Are recruitment companies a total waste of time?

About 10 years ago, I’d quit a permanent job working in a very repetitive role. I went out to a number of recruitment companies, and after registering in person at quite a few – when my hopes had all but gone, I walked up the stairs of a branch of Randstad. They asked me what my Word/Excel skills were like, and I said something like “probably not great”.

Despite this, they sat me down, got me to take a computerised test, which reckoned I was an intermediate in Excel and an advanced user of Word. I had a contract for work for the following week. Odd-weeks aside, I was employed by a combination of several different agencies (but mostly Randstad), in a lot of different organisations – a week here, a week there – for  about a year.

Then work started to dry up, it seemed. I say “seemed” because the agencies told me they had loads of jobs. I walked into a branch of one well known national recruitment company, and they had several jobs in the window for IT tech support, in a call centre. Great. Before my temping, I’d been working for a rival in a different call centre, doing IT support, so I’d obviously be perfect. I sat down, the recruitment consultant asked me what sort of work I was looking for, I mentioned I had experience of technical support in a call centre, to which she said “oh we don’t have anything like that”. I was far too polite to say at the time, but really – that means the job in the window is bullshit. It doesn’t exist.

I got back into permanent jobs, did a mixture of those for the next 6-7 years, and then recently (on/off for the last couple of years), I’ve started looking for work via temping agencies again.

Recruitment Now?

It’s all change.

I walked into a branch of a recruitment company which has high-street stores, to be met with confused looks. What was I doing PHYSICALLY in this branch on the main road? They couldn’t tell me if they might have any roles that might suit me, and I was advised to go home and register on their website. So what are the people in the shops for, then?

I registered on the website anyway, including filling out more details than you’d need to join a dating website, and uploaded my CV. Several weeks later, when I phoned the same agency, to ask about something else, I was advised to email my CV to them, despite the fact that I had registered on the website. So what’s the point of registering on your website then?

Another agency, phoned me late one afternoon after apparently seeing my CV on Jobsite/Reed/Monster/one-of-those, to tell me all about an admin job in a nice office in Fishponds, that they thought I’d be good for, but insisted that I come in to register and take a skills test. “Now we’re getting somewhere”, I thought.

I arrived the following morning, in a shirt and tie, sat down and started filling a form out – on paper. I overheard the end of a conversation between two members of staff which ended with “well keep pushing that, because that’s the only role we’ve got at the moment”. Bit odd, I thought. Their window is full of jobs. I put it to the side of my mind, and concentrated on this test I’d have to take.

The skills test involved about 40 questions split over 2 tests if I recall, and I think I got 2 wrong. More than enough to ace both. Great. I sat down, very pleased with myself, and she told me more about the role from the phone. Or rather, she didn’t. She started telling me about a job selling charity subscriptions. It wasn’t an admin role, it wasn’t based in Fishponds, and it wasn’t in an office. When she asked what I thought of this, a part of me wanted to stay diplomatic, while a part of me wanted to ask why she was wasting my time with a job that bears no fucking resemblance to what I was here to interview for.

While deciding how to play this, I left a pause so long, that she could tell I wasn’t very excited about this offer of a job that (from the huge number of job adverts for these people) evidently has an enormously high turnover. Really? How dare you invite me in to interview for one role, then offer me something completely different? And all the jobs in your window are bullshit. If this is the only role you have, then everything in your window is advertising a product that doesn’t exist.

I decided to play it relatively cool, tell her that didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in, which she appeared to take great offence at. She wrote something I couldn’t read on a bit of paper and gouged out a circle around it with such force, you’d think I’d just called her mother a prostitute. A lesser man would have told her to go fuck herself then and there.

Since then, I’ve registered with several other online recruitment places, including a mixture of big names, and unknowns, and my experiences have been generally poor.

One place very recently phoned me about a temporary job that required security clearance (I don’t have), and specific knowledge of several packages I’ve never used (two I’ve never even heard of). Despite this, he said he thought I’d be able to learn all these systems (it’s a temporary role remember – under 3 months), and he’d put me forward anyway, and send me the job description that evening by email.

No. Of course he didn’t.


9 thoughts on “Are recruitment companies a total waste of time?”

  1. …and the worst part is actual, real, live employers *pay* recruiters to be gatekeepers, choosing whose CV goes to the employer, and whose doesn’t.

    That said, I’ve had better luck with the cold calls I’ve gotten after signing up on

    1. Think your skillset is a bit better than mine. I’ve been on Linkedin a while and not got any cold calls, but that said – I’ve been hiding my light under a bushel a bit, and not promoting myself very much on there (half my employment isn’t even on there).

  2. Perhaps you think your skills are better than they actually are.

    Perhaps the clients have asked for specifics that you don’t fit.

    Recruitment Consultants are sales people the more time spent dealing with unsuitable ‘walk ins’ means less time spent speaking with clients about suitable candidates, building relationships and picking up vacancies so they actually have opportunities that are live.

    I think many candidates automatically assume that they can walk into an agency and they are obliged to help them. They aren’t they will help people who will make them money, judging by your experiences it doesn’t sound like you are one of those candidates.

    1. I struggle to see how they can attain whether a walk-in is unsuitable or not, without actually asking them anything.
      In the case of my walk-in, I was told to register on the website, before I was asked what type of role I was looking for.
      In fact they didn’t ask. Just told to go away and register on the website.
      If walk-ins are such a waste of their time, and they find suitable candidates through the web, then they should close the high street stores, or make them clearly invite-only, for interviews, etc.

      My other points still stand.
      Why am I invited in to discuss a job I have no experience in? Or one that isn’t what they told me on the phone?
      Why is an agency advertising jobs they don’t have?
      Why am I told to register on the website, uploading a CV and filling out loads of additional details, then when applying – told to email my CV again to a different person – can’t they access the website their colleague asked me to register on?

      I’m not saying ALL recruitment is bullshit, but a lot of it seems to be wasting my time, their time, or adding extra admin where none needs to exist. If I’m unsuitable for what you have/do, just tell me.
      If the client asked for specifics, I’d like to know. After all – if every client in that sector wants someone with a specific skill/knowledge/qualification, it would be helpful for me to know, so I can either stop applying for roles in that sector, or learn the required skills (if possible).

    2. hmmm, funny how using agencies has resulted in nothing, not even an interview.
      Yet when I went direct to companies I get interviews and have had some offers.

  3. I totally sympathise, I’ve been doing circuits of the city centre where I live for year’s, going from one pointless ‘full of wind’ agency to another, having referrals which never amount to anything made for me by Jobcentre’s, listening to endless ‘if anything comes up we’ll give you a call’ speeches, yadadadada, it’s very boring to listen to these excuses after a while. Employment Support places are little better. I prefer applying for jobs directly.

  4. I completely can relate to this. I am am on the bring of unemployment at present I am basically waiting for a date, and the amount of recruitment agencies that have bullied me into coming into register with them was phenomenal.

    Your right half of the jobs they have advertised are total bullshit it is just to get through the door and waste your precious time etc.. the reason i say this is the following:
    HAYS: ‘that job you applied for has gone now by the way’
    Me:Oh right, which one is that then? As iv applied for three with yourselves
    HAYS: Oh er which ones?
    me: well you said to me that the ONE id applied for has gone? So which of the three iv applied for is it?
    HAYS: Er
    Me: you cant tell me can you? Was the advertised jobs not real then? and just a case of getting me in to get onto your books?
    HAYS: NO NO we promise all our recruiters we interview our candidates face to face
    me: why can’t you be honest with me?
    HAYS: are you wanting to register or not today (looked at and spoken to like id just pissed on her kids at christmas time)

    I spoke to one Recruitment agency who had battered me to death namely Hays saying in order for me to apply for these jobs I had to register to be put forward as it was their ‘promise’ to their recruiters that they meet all candidates face to face – which seems to be all their excuses. So they have taken all my personal details and I haven’t heard a bean off them. This has also happened with, PrimeTime, Jobwise, Forrest Recruitment, Office Angels, I have called numerous of times and left messages but no one gets back to me. False promises!!! what worries me the most is that these people have my ‘person’ details such as copies of my driving licence, pass port, NI number etc…

    Alexander Hancock emailed me and when i asked about the position she had no idea what i was on about, and thus sussed her out stright away to the point the woman put the phone down on me! Charming!

    Lesson here is DO NOT USE recruitment agencies they are all bullshitters and will not get you a job just waste your very precious time!

  5. I rate them alongside car salesmen and estate agents and you should treat them the same.
    They only get paid if someone gets employed, so they are only interested in easy pickings. Out of 160 applications I have sent, I have never even got an interview when going through an agency. Guess what happened when I applied direct to organisations….bingo….an interview and eventually job offers.


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