8 Reasons to Avoid IT Recruitment Agents

The following list cannot be said to apply to all IT recruitment agents, that wouldn’t be fair. Unless they are recruiting for a bank, in which case these characteristics could be looked upon on as required skills for a recruiter to master.

But most IT contractors will – or rather should – recognise some of these characteristics in the agents they comes across. Perhaps by remembering this list, it will help avoid some of the pitfalls of dealing with IT recruitment agencies and their agents.

These are all based on true stories experienced by our writers and contributors, many of whom have lost thousands to unscrupulous and/or lazy recruitment agents.

1 They Never Read Your CV
Over the last few years, in spite of residing and working in the area for more than a decade, every agent that has offered us a job here has also offered to provide “assistance in finding accommodation” (i.e. a couple of URLs to local over-priced rental agencies that we could have googled ourself in zilch seconds but didn’t even spend that long looking because we already live here) and to help us “register with our local tax authorities” (i.e. send us the form, presumably in case we’d forgotten to do it ourselves all these years).

And this is after they’ve hired you. They don’t even know which country you live in sometimes. Yet each and every one of them will brazenly tell you, “We’re a people business”.

And I’m Donald Trump.

2 They Have Moral Hazard Built-In to Their Contracts
Most agents, and most contractors we’re sorry to say, will have to go look that one up. So we’re not providing the link since they should both bloody well know what moral hazard is and be taking joint steps to eliminate it from their business dealings.

But they don’t.

For the contractor it’s disastrous. The headline rate offered, usually inflated by re-including deductions that will only be deducted again later, oftens blinds contractors to the fact that it could be a lot higher. “It’s the best I could get“, the agent will routinely lie. He just told his client that you’re worth an hundred an hour. The only honest thing he said. The client appreciated his perceived honesty and agreed to pay the hundred. Matey comes back and tells you, “fifty’s best I could do“, and you believe him.

Ask him if he is prepared to avoid moral hazard in the rate and show you his contract with the client.

More moral hazard, it really is built-in to agency contracts, occurs when the contract ends. The agency will be offended that your fixed-term contract has come to an end and will attempt to squeeze every last drop of cash out of you they can before you leave. Anticipating this well in advance, they tell their clients during the intial negotiations that you need a one month notice period, which the client is happy to give. They tell you they could only get one week.

If the end-client ends the contract early, as they often do, the agent profits. He’ll remind the client they need to pay the four weeks notice, tell them the contractor will leave at the end of the week, then tell the contractor, “they want you out at the end of the week“. He gets three weeks worth of your money – or 300% comission for the last month.

The contractor doesn’t even know the agent received that money, and his client believes the contractor has been paid.

Overtime, or additional hours as its often called, is another moral hazard scam that favours the agent. Most companies have to pay extra for out-of-hours work by law, but the agent will tell you they don’t. Every extra hour you put in, the agent pockets an extra 25% simply by not telling you that the employer is paying more for those hours.

Nobody is ever likely to find out about these agency scams, so there is nothing to prevent them from helping themselves. That’s what moral hazard is. IT recruitment thrives on it.

3 They Know Nothing About the Job

They will insist on “interviewing” you before deciding if they’ll submit your CV or not. These agency “interviews” usually consist of nothing more than the agent getting an intern to call you and read through a list of requirements asking you if you have them.

He tells them that they are “interviewing” you. He gets them free of charge, their minimum-wage salaries paid for him by the tax-payer in order that the governemnt may artificially lower the otherwise shocking unemployment rate.

What they are actually doing is checking with you that a list of keywords are on your CV, which they could have already found out for themselves if they had bothered to read it. As if the presence of entry-level SEO adword skills woven into the fabric of your CV, or at the very least presented in machine-readable bullet-point form, coupled with an unbridled passion for whatever it is the client wants you to do, are the only requirements of the job.

Candidates who offer well-rounded experience with sharply-honed skills and a proven track-record of getting things done can go take a hike.

As for the hapless workfare recipients thurst into their first experience of the free-for-all take-it-while-you-can mentality that the corporate world is and always has been, the only “work experience” they are getting is in how to annoy people and get on their wicks. Probably not much to have on their own CV, unless they are planning to take up a career in the civil service.

We could add to this the insulting “candidate agreement” that many recruiters expect you to sign in exchange for nothing more than them announcing your candidacy. But this is a particular area of fat-headed agency egoism worthy of its own article.

4 They Rip-Off Client and Contractor Alike
In addition to the myriad agency moral hazard scams, they offer a broad range of alternative methods through which they may fleece their clients and contractors. Most brazen of all are the ghost contractors, one of the oldest tricks in the book known since the Roman Legion.

Even with all the checks and balances in place in a modern corporation, the occasional time-sheet signing manager is still able to get away with slipping the occasional ghost through his colluding agency partner. Signing timesheets for contractors that do not exist, for work that was never done, and divvying-up the spoils.

Financial management and tax scams are another favourite of IT recruitment agents, particularly in the EU where regulatory chaos demands that contractors change their legal jurisdiction every time they renegotiate a clause. This gives rise to a plethora of new ways in which to add the tax man, and hence society in general, to the agent’s list of people he can cheat.

So be wary of any schemes that the agent tries to sell you that involve him routing so much as a penny of your hard-earned cash through any sleazy third-party pal of his. He is on commission. He will lie to you to get it and he most likely requires a license he does not have to sell it to you. Seek independent financial and legal advice.

If you trust your agent to give you advice about your contract terms or the financial arrangement he is putting you into, then you deserve to get tucked-up. But everytime you let some cowboy get away with this, you’re hurting the rest of us and we’re not about to thank you for it.

5 They Race to the Bottom
It is in the agent’s best interests to find the cheapest possible candidate and submit them at the highest possible rates.

Some would argue that free market competition would weed out agents that substitute unproductive candidates for productive ones in order to increase their margins. We’d say, get your head out of your ass, numb-nuts.

Even if the good guy gets offered the job at the good rate, Matey is going to tell his client the good guy don’t want the job no more and offer up a muppet as the only alternative.

6 They May Be Incurably Clueless
British agent. Female. Early fifties. Fifteen years in the game. Offering a role that a year before had commanded five hundred bucks per day. We apply and find out she’s only got two hundred to offer for it. We mention that two hundred doesn’t even provide enough to rent a room in the city and she says she knows that and she is looking for someone local who still lives “at home”, with their mum and dad.

She’s advertising for a job that requires a college degree in computer science, preferably a masters, and a minimum of five years experience. Oh yeah, and a willingness to live at home with your mummy and daddy like the kid the agent is treating you as.

How does she think a graduate will even be able to pay off their student loan if she’s farming them out like livestock into jobs that do not even allow them to afford the luxury of their own room?

Another time, we have learned from a candidate who spoke to us under conditions of anonymity, she told the candidate in all seriousness that “the database has rejected you”, and further insulted the candidate by getting stroppy with him when he inquired as to which database it was that had acquired decision-making capability?

7 They Have Been Selected For Their Incompetance
We’re strongly convinced of this, but it cannot be proven. It will have to remain on the conspiracy side of the list, but is included for completeness. Given the level of incompetence that ourselves, and many of our contributors, have experienced with IT recruitment over the last few years we have to conclude that it is on purpose.

We have published several accounts on this site of shameful if not shocking recruitment practices, and we intend to be publishing more in the future. We will leave it to readers to decide for themselves if IT recruiters are delivering what could be expected of them, or if they are in fact the bunch of lazy ill-educated criminal louts their behaviours imply them to be.

8 Even Their Clients Do Not Like Them
The only times we can recall a hiring manager liking an agent are when he has been in his thirties and the agent in her twenties. We’ve not seen any evidence that this attraction was reciprocated, let alone having anything to do with the quality of the candidates she recruited.

Indeed, in our last job the candidates the manager hired from his bit of fluff were hopeless berks to a man. Then again, the manager never got his promise and she disappeared shortly after stuffing his team with lunatics and slackers.

If you’ve any agency horror story of your own, or better yet evidence that would get your own agent convicted in a court of law, feel free to tell us about it. Our servers are located in Switzerland and your confidentiality is assured.