Recruitment agencies - just say no!

My last boss has written a blog entry about my experiences with recruitment agencies during that employment. What Nick doesn’t mention is that in addition to the phone calls I was getting upwards of ten emails a day from them at one point. I had a boiler-plate reply asking them to remove me from their databases, and to let me know when they’ve done that.

Very few ever replied, and the few that did reply did so with some scary comments like “we can’t remove people”, or “marking people as ignored is the same as deleting here”. Really really scary stuff. Have these people never heard of the data protection act?

The main thing I’ve learnt about recruitment agencies in the nearly ten years I’ve been dealing with them from both sides of the coin, is that they do as little work as possible in order to find matches for the positions they have on their books. This usually includes spamming their database using very flimsy search criteria. Let me give you an example…

If you check my CV you’ll find I did some Delphi back in 1998-1999, and I now get at least one email a week from agencies asking if I’m interested in a Senior Delphi Developer position. A very brief scan of my CV would show that I’m not even qualified for such a position.

However, none of this behaviour compares to one incident that occurred sometime in 2006. One day, while at work, I got a call from the recruitment agency who had placed me in my current position. They wanted to talk to me about “a very exciting opportunity that’s an excellent fit with my CV” (this is how they all open the conversation). I humoured this one because I was pretty sure about what was coming.

She described a position that was indeed a perfect fit with my CV, albeit a junior position when I was already a Senior Software Engineer. After listening to the job description I asked where it was. She said it was near Reading. “Excellent”, I said, “I currently work in Theale which is just outside Reading, so that would be no problem.” This got her quite excited (they do this when they think they’ve got a bite), and I felt that was the right time to ask for the name of the company.

“I’d prefer not to say until you’ve been accepted for an interview” came back the standard response. “Let me save you some time”, I said. “Is it IT Vision?”

She sounded stunned, unsure what to say. I continued… “The reason I ask is that I currently work at IT Vision, a position that your agency actually placed me in, and we recently asked you to recruit for an open position we currently have.” Do you see where this is going yet?

Anyhoo, to summarise… This agency was so disorganised that not only did they try to recruit me for a position in the company I was already with, it was a position that they had placed me in. Add to that the fact that the role they placed me in was senior to the role they were now discussing with me and you get a pretty good picture of what this agency, and pretty much all others, are like.

I’m not going to say which agency this was, but suffice to say it’s very well known in the IT industry, and they’re fairly typical of the agencies that operate in this area.

An idea that’s been brewing in my head for a while is the concept of a website that’s basically just a searchable repository of CVs. The basic idea is to put the candidate in control by anonymising all contact. Users would get an email address, a personal phone number and they would be able to switch both contact methods, and even access to their CV, on or off whenever they want to. No more unwanted phone calls or emails, and a permanent place to keep your CV up to date. After my experiences that sounds like utopia to me, and I am determined to make it happen.

The site is currently in the very early stages of development but is already looking promising. I’ll be posting updates on this as and when I make progress. It may take some time but I feel it could make a huge difference to the process of looking for a job for everybody, not just IT workers.