Fight Back Against Agency Dirty Tricks
This article, urging contractors to fight back, was sent to us after our Top Ten agency Tricks article.
Although I’m sure many people responded to this excellent (and sadly very true) article, here’s my own response suggesting ways to “fight back”.
After all, if the tricks don’t work they won’t use them – right?
Alas I’ve had every one of these used on me a number of times by a range of agencies.
There are some good Agencies out there who are honest and helpful, but as always the bad ones spoil the image for the others. Let’s fight back and stamp out these practices.
1. Fight Back Against Agencies Spamming References
They phone you up saying that they have several jobs that you are suitable for. They need you, however, first to supply them with references. Is this true? No, it isn‘t. They do not have any jobs for you. They are just trying to find out people who take on contractors and want to know the names and phone numbers of your old bosses.
1a. Either refuse to give references up front (quoting the article – “but I’m sure you would never do that”) or give old references ideally of someone who is a good reference but you know isn’t recruiting anyone.
2. Recruiters Seeking Contacts
They‘ll say, ‘Who did you work for at BT. Was it Graham Sutherland’? ‘No’, you say. ‘It was John Salisbury’. Now the agent has a contact at your old firm that they can call up to ask him if he is looking for any contractors.
2a. Say “Sorry I can’t disclose that. Are you asking for a reference?” If so, give your formal references. If not say you aren’t at liberty to discuss previous clients.
3. Agencies Post Job That Don’t Exist
They post jobs on job boards that don‘t exist. They are only trying to get themselves a number of extra CVs to increase their own database. When you send in your CV, they‘ll say that the job is gone.
3a. If they say the job has gone when you call (or the other ‘old chestnuts’ of “Oh it’s an old advert” or “the system keeps reposting an old advert” or “the client withdrew it” (when you responded within seconds of the advert being posted) then say you do NOT want to be held on their database.
If they email you saying you will be – ask to be taken off. Whilst this might seem counterproductive (surely you want to be on their lists to be considered) how often have you EVER been called by one of these agencies about a real job, and more often or not they will only call periodically to find out what jobs you have been applying for (to try and get wind of other vacancies).
4. Agencies Ask What Companies Your CV Has Been Sent To
They‘ll ask you, ‘Tell us what companies that your CV has already been sent out to, so that we don‘t make the mistake of sending your CV there again, which could cost you a job interview’. If you tell them, then they now know what companies are looking for contractors, and they can then put some other candidates up in opposition to you. Don‘t think they wouldn‘t.
4a. Sneaky. Best to be vague. Say that the other agencies haven’t told you the names of the client companies at this stage, or “I’d prefer we talked about any company you were going to send my CV to first and then I can tell you if I’ve already spoken to them, or been sent to them already, but I’m not willing to disclose who I’ve been talking to”. They shouldn’t be sending your CV out en-masse (plus it’s highly unlikely they will be).
5. Agencies Who Ask You for Your Rate Bottom Line
When they are asking you what your rate for the job is they might say, ‘What‘s your bottom line? What‘s the least that you would take to get a job? Obviously we will try to get as much as we can for you’. No they won‘t. Your bottom line now becomes the most you‘ll get for any job. They‘ll still try and get as much as they can from the client, but they‘ll keep any extra they can get for themselves. How many people have actually heard from an agent ‘We‘ve managed to get you a higher rate than you were asking for?’
5a. Always quote a high bottom line. As said whatever you quote will be the highest you get, so aim high. You can always come down later if they won’t offer that much but they are interested.
6. Contracts With No Reciprocal Notice Period
They‘ll put a clause in your contract that they and the client company can terminate you with a month‘s (or a week‘s) notice, but that you have no notice period with them.
6a. Cross out the offending item in the contract or amend it. If they don’t like it they are risking their commission on this contract if they can’t get you to sign. it will look a bit bad to the client if they ask why you dropped out and they have to admit why. Alternatively if the agency are paying you – your contract is with the agency hence if you have no notice period then if another contract comes up with a better rate you can leave immediately. The agency will be left holding the one month notice to the client as you have no notice !
7. Recruitment Agencies Who Don’t Call Back
If you get a job interview through them, they‘ll tell you that they‘ll call you back when they have any news. What they mean is that if there is good news, they will be on the line pronto to try and get you to sign up straight away in case you take another job. If it‘s bad news, they won‘t call you, and they‘ll be ‘˜not around‘ when you call in. They‘ll give you the bad news eventually but only after several attempts to get hold of them.
7a. Don’t waste your time chasing agencies. Apply, discuss and move on. Your time is better spent looking for the next real contract than chasing someone who’s only interested in speaking to you as long as there is a prospect of you earning them money. They will call you if anything happens believe me.
8. Recruitment Agencies Quietly Drop You
When you don‘t get the job for an interview that they sent you to, they‘ll say they‘ll look for other jobs for you, but they won‘t. They‘ll quietly drop you. They don‘t like people who don‘t pass interviews for them.
8a. Ignore such comments as “pleasantries”. Remember to apply again to the same agency if there are any other jobs. After all the person you spoke to has probably moved on to another agency, area or job by then.
9. Agencies Paying for Contractor Introductions
They tell you that if you introduce them to another contractor that they get a job for, they‘ll pay you 250 or 500 quid. They will if you find out about it.
They won‘t contact you, unless you call up asking for it. If they get this person a job three months down the line or a couple of years down the line, there‘s no chance at all of them sending you a cheque out of the blue, even though the finder‘s name (yours) will be on their database.
9a. Don’t. Unless you know the person well and speak to them regularly and hence can check and chase if they get the contract.
10. Fight Back Against Agencies Keeping More of a Contractor’s Money
Once they‘ve got you a job, they may say that they weren‘t able to get you the rate that you wanted – that the client will only pay 5% or 10% less. This is rubbish. They told the company what your rate was initially and the company accepted it. The agency are now just trying to help themselves to an extra bit of commission for a job that is safely in their pockets. Don‘t fall for it. Tell them that the client can forget it then, and see how quickly the agent changes tack. They don‘t want to lose sure-fire money.
10a. As said. Stick to your agreed rate or “no deal”. In fact you can play the opposing game if this happens – “another agency/client has just called me offering a contract with a higher rate, so I was going to talk to you about whether we could possibly increase the rate”.
11. And another trick – Market Rates
Contracts advertised stating “Market rates”. Whatever rate you go in with will always be “too high”. Interestingly if all contractors go in asking for a rate that the client isn’t willing to pay – what is the “market rate” – that of the seller or the buyer? According to agencies it’s that of the buyer.
If a contractor breaks rank and sells themselves cheaply (as they need the money or believe the “market rates” story) then that low rate becomes market rate. If however everyone holds out for the right rates then the market rate has to rise to that at which contractors will do the work. That’s how to fight back.
Oddly enough if you hold out on the rates, strangely the client often becomes interested (as you have the skills) and they will often happily pay the proper rate (as often they rely on the agency).
11a. Don’t sell yourself cheap. Fight back. As long as some of us do, the going rates will stay low. Perhaps the PCG could publish a recommended rates table? If everyone sticks to roughly the right rates the market will have to come to us, not the other way around.
So, join the contractor fight back against agency tricks.
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