When I first left college, I put on my power heels (classy, 4 inch heel, patent leather) and I marched into a temp office. I had been looking for work for about two months, and while the conscientious side of me was secretly weeping on the inside (and outside, too) at not finding any great job prospects, I held my head high and I was ready to show them my badass resume with finesse and unscathed waterproof mascara.
I prided myself on not being a Jo Schmo during college, you know, the one that everyone knows will be 15 minutes late to every class and, upon his entry, at least three guys with their baseball caps turned sideways will yell, “Heyyyyy yo [insert white frat guy, burnout, or athlete name here].” No. Not me. I was all A’s. Summa cum laude, the girl with her hand perpetually raised, the one that wore iron-pleated J. Crew slacks on presentation day while everyone else wore rumpled corduroys. That’s me. Head of every honors society.
Regardless of my shameless bragging, I was pretty reasonable about my job search upon leaving undergrad. I knew that I was, at best, only going to get about two pay tiers above the guy that cleans out the grease trap at McDonalds upon starting my first post-college job. And it was even worse than I thought. But, I kept plugging along. And eventually, unfortunately, I ended up so desperate that I wound up at a temp agency, and, take my word for it, it was no small town venture. It was a big brand, national level temp agency (although I will not mention their name here for legal reasons). And I am here to give you some really important reasons why you should not make the same mistake that I did by registering with a big brand temp agency.
1. They don’t know you.
I know this sounds really obvious. But, I started out with my agency with a succinct list of what I wanted (career goals, salary/per hour, specific position, office type (i.e. small, large), location, mileage, even lunch break schedule) to give them just a general idea of my professional goals, and they still could not accommodate those needs. They kept calling me with completely random positions. I wanted HR jobs (and I had great internships in college to bolster my resume), and they kept calling me about filing clerk, administrative assistant (i.e. glorified secretary), and receptionist positions.
I know they did this because of my experience level simply because of the working limitations of being in my early 20s (as opposed to a seasoned HR applicant in his or her 40s), but it still boiled my blood. I would have accepted any position even relatively associated with what I wanted – even as a filing clerk NEAR the HR department (I asked about the filing clerk offers, and none of them were proximally near the HR departments). But not standard filing clerk. No way Jose. I have student loans to pay off. Oh, and did I mention that I was connected to the temp agency through a friend who was one of the recruiters’ former hiring manager? Apparently who you know doesn’t even matter.
2. They don’t mind sabotaging current boss references to get their commission.
After a couple of months with the agency, I finally found emotional respite in the form of a caretaking job (I found it on my own, outside of that God-forsaken agency, yay). Sure, it sucked, but the position paid more than twice minimum wage (KA-CHING, baby).
Well, it was around my start date for the caretaking position, and I got a call from good ole’ temp agency, and the recruiter lady that called me had a lot of cojones. She starts rattling off about this new position that I should interview for, and during her breathing break, I quickly interrupted and let her know that I am starting a position that I am very excited about very soon and that I’d let them know if I needed any interviews. But boy, she sure was insistent.
She told me that I would need to start immediately if she was to schedule an interview for me. Immediately. I told her that could not happen, because I had worked with my current employer before and I didn’t want to lose their reference by quitting before the job started. And you know what? She actually started word bribing me. “However great your job is, imagine it with a posh, personal office and being in a position of regard. I’m telling you, those offices are swanky and you won’t regret walking away from what you have now. Well, with that, she at least got me into the interview office (although I was ready to spew my negotiations with the company as soon as they offered the job), but I didn’t get the damn thing anyways. She got me all excited for nothing. Which leads me to my next point…
3. You are their test monkey.
You tell me I’m the perfect candidate for this position, when it slips later during our phone conversation that I am the third person you’ve called about this position. And the first two turned the job down. This has been my experience with recruiters, more than one. And, if you think I am generalizing here based on one recruiter, you’re wrong.
The temp agency office had 6 recruiters. I went through all six. They signed me up for jobs that I was completely underqualified and unfamiliar with, instead of jobs that I wanted, and they kept calling the prospects that they presented to me “the perfect fit”. Well, one day, I realized I was the office joke at the temp agency when a girl at the office calls me and offers me a ‘three day position’ as a receptionist. When I asked if it was temp to perm, she said, “No.” I was understandably offended, and I told her frankly, “I am not interested in days long assignments. Call me back with temp-to-perm or at least two month jobs. I need a consistent paycheck.”
She hung up on me.
4. Public humiliation.
What I failed to mention about my candid conversation with that aforementioned recruiter that had the audacity to call me with a three day assignment was that she was my age.
Actually, she was the recruiter that I was directed to by the recruiter that I was supposed to be talking to, the one whose former boss I knew. It kind of stung, being deflected onto another wide-eyed, post-grad nymphet with shoes that were nicer than mine. But I took it in great stride and told her my needs.
When she asked about salary, I said “about 27”. When I noticed that she wrote down 27-an-hour, I pointed out that I meant $27,000 yearly. She gave me a sneer and a cackle, and as she corrected her notes, she said, “oh, yeah, totally, when you said that I was like, ‘You wish.’” Way to be my biggest advocate, girly.
When the recruiters get exasperated as I’m rattling off my demands, I can’t help but wonder, “How are you upset that I am a human with my own real needs and not just an extension of your commission pay? I have been rejected half-a-dozen times behind my back, and my rejecters have confided my deficiencies to you directly after I leave the interview. You have a job, and are getting paid to have me on board. Give me a break.”
They tell you they’re going to call back and give you ‘feedback and constructive criticism’ after all your interviews. They don’t. I have interviewed 6 times for jobs that I was underqualified for, and I haven’t even received a curt rejection call. One of the recruiters didn’t even spell my name right in an email between her client and me. Is that not enough of a reason for me to avoid temp agency sheeple?
Just don’t go there.