It seems an odd question to ask, but is the behaviour of your Recruitment Agency driving away the very candidates you want to recruit?  For the sake of full disclosure, the account that follows comes from one of our Director’s personal experience:

Before I joined Inovra, I’d been made redundant.  I’d been with the division for years, moving under TUPE to different organisations as our division was sold on, but I’d racked up over 14 years with them, but I suddenly found myself back on the job market.  I wasn’t too concerned at the start; I had a solid CV of professional qualifications, years of technical and management experience, and I was confident I would find something suitable.

So, I started job hunting, signing up with a number of job agencies both online and face-to-face, and started trawling the job market.  As you’d expect, a number of jobs caught my eye and I’d apply, emailing my CV where required, but more usually completing online forms.

What did I learn from the experience?  Firstly that signing up to some online job sites automatically subscribes you to several other sites, displaying the same jobs.  As a result, you could receive multiple emails from different ‘agencies’ suggesting you apply for the same job, and it’s only through self recognition that you spot them.  Even worse, some jobs are advertised with a number of different agencies, so you might see the same job description, days apart, and you then question whether you’ve applied for it, read it and intended to apply for it, or if it’s different but similar to one you saw previously.  The fact that many agencies hide the company offering the role doesn’t make this any simpler.

Secondly I learned that some agencies will sign you up, claim that they’re searching for appropriate jobs for you, but send you roles that are completely unsuitable or don’t even exist.  My job search terms on every site I joined were for management roles, yet I was sent jobs for cleaning staff and apprenticeships, I was sent adverts for management roles that couldn’t be found on the site, or which had closed weeks before.  Speaking to colleagues who’d been made redundant too, showed that my experience wasn’t isolated.

But the one thing I detested most about the whole experience was being ignored.  Most of the agencies (the online ones in particular) were keen to sign you up, but after that, you were effectively abandoned.  Apply for a job and you might get an acknowledgement of application.  Would you get any feedback if your application went nowhere?  No.  Either the companies were failing to tell the agencies, or the agencies were failing to pass the message on, but out of the many applications I submitted (over 50 before I found a new role), I can count on one hand the times I was told I was unsuccessful.  Even some face-to-face agencies fell foul of this behaviour.

In the end, I found a role through LinkedIn, dealing with companies directly.  More importantly, every unsuccessful application I made via LinkedIn was acknowledged and feedback provided.  It might not seem much like much, but losing your job can affect your confidence.  Being ignored by people who are ‘supposedly’ helping you find another, is downright disheartening.”

There are a number of points we can take from the narrative above (and the Director in question gets quite passionate about how the whole experience ‘sucked’, to use his term), and the impact on the success of your own recruitment strategy:

  • Recruitment groups that ‘mailbomb’ potential employees with the same jobs repeatedly from different group members risk being unsubscribed from, blocked as spam, or ignored
  • Recruitment agencies that send unwanted jobs risk the same as the ‘mailbombers’ … being unsubscribed from, blocked or ignored
  • Recruitment agencies that send ‘non-existent’ or closed jobs to tease the potential employee in, lose credibility very quickly.
  • Recruitment agencies that fail to provide feedback, or remain in contact with potential employees are (rude firstly) and are failing to provide you with the widest possible selection of appropriate candidates

If you advertise roles with agencies like this, you risk falling foul of the negative impacts above, through no fault of your own.  Think how you would feel being jobless and experiencing the behaviours described above.  Would you continue to look for jobs with such an agency?

The one redeeming thing we can take from the above is that when the Director was dealing with companies direct, he didn’t encounter any of those issues.  The companies themselves were professional and courteous, as we should all be truthfully.


The issues described above aren’t new.  Did you know a British Standard was written back in 2011, developed in partnership with the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and other parties, offering guidelines for online recruitment?  When you read that standard (BS 8877:2011 Online Recruitment. Code of Practice), you see that every issue identified above  (amongst others) could have been prevented by following the standard.  APSCo members themselves agree to a Code of Conduct that eliminates such issues, and are subject to periodic audits to ensure they comply.

Now the burning question … is your recruiting agency a member of APSCo?  Does it comply with BS 8877?

If you answered yes to either (or both) question, congratulations!  You’re supporting professional recruitment agencies who treat candidates with respect and good manners.  If you couldn’t answer yes to either, you might be supporting good practices but there’s a chance you’re supporting one of the bad agencies.

In the end, the only real solution to this problem lies with the recruiters.  When you choose a recruitment agency, you have to look beyond the price.  As the old adage says, you get what you pay for.  Those agencies that are cheaper have cut some corners somewhere … it might be through automation to reduce people costs, but it might also be through the way they handle candidates (and perhaps even you as clients).  By asking the questions when you first engage with an agency, you can help set a market demand for candidates to be treated with respect.  The customer is king, and if enough clients request confirmation that agencies comply with either the APSCo Code of Conduct (they have a list of members who do, if you’re curious) or BS 8877, then agencies will adjust to meet that market demand.  Sure agencies could choose to do this freely (as some already have), but apparently the availability of trade associations and British Standards on the matter just aren’t enough motivation for some.

I would end on a final question for you … if your company has the decency to treat candidates with respect and courtesy when you deal with them direct, why would you expect the recruitment agency that represents you to do any less?  Food for thought possibly.


Inovra Group is BSI member, and an advocate of British Standards as examples of best practice.

We are not affiliated with the Association of Professional Staffing Companies in any way.