Whether you’re a job seeker looking for a great agency or you have a job vacancy you’re trying to fill, you have a lot of options when it comes to agency representation. Maybe you’re after a niche agency or you just want to get the most bang for your buck. Just like any other type of business, there are bad apples, there are the cream of the crop, and there’s a whole lot of room in the middle for “meh” agencies. How can you find the right match for you?
First, you have to realize there’s no one “best” agency for every single employer and job seeker. What you’re looking for must be well matched to the agency. This requires extensive homework on your behalf, but there are also some major red flags to watch out for. For example, a lot of bad reviews, failure to respond in a timely manner, or replies that are clearly cut and pasted or don’t answer your queries mean it’s time to move on.
On the plus side, there are also many signs that you have a great agency in your sights. Here are some of the good things to seek out:
1) They have stellar testimonials and reviews
How trustworthy review sites are might be up for debate, but it’s usually pretty easy to tell if a review (especially positive ones) are fake or not. Look at a few review sites, but also don’t forget to check the testimonial sites on the actual agency page. You can also take a look at their LinkedIn page for endorsements or other social media pages for compliments.
Basically, if there are a lot of good reviews from genuine people, you’re on the right path. It’s even better if you can connect with someone who used to be in your shoes and who can attest to the prowess of the agency.
2) It just feels right
Trusting your gut can go a long way, and going against that inner voice almost never works out in your favor. When talking with a potential agency, follow your heart and if it feels right, there’s probably a reason for it. However, it can be tough to trust your gut when you go buy emails or online chats alone. Whenever possible, meet in person or at least have a phone conversation. There are many red flags that can be missed because you’re relying too much on technology.
3) They specialise in your industry
This is particularly important if you’re in a very niche industry, but even if you consider your industry pretty mainstream, the agency should have placed candidates with similar skill sets and title numerous times. You don’t want to be the first Social Media Manager they place, and as an employer you don’t want an agency taking a stab at finding the perfect SEO copywriter for you. Experience matters.
4) They have a flawless BBB rating
This kind of aligns with reviews, but always check the BBB for a business’ rating. If they’ve been reported, that means someone was upset enough to do something drastic about it beyond writing up a poor review. Just because someone’s on the BBB naughty list doesn’t necessarily mean they were in the wrong, but do you really want to take that chance? Any more than one bad BBB reviews, and you need to definitely look elsewhere.
5) They’re transparent
More important than how long a business has been in operation is just how transparent they are in the process. You should know exactly what they’re doing for you with no “secret sauce” in the mix. This isn’t a magic show, it’s your business or career, and you deserve to be in the know.
6) They don’t act like they need you
A good agency doesn’t need any more employers or recruiters, but they’re happy to bring newbies on board and are always accommodating. However, if it feels like you’ve been shoved into a high pressure environment, ask yourself why. True, maybe they’re brand new (in which case, are they inexperienced?) but otherwise there’s a reason they’re hurting for business. If an agency wants you but doesn’t need you, that’s a sign of a successful venture you should want to be a part of.
7) You have your own, responsive agent
You should have a point of contact whether you’re offering a job or looking for one. In fact, you should only have to work with one person at the agency who knows what you want, always has time for you and has a penchant for returning your calls or emails quickly. This is a very intimate and personal journey that you shouldn’t have to share with new agents every day.
You’ll know when you find the right fit by how it feels in your gut. Trust yourself.
Author: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter.