SI Review: May 2013

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The Other Side

You Have My Appoval

Small things can make a big difference in how a temporary worker perceives you

By Maryanne Webb

About 10 years ago, after a fairly traditional career in information technology, I switched gears, living aboard my sailboat and traveling both internationally and around the U.S. Given this lifestyle, I often find myself seeking work in unfamiliar locations. Therefore, I’ve come to rely on staffing firms for their local expertise.

A good agency can make a huge difference, and it’s not just local knowledge that I judge staffing firms and their staff on. I’m also critical of how they communicate with me — from initial contact, all the way through to and during a placement (and beyond).

Here are some recommendations to help you be the kind of agency I’d endorse rather than loathe.

Mass emails. Your mass emails for any particular position are most likely my first impression of you. Invest time beforehand to make a good one.

  • Proofread. About 90 percent of such emails I receive are littered with poor grammar. Have a colleague proofread your email, or wait the following day to re-read before sending.
  • Check qualifications. I’m frequently bombarded with emails about positions that a cursory glance of my résumé would show I’m not suited for. This makes me think that you are lazy; why should I then also think you can do a good job of representing me for a position? Take the time to filter down that address list you first derive. My time is valuable, too.

Enable résumé uploads. Save extensive online form filling for candidates you have first spoken with. I’m not going to be happy if the “apply here” button takes me to a multi-page 45-minute long, fill-in-your-life-history-type application. I regularly avoid applying for such jobs that are otherwise a good fit. I expect to be able to email or upload my résumé (with possibly a few check boxes of really pertinent points to get me to that stage), for you to actually read.

Acknowledge everyone. Reply to all applicants, including those you reject. That reply should be more than (in addition to) an automated email response. While I expect to hear that you received my application, it’s even nicer to know that a decision is made, and that a real person read my résumé. Ideally, include an explanation as to why I was not successful on this occasion. Even bad news can leave a good impression.

Be honest. Be honest about the known negatives of a position or client, especially if you’ve placed people at the same location/client before and they have complained about situations I’m likely to face. If you know that the boss never replies to emails, can be especially grumpy on a Monday morning, that parking is next to impossible or the office space is dark and gloomy, you should share it before I sign any contract. It may not be a deal breaker, but it will certainly leave me with a sour taste if I discover later that you kept such information from me.

Keep in touch. I expect regular, friendly contact from any agency I’m representing, maybe even the occasional invite to a company event. I’d certainly expect you to invite me to lunch or coffee from time to time to hear how things are going, and for you to call once in a while. Basically, I don’t want to feel like I’m your cash cow, and that you only care about my timesheets once you’ve filled the position. I want to feel I’m part of your team.

I am now preparing my boat to explore the New England coast before heading off to the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. If our paths cross and you avoid these particular peeves, you’ll be an agency I’m happy to both work with and to recommend to others. In fact, I look forward to it.

Maryanne Webb is a business analyst and software quality assurance professional. maryannelwebb@gmail.com

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