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Part 2 – Job Recruitment Agencies in South Africa

Map of South Africa

With all of today’s technological advances, one would think getting a job would be so much easier, not to mention so much quicker. With access to the internet and its thousands of applications, most tedious tasks can now be avoided and can be completed with the mere push of a button. Standing in never-ending queues or filling out frustratingly long forms can now be eliminated, which leaves more time to concentrate on the important things in life, such as focusing on one’s job/career etc., or the really important things in life, family and loved ones. Personally, I am a very family orientated person, believing that family, good health and faith are the most important things in life.

In the not too distant past, which now seems like almost a lifetime ago (before the wonders of the internet), getting a job for a young qualified professional, was as simple as: visiting a few companies of your choice, with all your qualifications and paperwork in hand, asking to speak to someone in-charge and being a sales person and selling yourself. Whether or not you got the job was based on what you brought to the table; your personality, your energy, your commitment and character, not forgetting your ability to relate to other people, your experience and ability to identify, interpret, and to solve problems as well as the way in which you think and go about solving these problems. These are just some of the factors that would determine if you are suitable for the position and the impact that you would have on the company.

An alternative would have been to have a so-called “contact” within a specific industry or company, whether that contact be a family member, a friend of the family, a fellow member of the church, or merely an associate. This contact would then speak on your behalf to “the person in-charge.” Notice the emphasis on the words, “the person in-charge,” who knows what he/she and hence the company is looking for in a certain candidate or applicant. The person in-charge will then evaluate you, based on your professional qualifications and attitude, before deciding whether you are what the company needs/is looking for, or whether you are suitable for the available position.

In today’s world, we seldom get in-touch, neither do we get to speak to “the person in-charge.” Nowadays, most companies engage “job recruitment agencies” to find suitable or appropriate candidates to fill existing vacancies within the companies.

There are certain unanswered questions that we should be asking ourselves: Are the job recruitment agencies the best person for the job? And do they really deliver on services that they claim to provide?

More often than not, I find that the easiest way to relate to people is by sharing my experiences with them. The following is an incident that I personally experienced with a certain, widely advertised, recruitment agency in South Africa.

At the beginning of this year, February/March 2011 to be exact, I managed to get in contact, via email, with a recruitment agency based in Johannesburg. I emailed the agency my CV together with all other relevant documents. A few days later they responded (via email) to receiving my email, with the attached documents and informed me that I needed to go to their website and fill out an online application form for their data base. Upon looking at the online application form, I realized that the information required was identical to what I had already put down on my CV. So, I began the tedious and frustrating task of re-typing my entire CV and covering letter on their online application form and this literally took several hours to complete.

After a few weeks with no reply from the agency, I contacted them via telephone. Their response was, “We have all your information on our system and we will contact you as soon as something comes up.”

A few months down the line, the first week of June 2011, I noticed a job vacancy suitable to my qualifications advertised on the popular “pnet” site. As I read through the advert, I browsed past the recruitment house that placed the advert on “pnet”, and you would never guess who the recruitment agency was?

Absolutely correct! The same job recruitment agency that I had applied to earlier in the year. As you can imagine, at this moment in time, a million thoughts raced through my head:

“Didn’t this agency have all my information and documents already? If so, why didn’t they contact me?”

Anyway, I went through the process of loading my CV onto “pnet” and applied online via pnet for the vacant position. The same agency then responded to my application by saying, “We have browsed through your CV and it looks suitable for the position available, you are now required to fill out our application form online, so that we have all your information on record.”

This meant that when the company had initially contacted the agency with the job vacancy, the agency placed the advert online, without even bothering to check their archives (data base) for existing applicants who were already on their system.

To say that my blood was boiling would not do justice to how frustrated I was at the time. This agency was basically incompetent, so in-efficient and unprofessional in the manner in which they conducted their business/duties. How could they ever hope of finding a suitable candidate? Would they even know what a suitable candidate looked like? And, how can companies trust these people to find appropriate applicants?

Why are companies not able to recruit for themselves anymore? And in doing so, cut out the middle man.

In a separate incident, I was contacted by an agent from Cape Town, who was recruiting for the mining industry here in South Africa. The company itself was interested in employing “graduate chemical process engineers.” In-order to be accredited as a practicing engineer in South Africa, a graduate engineer would be required to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), for approximately 18 – 24 months, upon gaining employment with a company. When I began asking questions about the graduate program, or registering with ECSA, the agent didn’t seem to know much about that, and from his tone of voice I could tell that he quickly began to lose interest.

Over the past 8 – 10 months, I have applied to over a dozen or so recruitment agencies, each time going through the same long procedures involved, of re-typing my CV on their online application forms for their data bases, with only a hand full of agencies showing any particular interest or responding to the applications. These are just some of the difficulties that we as young graduates are facing in South Africa.

I think it’s safe to conclude that “certain” job recruitment agencies in South Africa are only interested in making quick money, with a “few” having the companies’ and the applicants’ best interests at heart.

I believe that companies should take more of an initiative to recruit for themselves, to ensure that they hire the best person possible for the job at hand, as only they know what exactly they are looking for in a prospective applicant.



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