Category: Employment

It’s a well-known fact among serial temps that the first hurdle to any temping contract is the employment agency. These agencies come in all shapes and sizes; from the tiny independent operating from home, to the UK-wide chains, commonly spotted nestling above shops in the local high street. They can range from very good to very bad, but good or bad experiences are generally subjective and dependent on when you register and who you deal with.

I’m currently temping through a wonderful agency; my contact there has been established at the branch for a few years now and I’ve had many dealings with him on both sides of the table, so to speak, mainly when I was looking to employ an assistant myself (in a past life when I was permanently employed). It’s reassuring to know that I don’t have to keep chasing him to find out what’s happening with my job hunt; I know that he’ll call if something comes up. However, that’s obviously not the case with every agency I’ve dealt with (brace yourself: token horror story alert).

Another agency I registered at some time ago were fantastic – the consultant and I hit it off immediately and she found me a placement very soon after. However, I’ve tried registering with the agency since and her colleague seems extremely disinterested. I’ve tried calling and e-mailing but I’m not getting any response. It’s a shame, as I could potentially be earning this consultant some serious commission! Another agency I tried registering with had actually forgotten I was booked in and I ended up having to wait around for ages for each step of the process because the consultants were out of the office. That appointment took almost three hours and was utterly fruitless.  I also remember another agency I registered with some time ago putting me through the ringer (almost literally). Registration was scarily regimented and I was pleasantly surprised not to have a barcode tattooed on my forearm at the end of the appointment (which was, again, fruitless).

Which brings me to my agency experience today. It was never going to be spectacular; I had to virtually sprint from my office, dodging the half term families strolling along the street, out for a rainy day shopping expedition. I had to wear my sensible flat shoes that put me at the approximate height of a child, and I had less than an hour to travel to and from the office (including a cosy 15 minute jog each way). After I’d completed the forms, I was briefly interviewed by a very nice, if seemingly a little distant, consultant. I fully appreciate that I’m probably the umpteenth person through the door today looking for work, so I can understand her feeling as if she were just going through the motions. I did have to confirm with her that she had no suitable vacancies, though, and she didn’t give me a business card either. Still, I have an appointment with another agency on Monday morning that I’ve dealt with in the past and they’ve always been very good, so here’s hoping.

I’ve temped in various parts of the UK; in three separate countries (and probably about 10 different counties), and I’ve found agencies to be very similar whether they’re chains or not, irrespective of location. In the current market, it’s an employer’s field; there aren’t that many vacancies right now and those that do crop up get filled very quickly. Both consultants and job seekers have their work cut out to get placements and an agency is only as good as its current consultants and candidates.

Ultimately – and this is going to sound hugely mercenary – it’s up to consultants to spot and focus on their most employable candidates, which involves really getting to know the people that register. Why? It maintains the good reputation of the agency and earns the consultant commission. It’s also up to me, as a jobseeker, to make myself as employable as possible, which will sometimes involve me bending over backwards and having that metaphorical barcode tattooed on my forearm after all.

So my hunt for permanent employment (via the temping route) continues. Next…!

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