Picture this. You get called in for a job interview after applying for a position through one of those huge job boards like CareerBuilder. You show up to your interview dressed to impress with your resume in your hand and your go-to interview answers memorized. Then you find out that you’ve actually had an interview at an employment agency, which means that you’d have to pay them a percentage of your salary if you land a job as a result of working with them. But the very thought makes you cringe!
This happened to me a couple of times right after I graduated from college, and I too had the same reaction. Then, by some sort of strange twist of fate, I ended up working at one of those employment agencies, and I was able to see how they work from the inside. Now that I know what is involved in agency work and given the current economic climate, I think a lot of people might actually be better off using one.
The first thing on everyone’s mind
Before I list the benefits of using an employment agency, I’m going to address the issue that makes everyone uncomfortable: the commission fee. Look, in placing you in a job, coaching you and essentially acting like your agent, employment agencies have offered you a very valuable service. Agency employees have to make a living too, so you can’t expect them not to charge some sort of fee.
Acceptable fees and practices vary by state. For instance, employment agencies in New York have fee restrictions based on percentages of the first year’s salary. The regulations in Arizona are different. If you have any doubts or questions, make sure to check what kind of provisions have been set forth by your state’s Department of Labor for both public and private employment agencies.
Here’s something else you need to know: there are instances when the company with the open position will cover the agency cost. You see, employment agencies aren’t just for individuals, they have whole companies as clients who will pay for their services. So there is a chance you won’t have to pay anything at all. If that doesn’t work out, there is also the chance that the employer will at least pay part of the fee.
The bottom line is that you are entitled to explore your options. If you want the employer to pay the fee, tell the recruiter. Agencies will often partake in negotiations to make all parties involved happy.
Now that the controversial stuff is out of the way, here are some of the benefits of using an employment agency:
Companies actually use them
Ever wonder why you can’t find those great jobs you hear about on huge job boards? It’s probably because they are using the services of an employment agency. Nowadays, more and more companies are turning to employment agencies to do initial screenings and interviews, that way they don’t have to sift through countless resumes and interview hundreds of people before they find the right fit.
In fact, an April 2011 Staffing Industry Report finds that industry revenue went up 12 percent in 2010. It forecasts that professional staffing revenue will hit $50.6 billion by 2012. What does this mean for you? It means that these agencies actually have clients that could be your next employer.
They have a stake in your success
It’s in an employment agency’s best interest to coach you well for a potential job. Basically if you look bad, then they look bad. As a result, employment agencies prep you for interviews so that you impress your potential employer. In other words, you’ll never go into an interview blind.
These agencies also rework your resumes to fit the jobs you are applying for, a much appreciated service since many people still don’t know how to write a good resume.
Employment agencies essentially take on the role of your agent. If you have a problem with your placement, need to negotiate benefits, salary or commissions or just have general questions, employment agencies will work with you and for you. Again, it’s in their best interest to make sure that both the employee and the employer are satisfied.
While employment agencies may not be for everyone, they are a viable option for finding anything from temporary work to permanent employment. With unemployment hovering at 9.2% and the economy slowing down, I say you consider giving them a shot.