Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live without Them
Estimates are that between five to twenty-eight percent of placements occur through agencies. Using agencies should be only one part of your strategy. If you are a round peg looking for a round hole, they are a decent bet. Others recommend that if you can determine the hiring company, you should apply directly on the company website.
There are so many options in this category I won’t try to call them out by name. Depending on the type of position you are looking for, some may be better for you than others. There are quite a few that specialize in technical careers. Regardless of your field, check around and try to find out which are the respected in your region.
You can get a sense of an agency’s focus just by going to their website and looking for jobs. The categories you see will clue you in quickly. Some agencies are the exclusive holders of the position information.
The first person you will probably encounter is the generalist. That is the person with whom you will likely work most closely. Treat him or her well.
The second person involved, who I will call the specialist, is the one who usually has a relationship with the prospective employer. They have built up trust with that company and try to recommend well-qualified candidates. Should things not work out for a position, that person may be able to give insight into why you were not the preferred candidate.
In general, getting feedback is problematic. Companies are afraid of being sued, so they usually hold that information close to the vest. On occasion, I have directly established a LinkedIn connection with the hiring manager, after the interview, and requested feedback directly from the source. Results may vary, and some may feel that is too aggressive. Fools rush in …
I have run into difficulties when job descriptions don’t include everything the company wants. How can you know that in advance? You can’t. In my opinion, prospective employers are very particular about their requirements but sometimes leave off things that are deal breakers.
Some candidates may have additional skills or experience that are a bonus buy for the employer. Once an employer realizes they can get that skill, too, it becomes a new requirement. Or sometimes they just don’t know everything they want until they get into the process.
When I am working with somebody for the first time, I have a simple rule. When I ask for the status of a position, and I get no response, I stop working with that person and agency. That may sound harsh, but life is too short.
Multiple Agencies Handling the Same Position
I have a friend who flooded the market with his resume upon losing his position. The law of unintended consequences soon had its way with him. Different agencies submitted his resume for the same position. Sometimes multiple people within the same agency submitted his resume for the same position.
The result? My friend got blacklisted by some companies. Those companies indicated that they never wanted to see a resume from him again.
I have a friend who is a hiring manager. He works almost exclusively with a single agency. I have another friend who is a hiring manager, and he works with several different agencies. The thing is they both trust the agencies they work with. When you get to see a hiring manager, you are representing not only yourself but the agency.
Do yourself and the agency a favor: Prepare as if your life (or at least mortgage) depends on it.
Do your Homework
Once you have the job description and know which company it is, spend some time researching the company. If you see something that they are struggling with, you may be the answer to their prayers. Ask your agency representatives if there is anything important to know.
Provide a Description
Give your agency representatives a description of you. The people you work with may not be familiar with the type of work you do. You can help them represent you in terms that somebody in your industry will understand.
Manage Your Expectations
The agency may not share your sense of urgency. Remember that the people you are working with have many clients. Respect their time and don’t share too much of your anxiety. Treat everybody well.
Give your agency a few days (I like three) before asking for a follow-up. If they indicate they will check, give them at least another two days.
Limit the Number of Agencies
Don’t try to juggle too many agencies at once.
Find out if the position is handled only by your agency.
Find out the agency’s policy on how your resume gets submitted. Is there only one person who submits your resume or can multiple people submit it?
Always Keep the Generalist in the Loop
If you find a position of interest on the agency’s website, let your generalist know.
You have landed a new position. Find out what the generalist and specialist like to drink or eat. Get them a token of your appreciation. Remember, you may be working with them again.