Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Why recruitment agencies make estate agents look good

Remember �disintermediation�? It was a polysyllabic buzzword much beloved by Internet gurus during the height of the bubble. It basically meant cutting out the middle man, those retailers, agents, and, well, intermediaries that stood between the customer and the product they wanted. It was clear what disintermediation could deliver�the �Information superhighway� would pave over the old turnpikes of commerce, and in the process demolish those piddling little toll booths, each demanding its pound of flesh. And it�s worked to an extent, and mainly at the expense of travel agents. Fifteen years ago, booking a holiday using a computer meant asking a travel agent to enter your details into the Sabre system. Now we all have access to those databases.But not all pointless intermediaries have collapsed into pillars of salt. Anyone who has gone through the rigmarole of buying a house knows that estate agents are far from extinct. And what is odd is that whereas travel agents, who are going the way of the Dodo, in fact provided a tangible service (albeit low-level data entry), it�s not clear what estate agents, who are spreading like fungi after a rainstorm, actually do. Apart from giving you a brochure and telling you that the owner has just received an offer that is �25,000 in excess of the price listed in the brochure they�ve just handed you, what factor ensures that they do not just survive but thrive? Maybe it�s the fact that a robot hasn�t yet been developed that can open front doors, distribute glossy leaflets, and repeat the phrase �It�s surprisingly close to the Luas.� (The Japanese, however, seem to be making great strides on this challenge)However, and this is where I arrive at the heart of my argument, there is one group of middle men who make even estate agents seem like neurosurgeons. And over the past six months, after taking redundancy from my last employer, I have had enough dealings with them to last a lifetime. I am talking about Recruitment AgenciesRemember that episode of the Simpsons, when Homer decides to set up an Internet business (CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet)? The company�s assets consisted of a few pens, an executive toy, and a copy of Internet for Dummies(Remedial Edition). One wonders if you need much more to set up a recruitment agency, assuming you replace Homer�s book with a tome entitled, say, HR for Dummies.Throw in a telephone and a ropey web page and you�ve got the foundations of a modern Irish Recruitment Firm. I exaggerate (for strained comic effect) but from my dealings with these characters they don�t seem to add anything in the way of what might be called value. Apart from receiving your CV, squinting at it, and then passing it on the real hirer, what is their role? To justify their existence, they try to do more than pass on paper and this is where all the problems begin.So to help them improve their “service”, and, more importantly, to lessen the frustration of the poor sods who come in contact with them, may I present �Seven Tips to Make Irish Recruitment Agencies Marginally Less Crappy.�1. Be courteous (Or Phone Back and Give The Candidate Some News, Even If They Haven�t Got the Job)This is the usual routine: The phone rings. Agent: (Enthusiastic voice, positively perky) “Hi, there�s a really good opportunity I’d like to tell you about, it�s a contract starting immediately�. Me: �Fine, you can send them my CV.�Days pass. I call. �Hi, I was wondering what happened with that job you were telling me about last week. Any news?� Agent: (slightly confused, briefly unable to place me), �Oh, we�re still waiting to hear back from the company. I�ll call you back with news no matter what by the end of the day.�The day ends. There is no phone call. Days become weeks. Then one day the phone rings, � Hi, I�m just contacting you about a really good opportunity, it�s a contract starting immediately�. What happened to the original job you applied for? Were you in the running? Was it close? Or did the company manager hurl your CV across the room in disgust? Did they even hire anyone in the end? You�ll never know and the recruitment agent sure as hell isn�t going to bother enlightening you.2. Try to Know Something About the Job You�re Touting.Ever have one of these conversations?�The candidate they�re looking for needs to have 4-5 years experience in Web Services, Java, JavaScript, XML, XSLT, XHTML, WSDL, and SOAP. Do you know anything about SOAP?�At this point you wondering how many people looking for 3-month contract work have five years experience with bloody SOAP. Part of you wants to say, �Well I�m familiar with the Palmolive Protocol 1.0� but you bite your lip. Until you can taste blood.3. Listen and Act AccordinglyYou�ve said that you want, for example, a tech writing job and you�re not willing to relocate from Dublin. You�re then phoned about a software testing job based in Mullingar. If you didn�t suspect that most of the people you�re dealing with in this industry have a memory span of a squirrel, you�d think that they�re trying to piss you off on purpose.And recently, my inbox has filled with tempting �opportunities� in Scotland.4. Read the CV Before You Talk to the ApplicantDo I need to explain why this is a good idea? 5. Make an Effort, No Seriously, Make a Bloody EffortOne time, the recruitment firm sent me a �background� document about a company before a potential interview. And what nuggets of info did it provide? Stuff on the level of �Read about the company before the interview. Visit their website.� and �Dress professionally.�Thank you so much for those insights. All that was missing was a recommendation not to compulsively rub your crotch while talking with the interviewer.6. Be Exclusive (If Possible)Scrolling down a list of jobs in Monster, IrishJobs, or RecruitIreland, you might be consoled by the fact that the keywords you entered generated, say, 28 potential jobs. But don�t be fooled�-there might only be 4 unique jobs with each job represented by 7 agencies. This farcical situation means that if you�ve already applied for a job, but heard nothing back (see tip 1), your applications for at least six �other� jobs will be a waste of time. It makes you wonder how these outfits make any money if they�re fighting over the same scraps. But I suppose as with H. Simpson�s CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet, what�s the overhead?7. Finally, Try Remember What County You�re In.This happened to me recently: An agent originally from England kept on telling me about his opinions on the IT jobs market in the �Yew Kay.� I was wondering why he thought I would be interested in the state of the British labour market. Then it dawned on me–he thinks we�re part of UK market. And that guy never rang back either.I�ve looked over the list and I realize that even if these tips were implemented, it still wouldn�t be enough to justify the soul-shrinking process of �walking through� your resum� with people who, in Morrissey�s words, �don�t care if I live or die.�Plus there�s a very powerful agent of disintermediation out there, which allows you to avoid the whole recruitment agency Hell. It�s called a newspaper.