Seven questions to ask contract IT job agencies

Knowing the hallmarks of good and bad IT contractor recruitment agencies is one thing; asking the right questions so you can spot those hallmarks is quite another, writes Les Berridge of IT & Telecommunications jobs specialist Networkers.

This is important. After all, in my considerable experience of the IT contractor sector, only about a quarter of agencies are pretty good. Yes on the face of it, all agencies do the same things, but there continues to be a wide range in the standards they reach. The differences are of degree, not principle, but those degrees matter.

So here are seven questions to ask an agency to ensure their standard is going to match yours, or at least your expectations. Remember, you don’t want to brand yourself as from the ‘awkward squad’ but any decent agency would be pleased to hear you pose the following questions and would probably even welcome them. I certainly would be impressed to hear a few of these seven and would rate an IT contractor more highly for asking, but in my experience, they are asked too rarely.

1. Are you a sole or preferred supplier to the client?

No agency should advertise a role without a client's permission and therefore the right to send CVs, but that's not always the case. If you are not convinced, you will probably find that another agency, one who is approved, is also advertising it.

2. Is there anything I should know before running a quick credit check?

Ask this question at the point of doing an interview. You run a credit check on the agency because it's a business relationship you will have, and you need to know that they can afford to pay you. These days it's very cheap and easy to credit check a company and this will give you an independent view of their liquidity.

3. How often do you pay?

Frequency of pay varies from weekly at best to ‘pay when paid’ -- which should ring alarm bells. If an agency only pays monthly it doesn't necessarily mean they are dodgy but if they are factoring it in, it’s at least a cause for concern.

4. Do you have your own payroll department?

Many agencies outsource their payroll which again doesn't automatically mean there will be problems but if they have an in-house payroll team any problems can be more easily and swiftly resolved.

5. Are you members of a trade or professional body?

This isn’t a ‘deal breaker’ but a ‘yes’ answer should give contractors extra confidence. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation, for example, is easily the biggest trade association in the recruitment space. They do set high standards, enforce them and thoroughly investigate complaints.

6. Are you qualified?   

Some qualifications are not easy to attain and it's a very good indicator if an agency puts all their consulting staff through formal training.

7. How long have you worked in recruitment?

We all have to start somewhere! Actually, a double-figured answer isn’t always a deal-maker; there are some rogues who have been in recruitment for years! Normally though, it's still helpful to know how the long the agency, as a business, has been around.

Wednesday 14th Dec 2016
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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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