Why Should You Use an Employment Agency?
Using an agency should be part of your strategy to find a new job, and it should be a free
service to you. In addition to your efforts in finding a new job on your own, using an agency
means you have a recruiter working on your behalf to find jobs for you, too. Also, because
companies may choose to rely on an agency and not post jobs themselves, working with an
agency may be the only way to learn about particular job openings at their client companies.

Types of Agencies
In addition to the quality level of agencies, they also vary in other ways:

    Type of Contractual Agreement with their Client Companies
  • A contingency agency is the most common type. It earns its fee if and when it
    successfully locates and submits the candidate to the client that ultimately gets
    hired. A client may decide to allow more than one employment agency to work
    on the same job at the same time, since they only have to pay a fee to the
    winning agency. If an agency works on a particular job opening for their client
    but are not able to find and submit the candidate that gets hired, that agency
    gets no compensation for its efforts.
  • A retained agency charges an up-front fee (retainer) from its client company to
    perform a specific search for that client. This type of agency tends to work only
    with mid- to senior-level executives and company officers, with higher salaries.
    These firms typically develop long-term relationships with their client companies,
    and the client companies come to appreciate the firm's skill at finding well-
    qualified candidates, and their high level of professionalism.

    Areas of Specialization
    Many agencies specialize in a particular types of position, such as legal, medical,
    financial, or technical, and their recruiters are often more knowledgeable and
    specialized in a niche area, but that’s not always the case. Generic type agencies are
    willing to work on many types of jobs, and are more likely to have recruiters whose
    experience and knowledge base is not specialized.

    Salary Ranges
    Agencies recruit for positions that fall within general salary ranges; for example, mid-
    range firms may specialize in positions from $50,000 to $100,000, while the more
    generic agency or staffing companies may work within a lower salary range, or hourly
    positions. Executive search firms specialize in higher-level professionals with salaries
    of typically $100,000 or more.

    Geographical Area
    An agency may limit their recruiting to a particular geographical region such as a city,
    while others may recruit nationwide, or even internationally.

How to Select an Employment Agency
In looking for an employment agency that you want to work with, adopt the state of mind that
not only are they interviewing you, but you’re interviewing them as well. Remember, it’s your
livelihood that you’re dealing with; it’s important to know how skilled they are at recruiting,
and how motivated they are to be your advocate, but also keep in mind that if you have
limited experience or a sketchy past, it’s only natural that recruiters may show little interest in
representing you.

Consider the following characteristics when selecting your agency, and the specific recruiter
within that agency that you want to work with.

    Age of the Agency
    Are they good enough to have survived for at least four or five years? Or, if it’s a
    newer agency, does the recruiter you’d be working with have a decent amount of
    experience and success before coming on board there?

    Areas of Specialty
    Do they service the type and level of job that you’re interested in and qualified for? If
    you’re looking for a very generic type of job such as administrative assistant, then the
    majority of generic agencies can work with you. If you’re a high-level executive or in a
    specialized field such as an attorney, CPA or engineer, then you’ll definitely want to
    find an agency that specializes in that field.

    Interest Level
    Do you feel like just a number that’s being processed through their system, or are they
    genuinely interested in you as a candidate, and your career? Again, remember that if
    you don't bring much to the table, it's understandable that a recruiter may have limited
    interest in working with you.

Speak to people you know to see if there are agencies or recruiters they can highly
recommend. Be willing to shop around a bit to ensure you find a quality agency that’s willing
to advocate on your behalf. Make sure you feel confident in your agency recruiter’s abilities,
and his interest and enthusiasm in you as a candidate.
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