I read with some interest Kelly Mills' piece on recruitment agencies (CW July 1, p1), but I don't think it went far enough. I have been trying to find employment through agencies and over the last few months I can say that my experiences with them have been an exercise in dealing with ineptitude.
Many of those I have dealt with do not check their databases before placing an advertisement, preferring to see what comes in by way of response. Many advertise jobs that do not exist, many of the agents themselves are not IT literate or if they are, they go to great lengths to not show it.
I have been on both sides of the equation having used agents to hire staff and used them to find work. I believe they do little for their clients as I have been put forward for roles without the agent having ever met me or having done any pre-qualification whatsoever. I have also had staff presented to me who have been totally unsuitable for the required role despite having presented the agency with a written job spec. One sterling example of an agency not understanding what was required was being sent a Web developer when the specification was for a Visual Basic application developer.
I have seen agents make rapacious margins on their contractors, which also means that they are overcharging their clients and providing no service whatsoever for that fee apart from an occasional phone call to find out what's happening and to see if there's any other work out there. I am aware of agencies charging clients up to 100 per cent, the client being charged $180 per hour where the contractor was being paid $90 per hour, obviously an extreme case.
I have to say that, as an IT professional with more than 12 years experience, the business of contract agencies is in dire need of a massive shakeout. I have decided to go direct to clients now and bypass the agents, because they really don't do a lot for their fee.
There's a lot more to this story than meets the eye and if users of agencies both looking for work and looking for employees actually knew how they worked and what went on, I doubt many of these agencies would be in business for too long.