For over ten years, as a software developer working as an independent contractor, I had the opportunity to work with quite a few contract employment agencies / IT Recruiting firms … and probably a hundred different recruiters. No doubt staffing companies have their place and serve a useful purpose, but most of the time I felt like the end client was getting the short end of the stick.
Let me share some thoughts with you about IT placement and the procurement capabilities I have witnessed during my career.
1. Recruiters and Account Executives
a. Tremendous turn around within the staffing company for Recruiters and for Account Executives. In my experience the recruiters sometimes only stay for a couple months.
b. Recruiters / Account Executives of the staffing company usually are not technical. As an example, a few years ago when Visual Basic (VB) was so popular, a recruiter once asked me if I had VD … and it was not a slip of the tongue.
c. Communication can be a big challenge since many of these placement companies are now owned and operated from foreign countries.
2. Candidates abilities
a. Many times staff augmentation company have never met the contractor candidate in person. Never even met them!
b. Skills summaries are done in the Y/N format. Example; yes he has C#, yes he has more than 4 years experience … but there is little or no skill evaluation in a more meaningful context.
c. References may be checked, but who doesn’t have a couple people that will vouch for them. Proficiency exams may be given, but such exams usually look to highlight certain major concepts to see what a candidate can remember of the top of their heads. These tests simply do not reflect a candidate’s true ability to do the job.
d. Once a candidate is placed, the staffing companies primary focus moves onto placing someone else on a project. It is quite common to give little attention to ongoing projects.
e. When the project ends the contractor will usually move on … so the skill sets are lost by the staffing company and by the end client.
a. No responsibility of performance of consultant or results of the project.
b. They only make money when they place a candidate … so their interests are not quite the same as the client. There may be a tendency to overstate a person’s skill level.
c. 20% – 40% Mark up on what the contractor is actually getting paid. Offices, Advertising and Staff don’t come cheap.
d. Generally candidates come from job boards like Dice, Craigslist, Monster, etc. These are all websites you could utilize on your own.
e. The end client still has to perform its own interviews. And many times they find that the pre-screening process could have been better, which results in wasted time.
f. Contractor usually receives inaccurate job descriptions. I used to joke that the job posting would say one thing, the recruiter would explain it as another, the client would explain it as even another and when I went to actually do the job (as you probably guessed) it turned out to be something totally different.
Again, staffing companies do have their place and in many cases serve a useful purpose. But you should spend at least as much time interviewing them and their personnel as you might if you were doing the personnel searches yourself. They are motivated to provide qualified IT personnel … but that motivation is skewed by the overriding need to place somebody (anybody), since that is how they make money.