Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

Employment Agencies: Working as Your Agent in the Job Search Process

Graduating from college is a great rite of passage - into the big unknown - getting your career started, deciding what kind of job you want, learning how to interview, composing a resume and conducting the job search. A wise job seeker will utilize all possible options in their job search: the newspaper classified ads, the college placement service, family friends, business contacts and employment agencies. You want to explore as many options as possible, get as many offers as you can and select the best position regardless of the source.

Employment agencies have a large abundance of potential career opportunities. They work with a myriad of companies from large to small in all industries. Working as your agent in the job search process, employment agencies will help you to market yourself by developing your resume, finding positions you would not have been aware of, teaching you interview skills appropriate for each interview, selling your background to employers, showing you many choices in positions and types of companies and screening out those "less than reputable" positions. They have long standing relationships with companies that make them able to generate interviews for candidates based on trust from the employer. The employer knows that if the employment agency sends a candidate, that candidate has met the screening criteria laid out by the company. This means that the chances of the candidate being the right fit is much greater than those who apply from other sources. Many of these positions never even receive public exposure - the company goes directly to the agency to fill the opening.

As a fee based service, employment agencies carry both employer paid and applicant paid fees. As a potential applicant, you should only pursue agencies where a fee is never collected from any party unless a successful job placement is made. A perpetual myth as always been that "big, good companies pay fees," which is not true. A company decision to pay a fee is generally determined by market forces such as supply and demand for the position available, the negatives associated with selling the job (i.e., excessive travel, commission based, relocation), and whether or not the candidate has a proven track record in their field. Specific industries are always inundated with potential applicants and due to supply and demand would never pay a fee. A new college graduate is a big risk. For instance, having a management degree does not indicate that you will in fact be a good manager. Approximately 80 percent of new graduates change jobs in the first two years out of college. Training a new person can cost up to $15,000.00 (not including salary and benefits). These facts combined make a large statement to a company regarding their willingness to pay a fee for an entry level candidate. Companies typically have a blanket policy regarding fee payment that is developed in a boardroom - they do not make decisions about fees based on individual candidates and their specific qualifications. The number of large, successful and prestigious companies that do not pay fees for entry level candidates would probably astound you. However, this does not in any way effect the quality of the position or the opportunities available at those companies. Paying a fee is like going to college: it is an investment in your future.

When you go to an employment agency, you are in the driver's seat. You determine what types of jobs you want to look at, how quickly you want to move and have the option to pursue whatever types of fee arrangements you choose. I encourage candidates to view all types of fees and make the decision on whether to pay a fee based on the individual job opportunity at hand. The fee is a criterion in your decision making just as other items such as benefits, salary, training and advancement opportunities. If the position is a measurably better opportunity, the fee is justified. For example, if the position through the employment agency pays $5,000.00 more in your first year as well as having much quicker advancement opportunities than the other positions being considered, the choice becomes obvious. Paying a fee to an employment agency must be a business decision rather than an emotional one.

As a job searcher, you will receive many pieces of advice. The people issuing the advice all mean well. Unfortunately, that does not mean that they have the most up-to-date or knowledgeable advice about your field, the entry level job market or other factors. I encourage you to weigh all advice evenly and to heed the advice that is applicable. Do not short sell yourself in the big picture for a small savings that may not pay off later. Be fair to yourself and consider every available position. Take the best position that will get you to your career goal the fastest, not just the position without a fee attached.

-- Vicky Sherman, General Manager, Employment Advisors, Inc., (612) 925-3666.