Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Problem with Recruiting Companies

When my employee resigned resigned last year, our human resource manager decided to use a staffing agency to replace her.   She went with a prominent agency who sold us on temp-to-perm. The perfect candidate had just walked through their door and could start the next day. We wouldn’t even have to interview her. Instead, we’d conduct a working interview – evaluate her work for one full day for free.  If we felt she was a good fit we’d keep her, if not they would provide a new candidate. 

I reviewed the candidate’s resume which looked promising.  She had 7-years of solid accounts payable experience. She had left the payables job a year ago after a management change. Since her degree had been in marketing, she had decided to try to get into her field by taking a job in retail.  After a year of working retail she now thought she had made a mistake and wanted to get back into accounting.  I agreed to the working interview.

My current employee had two weeks remaining of her 3-week notice. I wanted her replacement to get as much training with her as possible. When the temp she showed up the next day – five minutes late – I introduced her to my current employee who immediately began the training process.

At the end of the day I met with the temp.  We talked about her accounting background. She provided some great ideas to improve the efficiencies of our payable systems.  Of course I was impressed.  She did say she would have a hard time making our 8:00 start time because she needed to wait until after her daughter was on the bus.  We agreed to an 8:15 start time. After working for us 90-days, if all went well I told her we would offer her a permanent position.

She was a great employee for about a month.  Then the 8:15 became 8:30.  Sometimes it was 9:00 and even 10:00.  There was always an excuse and most of the time she called in: she had a tooth ache, she needed emergency dental surgery, her daughter missed the bus, she was sick, her daughter was sick, her car wouldn’t start, her sister needed a ride, her car wouldn’t start again and lastly she had forgotten to take out the garbage. I’d had enough.  I gave her a warning.  She needed to be at work every day on or before 8:00 for the next 3-weeks, not 8:15, but 8:00 or I was not going to make her a permanent employee.  I also gave her work related goals.  Forget about all those great ideas she had; she wasn’t coming close to keeping up with the daily work. 

The next day she was 5 minutes late. She continued to be 5 – 10 minutes late every day for about two weeks.  Then she woke up with a stomach ache and called in saying she would be a couple of hours late.  I was done. My boss didn’t even get a vote – he still liked her ideas.  I called the agency requesting a new candidate.  The agency provided a new temp in two days.

The funny thing is in follow up conversations with the agency they told me there was a note in my previous temp’s file:

She had called 2 weeks earlier (the day I had given her the warning) and asked the agency to reassign her.  She didn’t like our processes and didn’t want to work for me.

No one at the agency had bothered to let us know. 

We were offered discounts for our new temp.  They also performed a background and reference check on our previous temp. Based on their discoveries, which they wouldn’t share, they weren’t going to use her again.

My new temp worked is a gem and after 90 days she became a permanent employee. 

One day shortly after my new temp became permanent she shared her experience working with this employment agency. Her job with my company had not been her first temp-to-perm position. She had been with a different company previous to ours.  This company offered her a permanent position.  She told the agency she didn’t want the job.  She didn’t like the work and her office was in the basement.  It reminded her of the mailroom in the movie Elf.

The agency wouldn’t take no for an answer telling her to think about it.  They called her a few days later and gave her one of the strongest sales pitches she has ever been subjected to, but she stayed firm and said no.

Now I know why the agency never told me us my previous temp had asked to be reassigned:

They were trying to change her mind.

The problem with recruiting agencies (or at least this one) is that they are only concerned with the sale. They don’t seem to care about the companies they are working for or their recruits.  They just want to earn a commission.  And what is up with not performing background and reference checks prior to a permanent offer?  I was told this is standard policy. I can’t help but wonder if our HR manager would have recruited this candidate instead of the agency we would have spotted something and not wasted almost three months of training time.

Have you had a bad experience with a recruiting company?


  1. Oooh yes I worked with one recruiter who was terminally incapable of keeping our open positions and the corresponding applicants straight. She wasted so much of my time so that we never even got to the point of having people come in for temp positions! I know there are good recruiters but it's as much a pain trying to find them as it is to find a good candidate on your own.
    I suppose the best thing about putting in that effort is that as long as they stick around, you've got a good resource for a while.

  2. The only temp I ever used was also a disaster. I was shocked when I was told by the recruiter (a personal friend) that references had never been checked. I paid the expensive bill but will never do it again.

  3. Yes but on the other side. I was with a temp agency and, although I was a single mother and said I would prefer to be placed somewhere close to home, they placed me in an office that was a one hour commute on only the best traffic days. Otherwise, it was not unheard of for my commute to take 2-3 hours. I was getting up at 5am and going to bed between 10 and 11. I told the temp agency that the commute was impossible for me and to please find me another position closer to home. Almost a year later the company decided they no longer needed me and the temp agency called to tell me not to go into work the next day at 7pm that evening. Instead of telling me when I was there and could pack up my things and walk out the door, they told me hours after I was off from work so I had to drive all the way back there. Again.

    The same agency did find me a new temp position much closer to home but this time it was with a company that was not a good fit for me at all. It was like they didn't care about the company's culture whatsoever and just shoved me in because I had the credentials. I worked there for over a year, miserable but paying my bills.

    When it came time for me to start looking for work again, I didn't contact that temp agency. I was done with them. And still am. Even if I were to find out that the same woman who placed me no longer worked there, I wouldn't care. I'd rather be unemployed than deal with that agency ever again.

  4. As an employee returning to work (many years ago) i worked with Kelly and had a good experience. I temped for 6 months+ until i found a good fit.

    But as an employer, i never used agencies. Thought they were too expensive and that i would prefer to do my own interviewing and especially my own background checks. (Eventually, as things got more complicated, i did use a company to do the background checks.)

    I hope you learned one valuable lesson tho ... when someone is already running consistently late within 30 days, it's not going to change. I let that situation go on for 6 months (with a full time employee) and when i finally sat down with her, she could not understand why i was unhappy. She was fine with using up all her paid leave (in tiny increments) to be late or leave early, etc. and couldn't understand why we were reluctant to give her time off without pay when she exhausted her paid leave. "But it won't cost you anything." Apparently she did not get the concept of "job", or care that part of her "work" was to be there. The next time it started to happen, i called that woman in after only three weeks and put her on a 30-day warning. She quit on the 29th day. At least we only wasted 7 weeks on her and not seven months! Hope you will not be as patient next time.

  5. Not me personally, no exp with them (rare in my field). Partner's had some experience with them, none great to be honest. (this is all on the staffing side rather than employer side). Some are just useless.