Employment agencies are doing big business these days. They’ve been around for a long time,
since the late 1800s in fact. But it’s only in the last 12 or so years this sector has seen significant
Even with the lingering global recession, this industry’s performance since 2007 is still
higher than any other time in its history. In the UK alone, well over a million people are employed through
staffing agencies. And the local industry saw a turnover of over £27 billion in 2007/2008, its highest
It seems safe to say this industry isn’t going away anytime soon. This should not be of
surprise. It really is just another form of outsourcing; in this case, it’s the recruiting and hiring process.
Of course, the only reason employment agencies are successful is because companies from just about every other
industry see a benefit in using them. In fact, there are several different types of staffing agencies on the
market catering to a wide variety of needs.
Some of the reasons companies uses recruitment / employment agencies are pretty
obvious. With temporary employment, in particular, a company doesn’t have to worry about providing benefits to
the employee. The temporary employee doesn’t have a stake in the company’s pension plan, or any incentives
offered to permanent employees. When the work term is up, the employee is let go. Or if the employee isn’t
satisfactory, it’s the agency’s responsibility to find a replacement. Even larger corporations with their own
HR departments often use employment agencies.
The fact that recruitment agencies have relatively low overheads, and can focus all their
resources on the task of screening perspective workers, gives them an advantage over the human resource
departments of most companies. A staffing agency only needs office space, furniture and a few computers. It
doesn’t need machinery or a fleet of vehicles to provide a service. It’s not in the business of manufacturing,
so doesn’t need to buy raw materials or parts to produce a product. Nor is it in the business of retail, so it
doesn’t need to buy finished products from suppliers and manufactures.
Most of these agencies don’t even have to bother with expensive TV or radio ads. Usually,
posting opportunities on websites or perhaps in the classified section of the local newspaper is all the
The bottom line is that doing HR work earns money for the staffing agency. In contrast, the
HR departments of other companies are part of overhead costs. They don’t actually earn any revenue for the
companies. Using a placement agency can also ease the burden of a business’s HR department. Let’s face it; a
business can be easily inundated with responses to a single job posting.
In cases where the business is looking for a permanent employee, the agency may be used to
screen most of the applicants, and then send a short list to the business’s HR department. These agencies
almost always keep a data base of prospective candidates. This can save time and give the agency another
advantage over a company’s HR department. So, it is advantageous for job seekers to register with employment
agencies. And many people have done so. However, it’s not always the best thing for people changing careers to
Agencies usually look for people with experience in the field of the position they’re trying
to fill. That’s because it’s in their best interest to provide their clients with the best possible candidates.
That’s brings up another important point for job seekers to take note of: employment agencies are in the
business of finding candidates for their clients. They’re not in business to find jobs for applicants. The
reason for this is simple. Recruitment agencies make money from the relationship with their clients. On the
other hand, it’s illegal in the UK, as in many other countries, for them to collect fees from applicants.
It’s true that staffing agencies do both in essence, but it’s their priority that job seekers need to be
mindful of when attending interviews with employment agencies’ staffing consultants.
It’s easy for people to let their guard down because of the notion they won’t be working for
the staffing agency. Applicants may feel they only need to get pass the agency interview. Once that’s
accomplished, they’ll be reporting to work at the company with the opening. But the agencies’ staffing
consultants are HR professionals as well as gate keepers. It’s advisable for applicants to treat the interview
like an interview with a company’s HR personnel.