The Diary of an Agent - Day One


The day starts well. A big client of the business has decided to take on my Systems Designer for 6 months. It's volume business, so it doesn't carry massive rewards for me personally, but I think I've blown the competition out of the water. The role was intensely complex, and whilst they selected two people to interview (I made one submission), the other turned out to be unable to speak English in any more depth than "hello" and "goodbye" (Seriously – who puts these people forward!?!).

This is where the good news ends – the client wants to pay £300 per day (seriously, couldn't they have told me this at the beginning of the process?) and the contractor wants £320 – I've got no room to wiggle more money in because this client talks to us in pay rates, not charge rates – so I'm going to have to negotiate. Given the baron spell I've had, this is a really important deal for me. Pressure builds, as I pick up the phone.

Arrrgh! Voicemail! Client wants an answer, but I'm left helpless!


Tender document for a new client needs finishing – so far it's 24 pages long – manage to delegate some of this to my Director (he's going to have to sign it off anyway – he might as well write it). Phone continues to ring with people chasing me for updates. I try to explain as politely as possible, that if I had feedback, I would pass it on – and if it's positive feedback, these are the first ones I cover off. This disrupts my flow – this tender feels like it's going to take an age.


Found two .net developers for a client in Manchester. Both equally proficient, both awesome communicators, both would fit the culture of the client – I can't decide who I want to recommend, so I'm going to have to recommend both of them, and let the client decide for himself. Not ideal as he'd asked me to send him two people, and I've already sent one, who whilst very strong, is likely to be blown out of the water by the other two. Client might get angry, but when he sees the quality of the guys I've got, I'm sure he'll calm down fairly quickly. I spent about 25 minutes with each candidate, and manage to get my cover sheets done, before realising it's lunchtime. Where has the morning gone!?!

Lunch! The wife has made baguettes again. I get my chance to check out who my football team has signed (best player sold, 3 journey men signed...great!). I also get to adjust the advert text for my car – I've had it for 3 years, and it's time to move to something a bit more sensible – kids on the way, and to be honest, a hairdresser's car really isn't going to cut it (pardon the pun!).

Slip out of the office to grab a soft drink, can't have been gone more than 5 minutes – and someone dumps 12 requirements on my desk. They're low paid, badly described, and to be honest, fodder good for one thing – the bin. Booked to speak to the line manager about this – I'd be ashamed to start talking to people about these without more information. Unfortunately I notice that a lot of my competitors have just decided to place adverts and see what comes in.

Try to set up exclusivity for the role, but as the client prayed and sprayed, they refuse that opportunity – sometimes I think a cattle prod would be better for me than any other tool – if you're a client, and you decide to work with someone like me who does a low volume job, PLEASE don't send the spec to 50 agencies before having a conversation.


Candidate for the offer from earlier has called in. He's thinking about whether or not to take the role – this is frustrating for the client, as they want him to start ASAP, and a little nonsensical to me – he's been benched for the best part of 4 months, and hasn't had a sniff – now he's being offered 97% of what he was looking for, and he's not sure. I explain as much as I can to him, and leave him to make the decision – no point in thrusting something that isn't going to end well upon someone ultimately.


It's also payroll day, and as usual, the back office team have made life 15 times harder than it needs to be.

4 contractors have called to say they've not been paid. All of them have something minor missing from their documentation, and whilst I can excuse one of them (I made the mistake that stopped it from coming through) the others had been told what was required, and had simply decided not to provide it – there's only so much you can do for people sometimes. Manage to sort three of the four out promptly and get them paid, but the fourth one is going to have to wait as she wasn't quick enough to get required information to me.


Some more good news – a small client wants to interview all three of the candidates submitted for a role I've been really keen to fill. The business is one I've seen grow from scratch, and have had a fair bit of input into in terms of positioning people at the right time to build certain teams. Now it's my turn to get involved with my forte – the standalone project management team. This could be something to really be proud of, assuming the client has the money to pay – it's not an immediate win, but worth 30 mins of my time.


Bad news follows though – news filters through that one of my long term relationships has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Cancer. The guy has been working through me, and we've become mates as well as business associates. He's not going to be able to complete his contract, and I've said I'll find a replacement ASAP. I speak to the client and we come to an agreement that we will split the cost of allowing him to leave with 2 months day rate in his pocket – he's been with me for 3 years, so I think it's only fair.


Hilarious episode. Candidate who lives in Halifax who I'd wanted to put forward for the job in Manchester, wasn't selected for interview, however my colleague has a role for him – so I pass his details on – colleague calls him with me listening in – my role was in Cheadle, his is in Salford, however, candidate thinks Salford is too far.

Confused, and doubting my geography, I check Google maps....Salford is 5 miles closer, and 20 minutes less driving. All I would say, is that if you're reading this, and you're talking about jobs, please check your geography before turning things away!!

The day ends as a bit of a damp squib – couldn't get hold of the candidates who are requested for interview – the offered contractor wants to sleep on his thoughts, and my best relationship is seriously ill – all in all I could do with a pint to ease the stress levels.


Write adverts for the roles I've not covered off yet, and get them out to the market – sometimes there's just not enough time in the day – hope that this will stir some interest for tomorrow.

Cover off and send contracts for a contract extension – realise it's starting to get dark – I guess the contracts team aren't going to be here still!


Resist temptation to get said pint, and head home - I'm glad I did – come home to find that cat has decided to pick on a wood pigeon. Not only are said pigeon's feathers all over the lounge – but the bird is still desperately trying to escape the cats grip. Fortunately, my wife is still working, so I have just enough time to clear up the mess and get the cat out of trouble – he owes me big time!


As I settle in for the evening – the phone goes – candidate wanting directions for interview tomorrow – "dammit I knew I'd forgotten something!". Log into computer and prep candidate, discuss the ins and outs of the business – he's all ready to go – lets hope he really performs – he needs this much more than me, and I really am egging him on – he deserves the break.


Having been made to sit through Coronation Street, Eastenders and Big Brother, I manage to answer a couple of emails I've been meaning to get done for about a week, finally slip off to bed about 11:30, readying myself for the day which follows. One down, four to go...

Editor's Note: The author is a recruitment specialist in the IT and Projects market. He works for a large IT staffing agency who have a major presence in the contract sector. Over the coming weeks, the agent will informally reveal his own individual experience and areas of work, providing a personal snapshot of the challenges and realities of IT contractor recruitment in 2010.

Wednesday 15th Sep 2010