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Agile Recruitment

One of the side-effects of the Agile Disease is that poor candidates are being recruited for difficult assignments that are beyond their ability to deliver. Market forces, we are told, will bring this into balance. It sounds reasonable. If a software department or firm wishes to build cheap software using stone-age working practices to try to force a quality product out of the essentially untalented, then their rivals paying better wages will attract the more competent staff and will out-perform in the marketplace.

In theory, but market forces do not apply to recruitment and every company that out-sources such an essential function ends up staffed with dross, ultimately to come scrounging cap-in-hand to the tax-payer whining to be doled another bail-out. Ask any IT contractor if a company run by a crook specialising in placing unqualified and incompetent candidates into demanding professional jobs that neither he nor they understand could ever make money and they will tell you, “they make millions”. In recruitment the incentive is only ever to find the cheapest candidates and farm them out for the highest possible fees while paying the lowest possible rates.

Qualification

Agile certification encourages firms in this, with the false promise that a worthless certificate gained upon payment of $3,000 and enduring a 16-hour powerpoint equates to qualification. Rapidly-aging pot-bellied middle-managers in their fifties their stars perhaps no longer rising, who once considered being stepped-over by talented young women to be something that only ever happened to them in strip-joints, convince themselves that Agile is their last best chance of making the great leap into the execusphere and wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

So when it all goes tits-up they blame the people they hired. When somebody has to be sacked for fouling-up nobody ever asks, “who hired them”. Instead they go straight out and hire another bunch of losers with no skills to replace them. Never will they blame the methodology that is encouraging this – because it was their own decision to adopt it. Hiring decisions on the other hand can always be blamed on somebody else, ultimately the candidate.

Candidate Agreement

The effect this is having on recruiters is that nowadays experienced professional contractors who conduct themselves as a business and in a Gentlemanly or Ladylike manner, are expected to sign a “candidate agreement”, that serves no purpose other than to flatter some non-descript’s ego, before they will be introduced even for a pawltry three-months of employment.

We’ve got one of them here, that we were actually expected to “agree” to before our application would be submitted. We use quotes because this so-called “agreement”, as you will see, has clearly been written by an ignoramous who cannot conceive that something that is unenforceable lacks value as an agreement, who cannot comprehend that the ambiguity of the title, “candidate agreement”, renders it so ab initio.

The recruiter’s demands are in blue, our thoughts on them are necessarily black.

Terms & Conditions

Could you please read and confirm back in writing the following candidate agreement:

So this isn’t a ‘candidate’ agreement in the sense of a ‘basis for negotiations’ as would usually be understood by those familiar with the processes and terminology of contract law. Instead, it is misguidedly intended to be a set of binding conditions that job candidates are to submit to in writing in return for the announcement of their candidacy.

The account manager has presented the Client, clearly defining the details of my position and duties.

No he hasn’t. He’s given the general name of the activity, “agile testing”, and a lay description of the product, “crm application”. He doesn’t even know what a platform is, let alone which one it runs on. If they consider that a “clearly defined” job description I wouldn’t want to see them being vague: “Job Opportunity. Qualified person required to do stuff“.

I am aware of the geographical location of the Client and have considered finding adequate accommodation in the area and/or the logistics required to commute, and hence commit to making the move/commute should I secure the position. I know and have seriously considered the implication of the work location…

No, the role isn’t based in Raqqa, Syria, neither does it involve working as headcount for ISIS, nor going undercover as a Webcam Warrior at GCHQ. The client site is in fact about thirty-minutes up the road and is ideal, location wise, and that is about the only thing the job has got going for it, truth be told. But why would the agent know that, I’ve only told him twice.

… on my family/partner/dependents (e.g. schooling, languages, partner’s professional situation, relocation, etc.).

You might ask, what business is that of theirs? But you won’t because you already know the answer: None whatsoever. You might also ask what manner of candidate would spend months re-locating for a three-month job, but only Matey will be able to answer that one and it won’t make a word of sense. They are asking for this information because they, most likely at the behest of their clients, discriminate against people with families.

In the past they have placed contractors on the grounds that the candidate’s spouse does the job as a full-time career, they’ve got agile certification to cover their ass (very close to the only thing such certificates are good for), and entry-level knowledge of what the job involves. These candidates do a bad job and are soon forced to resign for domestic reasons when they get bored or their husbands run out of freshly-ironed shirts. The agent then feels that he has been let down, by anybody else other than himself of course, so he asks the next guy to, “promise to turn up for work even if it is to the detriment of your own family“.

I will keep the client’s identity and context confidential. I will immediately inform [the agent] should: My personal/professional situation change which could/would affect my ability to uphold my commitment to [the agent] and its Client, or a new professional opportunity arise that could lead to the decline of the present opportunity.

Right after demanding that I don’t tell anybody about the job I’ve applied for, presumably inclusive of my close family members, advisors, counsel, and loved ones, he issues a demand that I inform him – immediately no less – should I express interest in or become aware of the existance of any another opportunity in the meantime.For the sole purpose that he might deprive me of it. And exactly what “commitment” does is he think he is referring to? As a contractor I am making an “invitation to treat”, in Latin, invitatio ad offerendum, literally inviting an offer which is not now nor has it ever been interpreted as being in any way binding.

Who is this supercilious over-paid jumped-up clerk? Why hasn’t he been commited? If one operates as a business, his demand could be perceived as a restraint of trade, and if operating under employment law it’s probably illegal. If this recruiter has chosen to work with indecisive clients that’s his problem. The clearer-thinking ones doubtless decide to tell him to sling his hook within about five minutes of first encountering him.

We’ve written him and offered him exclusivity upon pre-payment of a retainer of $12,000 per month because we know he’ll never be able to find us a job and we’ll be able to live quite comfortably on his twelve large.

I will be available as soon as possible if [the agent] and the Client would like to interview me (by phone or face to face). I will stay in contact with [the agent] during the whole recruitment process

Essentially, he expects us to be at his beck and call, ready to jump to attention at the drop of a hat – without giving any compensation other than the vague promise that he will put us forward for an incoherently-defined role for three months in the general vicinty of where we live – providing of course that he can locate that on a map and assure himself that we are willing and capable of making a thirty-minute commute.

Most contractors are busy putting the finishing-touches to their current project while seeking the next one and the agent has been engaged because anybody who needs our time for business purposes is required to book a meeting in advance following normal business protocol and etiquette. His job is to make such arrangements, efficiently and in a business-like manner, such that they can occur at a time convenient to the participants and without disrupting the flow of commerce within which his client and I are actors generating in the process sufficient funds to pay him to facilitate our paperwork and book our meeting rooms.

I think we can be reasonably certain that an upstart recruiter who discriminates against contractors with families, who do not already live within walking distance of the client’s site, similarly discriminates against contractors who are currently out-of-contract. So he knows we have to take unpaid time off for interviews, and we know that there is a significant chance that he will balls it up and send us to the wrong interview, with the wrong person, at the wrong location, on the wrong day, for the wrong job. Then he’ll phone the wrong candidate to give an insincere apology in which he lays all the blame onto his client.

When we finally do get through to him, he’ll tell us he will re-arrange it, as if he expects us to turn up next time. “No mate, I’ve only called to bawl you out for being a prick and wasting my time. I’m not going to work with you“.

Should my situation change, I will submit my withdrawal from the application process over the phone confirming it in writing.

So we’ve got to wait around until Christmas while he ignores our calls, but we are to both phone and write him if we find ourselves getting fed up with his dithering indecisive client, and/or no longer able to tolerate his ill-mannered insolent bossiness. He doesn’t even seem to know how his own business works, let alone ours or that of his clients. If we wish to withdraw from his failure to promptly fill the vacany, for any reason at any time, then we will inform him about it at such a time as is convenient for us and in the manner of our own choosing.

Rejection

Do firms really think they are going to be able to hire professionals if we have to gain the pre-approval of cowboys, amateurs, incompetants, and charlatans before they will give us a hearing? Isn’t there a single hiring-manager in IT capable of finding his or her own contractors and then choosing for him or herself which of the firm’s preferred suppliers to put us through, pocketing a perfectly lawful finders-bung each and every time? We know the answer to that don’t we?

From our conversations with this agency we gather that in the past they have placed a lot of candidates who have failed to deliver. Does that come as a surprise to anyone? What is surprising is that they are still in business. So it’s come to this – we are being asked to confirm the date on which we stopped beating our wives by ill-educated impertinent ruffians who stand as gate-keepers between jobs that frequently require great care, attention to detail, and diligence, and those with the expertise to do them. We are expected to submit to insulting terms and conditions, that could never be enforced, that owe their existance and give testament to the recruiter’s poor performance at and unsuitability for his own job.

He would get 20-30% of whatever I earn – more than I have to pay in tax – if I was ever to take this job, and that is not going to happen.

Conclusion

There is no longer much of a market for skilled IT contractors, and it isn’t because the jobs aren’t there any more – they are. They’re just being done by amateurs. Because the people who place them have no skills themselves and no ability to recognise them in others. IT recruitment has become a haven for the incompetent and the lazy, such that everytime they place a loser they blame it on the candidate and assume the next one is going to be just as bad. Thus there develops an increasing number of hoops to jump through that will deter all but the most desperate, mediocre, and hopeless candidates.

Which is precisely what the Agile method provides.