Re: Agency warning signs

Subject: Re: Agency warning signs
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 18:04:38 -0800 (PST)

"Cathy Moore" wrote...
> I'm being courted by some agencies that offer high-paying work in a
> nearby city that I'm unfamiliar with. I'm eager for the money, but I've
> found horror stories in the TECHWR-L archives that give me pause. I've
> gotten some good information from the National Writers Union & STC
> sites, but I'm still wondering: What early warning signs should steer me
> away from an agency? What are the signs of a good agency? How can I best
> protect my interests?


I own a consulting firm that does a lot of recruiting. So I have quite a bias
on this topic. However, here are my insights.

In my opinion, the NWU is not a good place to get information. Many firms feel
that the NWU applies 1970's era unionist mentalities to 2000 era labor market.
The NWU's propaganda treats all agencies as bloodsuckers bent on taking away
your dignity and freedom. The fact is, the labor markets of today are
competitive and free. A intelligent, professional individual can make good
money and enter into good relationships with agencies. If you follow the NWU's
rhetoric, you are likely to have a lot of bad relationships with agencies. As a
recruiter, I have thrown away resumes from people who tried to threaten me
using the NWU's intimidation language.

The NWU practices division and not diplomacy. I don't agree with those
practices. They want to force companies through intimidation and legal
maneuvering to lower their margins and enter into unprofitable arrangements.
That's not how capitalism works. It lowers competition and attempts to place
unneeded "standardizations" on the marketplace. This philosophy simply does not

And many agencies won't do squat for you if you show up armed for a battle.

Anyways, the warning signs of bad agencies are pretty simple:

1. Lying to you or ignores your wishes.
2. Blind submitting you to clients (sends your resume without discussing the
client with you first).
3. "Exclusive" contracts and long (more than 1 year) non-compete agreements.
4. Shoddy payroll practices.

A good agency

1. Listens to your wishes.
2. Asks you what you want to make and then attempts to get that wage for you.
3. Works for you AND the client company.
4. Makes their payroll procedures very clear.

Agencies have a job, to get you a job. They make money by closing deals. If you
want to use an agency to find a job there are some rules you too must respect,
such as:

1. Never "go around" the agency and attempt to contract direct to any company
where the agency referred you.
2. Negotiate salary with the agency directly.
3. Use the agency as your marketing department.

Perhaps the biggest mistake a lot of agencies make is they make a lot of
promises and never deliver. Good agencies work hard to find you a good job at
a salary/rate you want.

However, remember you have responsibilities as well. The agency might not be
able to place you. If you demand a very high rate or don't have skills that are
in demand, there is nothing the agency can do for you. Just because you think
you're worth $200 an hour, doesn't mean the agency can pay you that.

Likewise, it shouldn't matter what margin they charge. If you ask for $50.00
an hour and the agency pays you that - then it shouldn't matter if they bill
the client $100.00 an hour. Many companies will not work with independent
contractors so you couldn't get that rate no matter how great you were. .

If you don't want an agency take money away from your salary or rate - then
DON'T USE AN AGENCY. Go at it alone. If an agency calls you, tell them you
don't want to work with an agency.

Otherwise, use your common sense, read all the contracts carefully, ask
questions, and trust your instincts. A good agency can find you a good job at
a great salary if you work with them and play fair.

Andrew Plato

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