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Staffing Agency Red Flags

Author: Laurie Knafo/Monday, October 14, 2013/Categories: Staffing Now

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Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping hundreds of finance, technology, legal and office candidates find jobs. I take a great deal of pride in what I do, and enjoy helping candidates and employers connect. But for every 100 staffing agencies that are out there working hard to be honest and professional, there is one or two that just don’t operate as they should. And ultimately, it is the job candidate that pays the price.

How would a job candidate know if they are working with the wrong staffing agency? Below are a few of my staffing agency “red flags.” If you are working with a staffing agency or recruiter that engages in these practices, I strongly urge you to reconsider the relationship.

Pay to Play: If your staffing agency attempts to charge you a fee, or claims there is a fee but they are waiving it for you, it’s the wrong firm. Staffing agency fees are paid by the company that is doing the hiring, not the candidate. You should not pay an agency in order for them to share opportunities or offer you to an employer as a candidate. Period. No exceptions.

Fact Bending
Integrity is the cornerstone to any positive and productive working relationship. And, while you might feel almost desperate to find work, resist any pressure to misrepresent your experience and skills. A staffing agency that asks you to “inflate” or “bump-up” your resume is in essence asking you to be dishonest. I can assure you that everyone does NOT do it. Also, keep in mind that if you need Excel or Crystal Reports experience to do the job, and you don’t really have it, the employer will figure it out quickly enough. And then, you will be looking for work again, but this time with a bit of a tarnished reputation.

Too Many Wrong Questions
When working with a new staffing agency, candidates should be prepared to answer some questions. After all, it is the start of a business relationship and both parties have a lot to learn. But sometimes the questions can make the shift to being more about contacts and job openings that the candidate knows about, than the candidate. Staffing agencies that ask questions about positions previously applied for, known open positions or even who managed staffing at a prior position are using a candidate as lead generation tool. If you feel the questions are not about you and your experience, but rather open positions you may know about, then chances are the staffing agency is more focused on their interests than yours.

Promises, Promises
Readers of my blog know that I’ve been in staffing for more than 30 years. In all of that time I have never told a candidate that I would have a job for them “within an hour” or they would instantly have “dozens of job to pick from.” Good staffing just does not work that way. Any staffing agency that makes fast, bold and grand promises rare delivers. Instead, consider working with an agency that takes a more thoughtful approach to finding you the right position. While placing a candidate can happen quickly when the timing and skillset aligns, any staffing firm that makes you promises that sound like they are selling you something probably is.

What I’ve outline here is really the exception and not the rule. Most staffing agencies take pride in being transparent and diligent. But, if you are working with a staffing agency and are noticing any of these red flags, I encourage you to take your time and your talent and find a staffing agency that will work for you.


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Laurie Knafo
Laurie Knafo

Laurie Knafo

Laurie Knafo is Regional Vice President for SNI. Her 30+ years in the recruiting business enable her to bring insightful counsel to companies and candidates looking to make the most out of their staffing relationships.

Other posts by Laurie Knafo
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Laurie Knafo is Regional Vice President for SNI. Her 30+ years in the recruiting business enable her to bring insightful counsel to companies and candidates looking to make the most out of their staffing relationships.


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