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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

is staffing agency lying to me?

A reader writes:

I've been out of work for 6 months and have been looking and there have been a few interviews. Two of the interviews were generated through staffing agencies. The first interview did not go well and I received no confirmation from the agency to confirm a rejection. I followed up with them a month later and they mentioned the company had decided to hire from within, which I felt was just a flat-out lie.

The second interview through a staffing firm was recent and the interview was very positive. I followed up with thank-you letters to both people I had met with and got a call 3 days later from the staffing agent, stating they desired a 2nd interview in a couple of days but she didn't know the time. She said she would get back to me soon with more info. After that I heard nothing. 3 days went by and I called her office and did not receive a call back. I then called the hiring manager at the company and left him a very cordial and professional message asking about the status of the second interview, but had no response from either party. I waited until yesterday (3 business days after the phone calls ) and emailed the staffing woman requesting a reason why they had stopped everything in such an odd manner and how I might be able to improve anything on my end for upcoming opportunities. I received a response from her that they still wanted to meet with me, hopefully sometime next week, and the reason was they were quite busy, etc, etc. I thanked her for her help and mentioned I would follow up in a week if I didn't hear anything by then. Then today I get a call from her and she tells me they decided to hire someone internally but they might be bringing me back in for a different position interview in a few weeks, "but no promises."

What happened here? Truthfully, I don't believe the staffing agent's story and figured you might be able to decode this ridiculous turn of events.

I hate to tell you this, but I think you're reading way too much into all this and being too suspicious.

Your staffing agency sounds like it might be mediocre, possibly disorganized and unresponsive. At a minimum, they don't put a premium on keeping candidates in the loop in a timely way. But believe me, they are soooo not alone in that behavior; it's very common, although obviously it shouldn't be. I happen to believe that not getting back to candidates who took the time to interview is the height of rudeness, but plenty of companies operate that way.

But being slow to get back to you and not being responsive to your calls doesn't indicate that they're lying to you. People who hire for a living are used to having to dispense rejection; they don't make up cover stores when it's so easy to just tell the truth -- "we went with another candidate," "we didn't feel you were the right match," etc. I can almost guarantee you that unless you somehow stumbled upon the one staffing agency in the world that isn't comfortable rejecting people, they're not lying to you.

Job hunting is frustrating and even more so when your calls aren't getting returned. But don't leap from that to assuming there's some kind of mysterious cover-up going on here.


Anonymous said...

this doesn't answer the weird way they mentioned a second interview and then all of a sudden changed their minds.

Ask a Manager said...

That's not uncommon (to say they're interested in moving you to the next step but then it ending up getting bumped for some reason). They considered you a strong candidate, but someone stronger emerged. That happens.

They should have kept in better communication with you, but "should" is very different from what's become common practice. Based on current norms, their behavior isn't outrageous. (It's rude, in my opinion, and bad business practice, but it's sadly typical.)

Deirdre HR Maven said...

I worked in the staffing industry for many years. Here are some inside views that may help.

I had issues getting some of my company contacts to call me back - it was horrible. We were second/third backup agency and not on their speed dial. So your staffing agency may be having an equally difficult time getting feedback; and that is frustrating for the staffing consultants constantly fielding calls about follow up that they can't answer.

Also companies use agencies to not have to return candidate calls. I would continue to work directly with your staffing agency - nothing seemed to irritate companies more then when candidates called them directly.

Remember too that staffing agencies present multiple candidates. It's possible that you aren't the only one that they are presenting. This isn't something that I would tell a candidate. They are also competing against a host of other agencies.

My recommendation for you is the treat your staffing agency like gold. My best candidates treated my like a partner - gave me leads on where other agencies were working, insider scoop on other agencies, gave us *real* feedback on companies. We didn't make money unless we placed people but the people we placed were a reflection on us too. Try and be patient and professional, stop in and say hello, etc.

Also ask for feedback. Sometimes I would get feedback on candidates that I would or wouldn't share depending on how I perceived the feedback would go over. If you are open to feedback and coaching, with a good agency, you will get it. If you are defensive and accusatory, well they probably won't share, nor will they want to present you other places. (Not that this is the case but just for example).

I hope this is helpful - good luck with your search.

Kelly O said...

I just have to add, sort of bouncing off Dierdre's comment, that it's really hard to treat a staffing agency like gold when they're treating you like something else altogether.

I've had more than my share of bad experiences with staffing agencies over the years, and the last one left such a bad taste in my mouth I've taken a sharp career turn just because it kept me out of an agency's office. That might sound harsh, but when you get burned more than a couple of times it becomes a challenge to believe anything you're told.

I understand it's difficult for agencies, especially with so many people out of work and searching, and I know those agencies are probably understaffed themselves, but (some) candidates are working hard to find a job, doing all the "right" things, and not getting responses, or getting a roller coaster of mixed responses, just adds to the difficulty. But, like AAM said, I think we all get the difference between "should" and "do" when it comes to most any working situation.

I guess I just view it as a two-way street - the seeker AND the agency work together, even though the end result may not be you placing me at one of your clients. I might have a friend or former co-worker who would be perfect for you, and you may wind up helping me find a connection that gets me the right job for me down the road.

Just Another HR Lady said...

If you are dealing with a staffing agency, a few things to know at least from my perspective:

-If you are dealing with a staffing agency, never call the employer directly unless you are asked to do so. We are paying to have someone else manage the process, and part of that is having the agency manage candidates. Contacting the employer will tick off both the agency and the hiring company.

-If I'm dealing with a staffing agency, I always advise them if the person is a yes, no, or maybe immediately after we meet them. It's up to the staffing agency to relay that message. If they are not doing so in a timely manner, you may want to re-consider the agency that you're dealing with.

-A staffing agency may have you on their list, but never forget that they are working for the EMPLOYER, not the candidates. The Employer is the one paying the fee. That is not to say that you should not be treated respectfully, but some agencies (as you can see) only care about presenting a successful candidate, and the rest of the candidates get left behind unfortunately. They get no fee for the time they spend on the unsuccessful candidates. (unless they are on retainer)

-Regardless of how they treat you, sometimes an agency is a link into a current job, or a future job that you want. Try to not to take their behavior personally, they are just a means to an end, and a foot in the door.

Anonymous said...

I think this person is taking the whole process a little too personally. I highly doubt there's some kind of lying going on here.

I had a great interview a few weeks ago with a company, got the impression I'd get a 2nd round, and didn't. I had an interview with another company and when I met with HR she said it'd probably be a week or two before they decided on 2nd round, because they were still interviewing. Then I went on to meet the hiring manager and got a call later the same day to come back for a second interview with the director and VP.

Things change. Maybe they honestly thought they'd want to bring you back, but then met with someone that really impressed them. It's not personal. Sometimes other people are just better for the job than you.

Keep in mind that in this market, agencies are swamped with candidates, which may result in a less timely response. If you really do feel that you're getting bad service, be honest with your recruiter. Tell them you expect a response within a reasonable time frame, and if you don't get it then reach out to one of the firm's partners to voice your complaint. Just remember to be courteous, even though you're frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Your staffing agency is *always* sourcing candidates for their clients. You are going through the interview rounds, and suddenly another candidate pops up that looks fantastic and might even be *more* qualified than you are. With no respect for how far you've made it in the process, your staffing agency will forward that resume to the client and say "Take a look at this one!" and suddenly your whole process is put on hold, so the client can start up with the new candidate.

It's probably what's holding up your end, with the mentioning a 2nd interview and then changing their minds. If the client is working with more than one staffing agency, it's happening even more often.

Also, filling internally happens a lot these days. They look at the workload, get the agencies to source some candidates, go through the interviews, and decide that they can get the job done by promoting someone from within. If they just didn't get bowled over by any candidates, it's not worth paying the agency fee to hire anyone from outside. I'm sorry that happened to you, but if the agency told you they hired from within, that's not a lie, because the agency has no reason to lie to you about that. They're disappointed about losing the fee, just as you're disappointed about not being hired.

Kimberley said...

Remember, we're in a recession. Companies will do what they can to avoid paying a fee to a staffing company. Maybe they really liked you, and now they're delaying booking that 2nd interview 'cause they want to see who they can find using their own resources.

Yes, it sucks, it sucks for us staffing companies too who only get paid when our clients hire.

TheLabRat said...

Oh I don't know, if you're in Sacramento, CA, the agency might very well be yanking you around. Short version, insider info from people in our local temp agencies reveals some pretty shady dealings. It's not universal but I've gotten enough tidbits from people on the inside that I don't go through staffing agencies anymore. Two in particular in my area have screwed over so many companies and job seekers I'm amazed they haven't been sued.

Kerry said...

I think your expectations are unrealistic.

Guess what--sometimes an internal candidate DOES surface at the last minute.

Sometimes I planned to call you for a second interview, but then the quarterly numbers come out, and I'm being told I might not be able to fill the job.

Sometimes I was going to call you, but then I get wind of the fact that another employee is going to resign, get fired, whatever, and I think, wait, should I combine these jobs then? Should I retool the workflow? Is this an opportunity for process improvement? And it takes me more than three business days to answer those questions.

Sometimes I think I'm going to bring you in for a second interview, but then I find out the hiring manager is on vacation, or he calls in sick, or I call in sick, or one of us gets some other important project that has to be done right away...I mean, these people are running a business here.

Maybe they were about to move, but then they got word that they're going to buy another company, or be bought, or eliminate this entire part of their business, or merge this line of business with that one...and it's going to take more than three business days to see how that affects this one opening. Those are all real things I've had come up during hiring processes. Change and drama don't stop when you're trying to fill a job.

I know when you're job hunting, it seems like everything that happens is about you. The reality, though, is that hardly any of it is about you.

As others have said, it would be nice if they kept you posted...but sometimes they can't tell you what's really up, and sometimes they get too busy, and sometimes they don't know what to say because they don't know what's going on either. If you eliminate from consideration all of the employers and agencies that do this, you're going to have very slim pickings in terms of jobs.

It sucks, but you can't take it personally. If you allow yourself to get sucked into that mindset, that hostility is going to show, and you'll be screwed.

Charles said...

They followed up, albeit with a couple of pushes from you and not with the answer that you wanted.

But they followed up - this is a good thing. Really, it is a good thing. I know, as a job seeker myself, as hard as it is you have to try to look at it that way. If they really didn't want to deal with you anymore they would have not bothered.

I have had a few in-person interviews where I never hear from them again. It makes me wonder if they consider me to be some sort of threat or something like the plague. I so want to scream at some of these hiring folks that "look it costs me $27 for parking, train, and subway fare to interview with you - don't waste me time and money if you are not interested. Money doesn't grow on trees!" But I don't. I know that there are other things going on.

For example, I know of two in-person interviews that I followed up with and did not hear back from only to find out later that the people I interviewed with had left the organizations. So there are a lot of things going on that us job seekers don't see.