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Dealing with agencies: Old hand or total novice?

We had a nice candidate walk through our doors the other day, charming but clueless. She had never been to a staffing service before and presumably didn’t know what to expect. When told about a rather fabby job we had, she somehow didn’t believe her luck and started grilling us; e.g.
Us: “Billions in assets”.
Her: “Well, it has to be a major corporation”.  
Us: “Unless you think we mean billions of quetzbogs, not billions of dollars, we can assume it’s a major corporation”.
Ok, conversation didn’t go 100% like that, but the naive woman clearly had a trust issue there.
Staffing services are there to pluck you out (poor unemployed / unhappily employed wretches that you are) from the ether aka Monster, social websites, referrals. We have also managed by magic to find clients who ask us to help them fill positions they’re too frazzled to do themselves — long may their frazzledom continue. We do our due diligence with you, the candidates, – finding out your requirements, what you absolutely insist on, what you’ll settle for. We marry you up with the open positions we have, we persuade our clients to meet you, we help you through the process – never underestimate the amount of help we can give – and with a bit of luck and a following wind, help you through the offer process.  In an ideal world, you get the job and are thrilled, the client fills the job and is thrilled, we get our fee and are thrilled, and our children don’t have to go to the poorhouse. Sounds simple but of course gets a lot more complex in practice.  
For your part, all you have to do is be open with us – if there’s something you’d rather not tell us e.g. a vacation you’ve booked, the restricted hours you can work, the fact that you haven’t quite finished your degree, a spot of bother with the background check, the fact that you were fired for whatever reason, sorry, you have to tell us. Not telling us won’t help you get the job; sometimes alas, you may not get the job if you have a deal-breaking restriction, but sometimes, and indeed quite often, we can help you overcome it. Just be prepared to answer a lot of our questions with, “Look, here’s the scoop…” and we’ll figure it out together. Oh by the way, if we try to help with your resume, listen to our advice and either take it or not  – your resume, your life – but recognize that we see thousands and thousands and thousands of resumes so we tend to know what the clients want.
Rightie-ho, that’s the newbies taken of.  What about those who have been to many agencies over the years and have become a bit, cough cough, jaded with the service they’ve been given? Try to analyze whether it’s your fault or the agency’s!  If each and every one of us says e.g. your resume is too prosey, too long, not long enough, then the chances are we’re right, so you’d be advised to go home and change it. If ever there’s a scenario where I, Margaret, recommend something and you say, “But another agency told me such-and-such”, please remember that I, Margaret, am always right. It’s a gift I was given and I’m here to share the benefits of it with you. You won’t go wrong.  
There is a range of quality amongst agencies, some are wonderful, some you wouldn’t let into your home, some you would trust with your daughter, some you wouldn’t trust with the milk money. Please don’t judge all of them by comparing with the worst. I hope you don’t do it with humanity, and it’s the same concept with agencies. Find a couple of nice recruiters who tell you The Good, The Bad and The Ugly about a job, so you can decide if it’s for you. Learn from both the good stuff and from your mistakes, and listen to your friends and colleagues for agency referrals. In the course of the interview process, you’ll have a chance to verify that the job/salary/benefits are what you were told. However, dear readers, perhaps a word of advice is to have some ready answers when they ask you questions about other job interviews you’ve been on. The scuzzbuckets want to know so they can phone up the company and get the job for themselves. “I’m not comfortable telling you at the moment” is a wonderful phrase to learn off by heart.  Of course, please do tell them general info e.g. “I’m going back for third interview on Tuesday” will help the agency know where they themselves are in your interviewing schedule and they can possibly hurry their client along.  
The old hands know what to do, which in one phrase is “keep the agency informed”.  No going MIA or into a transcendental state of meditation that won’t let you answer the telephone or email. If you don’t want to speak to an agency for any reason, this is a stunning thought here, let them know in advance. Have emails ready such as: (i) I’m taking myself off the job market. I’ll contact you again if I need to (ii) I got another job and I’m happy there, thanks. I’ll contact you if I need to. (iii) I’ve withdrawn from the process for EA to the CEO at The Truth Makes Us Nauseous PR Company, thanks. I’ll contact you if I need to.
If you do this you will save us hours of angst trying to track you down, wondering if you’re ill, off on vacation, still interested in dealing with us. We can put you onto the backburner and move on, and not waste precious time.

Working with staffing firms is a bit like trying to find your prince, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find him. But be selective, use your common sense and good judgment, and it will be well worth it. They often have the keys to the castle.