How to manage your recruitment agent when contracting in Ireland
A busy contractor in the Irish market has many things to do – manage their day to day role at the client, perhaps travel abroad during the week to get to the client company, balance longs hours at client sites versus family life, ensure they keep their skill set up to date, complete their accounting and company administration (although companies like Accounting Pro will help here!) and very importantly manage their relationship with their recruitment agent. Why do I say this? There are a few key reasons:
Communication is critical for contracting success. I meet a lot of contractors who feel that once the agent gets them a contract they want to keep communication to a minimum and just ‘get on with the job’. However, if the agent wants to keep a high frequency of communication I think a contractor should respond positively and, within reason, engage with the process. The reason this is very positive is that not only is the agent expressing an interest in their client (yes you the contractor are most DEFINITELY their client on an equal par with the client company they place you with) but it is a 2-way process and developing a good working relationship with your agent can only assist you in the long run. Why? If they are communicating with you, they are communicating with the client company and can provide you with useful feedback on how you are doing in an indirect manner and can let you know how things are going at the client company and whether it is likely there will be a new contract there etc. Also, the more you talk the better a working relationship you will have and the more they may feel disposed to doing a better job for you and representing you better. Additionally, if you can meet up face to face then try and make this happen. Building up the professional relationship and keeping up the lines of communication with the agent will help in the long run.
The recruitment agency industry has been badly affected by rogue recruiters who misrepresent roles to their client contractors and who possibly are a little over generous with the margins they charge. Of course, in the main, recruiters are a very decent bunch and want to do a good job for both their contractors and the companies they work with and want to see the contractor happy and progressing in any role they place them in. However, in the recruitment business it is seen by some agents that it is not an equal dynamic between the contractor and the placement company – the company is deemed to be the REAL client in the process. This is myopic to say the least. Without contractors there would be no market and the contractors really are an equal partner in the equation. So, it is important that you set that expectation with the agent. They are working for you as much as the company. Without the contractor they would have no income, so you need to impress that with them. Therefore, you need to work with them and advise that you want transparency (as much as is reasonable in professional capacity) about what is going on every step of the way and that they will represent you in negotiations and renewables in as best a manner to suit your needs and requirements in terms of pay, conditions, flexibility etc. If there is any deviation in this, you have the right to question it with them and the company. A reasonable question to evaluate this is to ask about the margins they charge for contract placements (industry margins in terms of averages are available with a few quick on-line searches). If they will not do this, then you may be right to be wary and you may ultimately question whether you will work with the agent and recruitment consultancy into the future.
At the initial stages you should have a conversation with the agent to see what they know about the area of recruitment they are working in. It seems bizarre to say this, but it does appear that quite a lot of recruiters do not have any core skills, knowledge, qualifications or experience for the market that they are trying to place for. In fact, some may have fallen into recruitment itself rather than having anything near a passion for it. Its very easy to put on your LinkedIn profile that you are ‘learning to program’ as I have seen in a recruiter profile covering IT Dev roles but in real terms, as in most areas in life, there is no substitute for experience. If they don’t really know what they are talking about in terms of IT Program management, operations control change management, java development etc than how can they possibly represent you properly or even really tell you what a client company needs out of a contractor except read out and share the job specification with you? When I contracted there were many occasions I asked some basic technical questions on phone calls and was met with silence at the end of the line. So, find out whether agents know what they are talking about and this will allow you to be selective about who you work with now and into the future.
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