It’s been my experience that most problems in business come from a misalignment in expectations. And often that is because everyone involved in the equation “expects” the other to “intrinsically” understand and appreciate where the other party is coming from. The relationship between a staffing agency and their potential candidates is often formulated on just a few conversations (over the phone?) with very little time being spent to understand the complexities behind the verbal assurances each person is about to commit to. And while most would agree that what agencies do is certainly not rocket science, I’m here to tell you that it is a lot more complex than you could ever imagine. Here is some advice for you on how to ensure you make the best of that relationship by understanding some common expectations agencies have of great candidates:
Do not treat the relationship with your agency casually. Recruiters in the agencies you WANT to work with are looking for candidates who they can confidently present to their clients. If you make casual promises you don’t keep (“sure I’ll send you an updated resume tonight”), you’ve immediately set the expectation that you don’t do what you say you will. Agencies are risk adverse and the good ones want to work with fellow professionals. So, show up on time for your meeting with the recruiter, dress professionally and treat the process as a chance to align expectations towards success.
Do not misrepresent your skills. It may be tempting to make a few “adjustments” to your resume in order to increase the likelihood of being considered for a role but think twice before doing so. Most agencies have a database filled with resumes gathered through the years. They may in fact have a file with all the information you’ve ever sent to that agent… even when you can’t remember doing so. It is common practice for recruiters to compare resumes against other resumes on file or even on social media sites like LinkedIn. You may believe you have very good reasons to make those changes but for the recruiter involved, it just looks dishonest. If you are worried about your resume, ask your recruiter for advice. More often than not, they will have the answer.
Understand that the agency’s relationship with their client is sacred, and anything you do as a candidate, intentionally or accidentally, to jeopardize that relationship will be almost impossible to recover from. So, before you agree to having your resume submitted, make sure you understand all you need to know about the agency’s client, the job and the steps involved to move you through the process to potential hire. Do not make assumptions (“they probably won’t mind if I adjust my salary expectations during the interview”). Commit yourself to acting as a consummate professional just like you would with any potential employer. By taking the process lightly, you risk an unhappy client and an agent who might never wish to work with you again.
Ask questions but don’t ask too many questions. What?? It might seem counterintuitive after what I’ve just said but there is a balance. Paralysis by analysis will make the recruiter think that you are not serious, or too cautious to move forward once a role is presented to you. Remember that the recruiter’s job is to match you with opportunities that are “potentially” a good fit. They can answer many of your questions regarding the role and client but the only real way to move the process forward is to talk to the client. A good recruiter will prep you for your meeting with their client, give you good, basic information about the culture and should have a decent job description. Beyond that, they may be able to provide you with more but if they can’t, don’t grind things to a halt. Keep the process moving forward and it is highly probable that your most pressing questions will be answered at some stage.
Finally, the transgression that gets everyone in trouble at one time or another…the fib. We can all agree that sometimes telling the truth can make us awfully uncomfortable. It’s just easier to tell a small fib and hope you are never found out. But my experience tells me that for some reason associated with cosmic balance, those lies will come to light at the least expected moment and your credibility as a candidate will be called to question. And even worse is when you don’t even know it has happened. That your reputation has been burnt amongst a group of people you’ve never even met is the ultimate price to pay for what may have seemed a harmless act. So don’t do it. Don’t lie about your qualifications, about why you have to end your contract early (unfortunately common), about why you are no longer answering the recruiter’s calls, about why you didn’t attend a scheduled interview. And if you don’t lie, guess what. You can demand the same from your recruiter and the agency they work for. And if you think they aren’t telling you the truth, then nobody can blame you for making the decision to no longer work with them.
Setting and understanding each other’s expectations goes a long way toward building a great relationship. The points above are just a few behaviours we’ve learned we can expect from the best contractors at Eagle. It’s just as important to make sure your agency knows what you expect from them.