Some of the recruitment agents have various tricks that they try to use on contractors from the very first call, when an IT employee picks up the phone and says “I’m thinking of becoming a contractor”.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed though. Here are ten agency tricks that you should look out for.
1. They ask you for references
They phone you up saying that they have several jobs that actually don't exist.They need you, however, first to supply them with references. Is this true? No, it isn't. They do not have any jobs for you. They are just trying to find out people who take on contractors and want to know the names and phone numbers of your old bosses.
2. They'll try to find out who your boss is
They'll say, "Who did you work for at Lloyds? Was it Robert Sutherland"? "No", you say. "It was Iain Shay". Now the agent has a contact at your old firm that they can call up to ask him if he is looking for any contractors.
3. They post jobs that don't exist
The oldest trick in the sales book - real estate companies use this as well by posting flat adds that actually don't exist. By posting jobs that don't exist, the recruitment companies are only trying to get themselves a number of extra CVs to increase their own database. When you send in your CV, they'll say that the job is gone.
4. They'll try to find out where have you applied to get new clients
They'll ask you, "Tell us what companies that your CV has already been sent out to, so that we don't make the mistake of sending your CV there again, which could cost you a job interview". If you tell them, then they now know what companies are looking for contractors, and they can then put some other candidates up in opposition to you. Don't think they wouldn't.
5. They most likely will not want to get you a better rate
When they are asking you what your rate for the job is they might say, "What's your bottom line? What's the least that you would take to get a job? Obviously we will try to get as much as we can for you". No they won't. Your bottom line now becomes the most you'll get for any job. They'll still try and get as much as they can from the client, but they'll keep any extra they can get for themselves. How many people have actually heard from an agent "We've managed to get you a higher rate than you were asking for?"
6. They are usually siding with the hiring company
They'll put a clause in your contract that they and the client company can terminate you with a month's (or a week's) notice, but that you have no notice period with them. They will never proactively try to get a better contract for yourself, as they cherish much more the business relationship with the company
7. No news is bad news
If you get a job interview through them, they'll tell you that they'll call you back when they have any news. What they mean is that if there is good news, they will be on the line pronto to try and get you to sign up straight away in case you take another job. If it's bad news, they won't call you, and they'll be 'not around' when you call in. They'll give you the bad news eventually but only after several attempts to get hold of them.
8. They don't like people who don't pass interviews
When you don't get the job for an interview that they sent you to, they'll say they'll look for other jobs for you, but they won't. They'll quietly drop you. They don't like people who don't pass interviews for them. It's like having to sell a car. If a few customers pass on it, you'll think there's something wrong with it.
9. You need to investigate to get your reference fee
They tell you that if you introduce them to another contractor that they get a job for, they'll pay you £250 or £500. They will if you find out about it. They won't contact you, unless you call up asking for it. If they get this person a job three months down the line or a couple of years down the line, there's no chance at all of them sending you a cheque out of the blue, even though the finder's name (your's) will be on their database.
10. Most of the time they will try to negotiate down your rate
Once they've got you a job, they may say that they weren't able to get you the rate that you wanted – that the client will only pay 5% or 10% less. This is rubbish. They told the company what your rate was initially and the company accepted it. The agency are now just trying to help themselves to an extra bit of commission for a job that is safely in their pockets. Don't fall for it. Tell them that the client can forget it then, and see how quickly the agent changes tack. They don't want to lose surefire money.
There are many good agencies around of course, and the good ones like the dodgy ones even less than you do. They get their industry a bad name, spoil their relationship with contractors, and take their business through unfair means.