Looking for a new job can be a daunting and dispiriting experience. Understanding how the system works is a case of ‘forewarned, forearmed’. Even if the armour is purely defensive.

It’s a crowded market

Job agencies try to entice applicants with jolly adverts about not judging by appearance, and how there are loads of employers out there eager to pay us great salaries.
The reality is that while agencies need applicants, it’s only in the way that a shop needs stock on its shelves to attract customers.

It used to be there were a handful of job agencies. But like estate agents, these days anyone with a laptop can set up a business, and so employment agencies have mushroomed.
I went into a job agency as a student, looking for vacation work. They sat me down, talked to me, went through what I could do. I was only looking for a short-term post, but the woman made me feel welcome and paid me attention. And found me a job.

Fast-forward to 2018

Looking for something new, I (mistakenly) thought agencies would show more interest in me in person, rather than clicking ‘send’ on a website.
I went into three one morning. The response in all three was: “Give us your CV, and we’ll add it to our system”.
And that was it. Might just as well have uploaded my CV to their website.

An agency with no vacancies

The household name agency had a lot of staff, who all looked very busy. But with so many agencies around now, I suspect what keeps them busy is chasing employers to use them.
One of those I visited consisted of two people in a tiny office. The woman who took my CV said: “We haven’t got anything at the moment.”

Keeping applicants in the dark

Agencies like to keep the identity of their clients (the employers) secret, so you can’t bypass the agency and apply direct.
This means you have to respond to ads such as: “We have partnered with a prominent Xville financial services company…”
You don’t know WHO you’d be working for, or exactly WHERE, but have to be mega-enthusiastic about the prospect to stand a chance.
The only agency that even showed a passing interest in me sent me for an interview having emailed me details of two possible (different level) roles there I would be considered for.
Which was weird enough, and hard to prepare for.
When I got there, one interviewer started (luckily) by outlining the job: it was nothing like either of the ones I was expecting.
I thought the interview went well. They said they’d notify the agency of their decision. I never heard from the agency again. Too busy to even say ‘you didn’t get it,’ let alone provide feedback or be in any way helpful to the applicant at all.

Don’t let things get you down

If all this sounds gloomy, well, that’s the job market (unless you have skills/talent/experience in a field where supply of jobs exceeds supply of people).

The thing to take away from it, though, is not to let it affect your self-worth.
If you’re not getting anywhere applying for roles via agencies, remind yourself it really is a case of “it’s not you, it’s them.”

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