Job agencies make it harder to find work in the UK

Being unemployed in the United Kingdom isn’t the easiest life. It’s better than some countries, thanks to the shreds of social insurances still around, but it’s not the Government that makes your way to employment hard, at least not all of the time.

Agencies, agencies and more agencies. Wherever you look, whatever you search for, it’s always agencies. You go to one agency to search for jobs, and another agency posted the notice that a third agency has employment for a fourth, that they really just copied from a fifth, that in turn copied it from the original sixth agency, who posted it originally on a message board from a seventh agency. When applying for the job, you get a call from an eighth and a ninth agency about the same job, and by that time, so much time has passed and it has gone through so many filters that the original job doesn’t exist any more, if it ever did in the first place.

Nowhere in this line will you ever find the name or location of the company you’re applying for, making it near impossible to know if you can even make it there in a reasonable time from your own residence. It is made harder by the agencies listing their own post code instead of the post code to the employer, probably because that post code (along with the name of the company) got lost several iterations ago.

It is hard enough with a car, just imagine having to apply for jobs when you require travel by bus or train, especially outside the bigger cities. Where I live, about an hour’s drive from Birmingham, the buses only go to a select few areas and you get maybe three buses a day through one of the three industrial areas. Depending on where in the town you live, you can get to within a 20 minute walk of one end of the industrial area before 8am, but not the other end. Therefore it is important to know what end of the area the company is in, but you cannot get that information from agency posts.

Then you have the reposting, as mentioned briefly earlier. A lot of agencies aren’t really interested in giving you the job they are posting, they just want you in their register. From there they can either sell your information to third parties (which you agree to when applying for the “job”) or contact you about other jobs that may or may not be at least near your competence level and field of work. To get as many applicants as possible, they simply copy other job postings to the letter, making it hard to find the actual job. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the exact phrase “PHP Web Developer – OO PHP / MySQL / Zend – Telford” posted by different agencies. I’ve been here over a year now, and that particular one has floated around since before then. At the moment of writing, it is posted 6 times on the front page of search results for PHP jobs on the Government run Universal Jobmatch website. It’s posted under three different company names, all three being agencies. In fact, there are more instances of that one ad than any other ad on the entire page. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot:

Agencies reposting each other's job ads

The only difference between the ones marked “PHP Developer” and the ones marked “Web Developer” is that the word “PHP” is replaced by “Web” in the text. That’s it, otherwise it is the same text.

The text itself talks about the agency in three paragraphs, then goes on to list the “key skills” in a very generic manner and lastly gives contact info… That contact info doesn’t even go to the listed agency, it’s for a completely different agency all together! For example, the Job Board Enterprises ads lists an email ending in “searchability.co.uk”.

As you can also see on the picture, ALL jobs listed are from agencies, rather than actual companies with employments. None of the applications go directly to an employer, in fact none of these even reach the employer, they all go to the respective agencies, who in turn sends it to 3rd parties, after having changed your application around a bit.

That’s my third concern about this. If they just let the application be as is, any future iterations could match me to something I could actually do, but that’s not what they do. They change the application to match the employers, in order to rope them in with the same deceptive methods they use to rope in applicants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls from potential employers, having talked for a long while about everything I’ve done and what I know, just to have them ask “So, how did you go from there to C# and .NET?”. The disappointment on both sides is so thick you can touch it.

Somewhere on the way, between my original application months earlier for a completely unrelated job, the twists through the agency iterations have changed PHP, CSS, HTML5, Apache, Linux and all my other key points to things like C#, .NET, ASP, ISS and osX. I don’t know any of those, but according to companies I’ve never heard of before, I’ve apparently applied directly to them with those details.

TL;DR: Agencies are making it harder to find work for workers and workers for companies. The employment difficulties could be cut down drastically, if we just had harder rules against this sort of thing.

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