Let me start with a humble brag- In my 10 years working in the social work sector, I have never been for an interview where I didn’t get the job! Wait that’s not true there are two occasions. I didn’t get the role for the Grenfell project where I ended the interview by over-enthusiastically saying I would be super grateful for the job and another where I rocked up super tired and hadn’t done any research beforehand. Okay, so 90% of the interviews I’ve attended have been successful. So, to a recruitment agency, I’m gold.
Recruitment Agencies. those two words conjure different emotions to us contract workers. As a newly qualified I was overly excited each time I was contacted by an agent. Now if I had a pound for the emails over-familiar introduction phone calls and unsolicited DMs about potential roles, I would be a millionaire!
What for me makes a good recruitment agency? It is about trust and a relationship which is genuine. Like finding your perfect fit therapist Recruitment Agencies are trial and error.
I have commitment issues, so I still haven’t found my perfect fit. I’ve been susceptible to been poached, fallen out with a recruiter who made too many promises and landed me zero interviews another that landed me a role I gave notice on my then-current job but they then called me two days before I was due to start to tell me the post had been filled internally.
More recently finally deciding to commit I followed my agent to his new startup. Excited to be part of his venture and having developed a good rapport I thought this agent got it. unfortunately, and on reflection, this coincided with my emerging burn out.
I had just finished a lovely stint covering a maternity leave in a great team and my new agency landed me a role in a failing authority. I liked the challenge, but it didn’t work out. My line manager and I didn’t see eye to eye and feeling harassed I approached my agency for support. They were a new agency understandably wanting to keep in the good graces of the LA and not wanting to rock the boat kept quiet.
This coincided with regular late pay, poor communication and lots of personable chat with no real outcome. I gave them one last chance like I said I was trying out the commitment thing. it didn’t work out. in a nutshell, they became sloppy with communication the pay issues around my choice of umbrella particularly irked me. I lost trust and faith in them. I tried a mutual split but they (I felt aggressively) tried to hold on to me.
Now when I look for an agency what do I need? recommendations from other social workers is a must. I believe the strongest advertisement is word of mouth. A legitimate authentic conversation about the reality of your ability to find me the right job not just any job. All Recruitment Agencies have the same jobs list what differs is their relationships with hiring managers.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to ace the interview but if you’re with an agency that isn’t landing you interviews after a month you know something isn’t right. Transparency around pay is another important factor. I’ve had many colleagues who when the conversation around hourly rate is had find out that they are been significantly underpaid compared to their colleagues. the rumour is that some agencies are taking a bigger cut of hourly rates than others so if an organisation is paying all their agency managers £45 an hour and you’re only getting £35 an hour your agency is pocketing that difference.
Having an agency that provides affordable training opportunities is also very needed considering the HCPC continued professional development requirements. Many of us social work contractors can’t tap into training programmes at our place of work so if your agency can support you in this area it is mutually beneficial.
LinkedIn is full agencies, and is a great space to explore different agencies. Remember to interview them as much as they need to screen you to avoid multiple changes as the paperwork is a pain when you swap . I can’t recall how many times I’ve had to dig out my birth certificate!
ultimately trust your gut.
I’d love to hear your Recruitment Agencies stories and recommendations.