I’ve written a few times about the perks of being an IT contractor. There are a lot of things I really like about this line of work. I don’t even mind being “in between jobs”.
Last week, I put my CV on the market for a few days (I’ve extended my current contract, so have now removed it). After activating my CV on Jobserve, my mobile phone started ringing continuously with agents trying to fill Investment banking jobs. It’s nice to know the market is still going strong after the credit crunch.
During this few days, I got a call I’ve gotten several times before from an agent. It goes like this:
AGENT: I’m calling for Eric please.
ME: Yeah, this is Eric.
AGENT: I was just going through your CV on Jobserve and it looks very good. We’ve got a lot of great opportunities to put you in for. We got lots of contracts that are suited specifically to your skillset.
ME: (I’ve heard it before, but I’m polite) Oh, great.
AGENT: So, you’re working for XYZ Corp now. I’ve put lots of people into contracts there. Are you working with Steve?
ME: No, I’m not.
AGENT: Oh, really? So, who are you working for then?
ME: (still polite) Somebody else.
AGENT: Yeah. Whose department are you working in?
ME: I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, but if you put me into a different contract I’d be happy to tell you . . .
This is a tactic agents and recruiters use called “fishing for leads”. They may or may not have positions to put you in for– most often, they don’t. They need line managers to pester. If they see your CV, they know there is a good chance you will be leaving a vacancy behind you. They can snatch up the vacancy without every helping you leave. The agent always throws out the name of someone in the company you’ve been dealing with. This name is made up–and often seems to be Steve. I got one of these calls last week. He actually hung up on me.
The other way agents fish for leads is as follows:
AGENT: So, how long have you been looking for work?
ME: Oh, just a few days. I took a few months off between contracts.
AGENT: Well, we got this great contract for £70/hour.
ME: Oh, great.
AGENT: I can put you through for it, but this company is very specific. They need to know everyone else you’ve interviewed for.
ME: I’m sorry. I can’t tell you that.
AGENT: Well, this company won’t take even look at someone’s CV unless they know who else you’ve been talking to.
ME: I’ll tell them at the interview if they ask.
AGENT: (with mock frustration) Are you telling me you are going to pass up £70 an hour just because you won’t tell me who you’ve been talking to?
ME: That’s right. If you put me into this role, I will be happy to give them a list of people I’ve spoken to.
The agent hangs up.
I actually had this conversation a few years ago. I’m sure the agent didn’t have any role to put me into. The £70 an hour was a complete lie–an obvious one. I’ve never worked for someone who insisted on knowing where I had interviewed. The agent just wants to find out where jobs are going so he can flood them with CVs (and add more competition for me). If an agent actually gets me in for an interview, I owe it to that agent to keep that information confidential and not to give it out to one of his competitors.
Most agents I’ve worked for have been very honest and (despite that salesman-talk they do) I generally trust them. But every so often, you get these con artists who are just fishing for leads. If you are considering contracting, look out for this. If you are already a contractor, you’ve probably already experienced it.