Does anybody like recruitment agencies?
Any thoughts I had that the recession is just an invention of the mainstream media, determined to irresponsibly talk us into a recession that wouldn't otherwise happen, are being somewhat dashed by personal experience in trying to find work at the moment. A market that was ridiculously buoyant last Summer seems to be pretty 'dead in the water' at the moment, and my 'between contracts' sabbatical is lasting far longer than I'd originally intended!
Not that agencies are being in any way honest about the situation. Last week, after posting my CV to Jobserve on the Friday afternoon, I had 27 different agency calls, so excited about my CV that they were 'putting it forward immediately for a job that's right up your street'. Number of agencies that subsequently called me back? One (to advise me that the vacancy they'd insisted on contacting a reference for, BEFORE even putting my CV forward, had 'gone to India').
On the back of my experiences before Christmas when doing the same thing, I'm alternating between getting extremely demotivated about the whole thing, and getting really angry at the way staff at these agencies deal with people. And of course the people on the other side of the fence (the clients) have similar horror stories to tell from their side.
Agency issues aside, I did actually manage to get an interview at the end of last week, which involved travelling up to Watford Junction and having to answer such in-depth technical questions as 'What is the configuration file for an ASP.NET application called?' (which appeared twice in a multi-choice 'test' that comprised 30 questions in total). This involved some time, travel and expense on my part, with a promise that I'd hear back first thing Monday morning, if not late Friday afternoon. Needless to say I'm here, late on Tuesday morning having not heard a word, and I suspect the situation will not have changed by the end of the week.
As it happened, the job was not one that was appropriate or I'd accept anyway. And I should have taken the lack of any telephone pre-interview technical screening as a sign of how the company works, but this lack of any response seems to be 'the recruitment norm'. No wonder the whole recruitment industry has a general reputation of being 'worse even than lawyers and estate agents'.
Just before Christmas, I spent the best part of a day on a coding exercise that one agency insisted all potential candidates had to complete before they could be put forward for any possible vacancies. The exercise was fundamentally flawed in several areas and I had to send in a solution that was accompanied by a whole list of assumptions that I'd made because the specifications were unclear. In response I got an email from their .NET specialist saying how impressed they were with my submission, and would I consider helping them to grade other candidates in future when they launched a formal appraisal service in the new year?
All very nice, but as for the original vacancy that had caused me to contact the agency and deal with their coding exercise submission? Not a word! And in what's a common pattern where agencies are concerned, any attempt to talk to the person who originally contacted you with such enthusiasm is invariably met with complete silence. Email responses to queries go unanswered. Promised "he's busy right now. He'll call you back" promises made when you hassle them as to why you've heard nothing back never materialise, no matter how often you try and follow up. The whole process is extremely demoralising.
When candidates have spent time and money to help agencies who then go on to collect between 15% and 20% of all future income that successful candidates generate, they should get a far better service than they are doing. As it is all the agencies seem to be offering for their not insignificant cut, is a CV forwarding service based on the most crude 'keyword' searches.
I don't know a single contractor who's got a good thing to say about agencies. Or, in fact, a single employer looking for contractors who has a good word to say about them! I wish there were some other solution to the 'matching contractors with clients' problem. Maybe I should just change careers and become a recruitment consultant myself?
Podcast Interview with 'The Social Programmer'
Since I seem to have got into the subject of work (or lack of it!) it's worth mentioning that a few weeks ago I did a podcast interview with The Social Programmer web site. You can hear over an hour of me pontificating on the state of the industry, the Las Vegas conference I attended, and the whole HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray format wars mess in the podcast which can be found here
Weekend Film-Making Course
I spent the weekend on a 'single person' documentary film-making course. I had suspected that many of these advertised film-making courses are just an attempt to make money from naive 'wanna be's who think such courses will magically open doors in Hollywood (rather like those Microsoft certification boot camp ads that imply in 2 weeks they can turn you into a high revenue-earning IT consultant!). And so it proved to be. A lot of the equipment didn't work, was insufficient to meet the stated goals of the course, or had broken/missing bits and pieces. Misinformation was given out right, left and centre, and I don't think I've heard so much bullshit in quite some time. Very disappointing! I learnt more from the excellent (and far cheaper) Shut up and Shoot Documentary Guide book than I learn on this course, despite the instructor's ridiculous claims that he'd saved us all a year's worth of learning!
Film: The Orphanage
On a happier note, last night I went to see The Orphanage, universally praised by critics as an 'intelligent horror movie'. This foreign-language film has received a lot of attention (and a UK Top 10 position) primarily because it's been recommended/produced by Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro. It's in nowhere near the same league as Pan's Labyrinth, but it is a beautifully constructed film that's well worth a trip to your local emporium to see - even if you're the sort of person who hates seeing subtitled movies. It's hard to say any more about the film without spoiling it - just go and see it!