R U Avail?

An SMS that I have received twice today:

Hello. R U Avail & Looking 4 work? I have a 3 mnth contract at the BBC – £310 P/Day 4 a good Perl Dev? If yes pls call ASAP at [removed] – Rgrds Kathe @ PCR

Even if I was available and looking “4” work, I’d almost certainly be hoping to work with an agent who gives off an air of professionalism. Not one who thinks it’s appropriate to use “txtspk” when talking to potential clients.

Or am I being too old-fashioned?


Admitting Your Mistakes

When did it become unfashionable to admit to mistakes. We all make mistakes. Why not just own up to them?

Yesterday I got an email from an agent asking if I was available for work. I replied pointing her to the page on my company web site where that information is always available.

Just now I got the same email again from the same agent. Well, the content was identical, but the subject line had changed. Yesterday it was “New Year New Project?”, today it had become “New Projects?”.

I replied to the second email saying that my situation hadn’t changed in twenty-four hours. Her reply to this was:

So sorry for some reason it looks like my outlook has duplicated my emails

Not, “oops, I looks like I sent stff to the same people twice” or “sorry, I should have checked that list of names more closely”. Just “my outlook has duplicated my emails”. It wasn’t her fault – her technology had let her down. Everyone knows that Outlook often sends the same email twice, twenty-four hours apart and changes the subject line as it does it.

Except it doesn’t, does it. I know that Outlook is one of the most broken email clients ever to have been released (only beaten, in my experience, by Lotus Notes) but last time I used it, it wasn’t in the habit of changing subject lines and resending mail. Maybe that’s a new feature.

I pointed out the subject line discrepancy and she replied that she was not “great with Technology!” Which, I suppose, is as close as I’m going to get to an explanation.

Perhaps blaming mistakes on a “computer error” still fools most of the population. But if you’re dealing with IT people, you must realise that most of them will know more about the subject than you. And that must make blaming the technology an extremely risky approach.

It’s certainly one that has moved this recruiter along way down my list of people I want to do business with.


Contract Nonsense

This is really pissing me off.

My current contract ended yesterday. The clients want to extend me for another six months. I’m happy to stay there for another six months.

However, since I started there in April, the clients have outsourced the running of their temporary workers HR department to a third party. And that third party want to impose new standard contracts on everyone they deal with. And this new contract imposes terms that any contractor who knows anything about IR35 would run a mile from.

I’m sitting at home trying to work this out as appearing in the office could be seen as accepting the new contract.

Don’t you just hate middle men.

Update: I’m back in the office today. I heard yesterday that we’ve got an extension on the old contract until the end of the week in order to try and sort out the contract. And this morning I’ve heard that the extension might well be… er… extended to one month.


Agents Can’t Read

Not that anyone is going to be surprised by this, but it seems that a number of recruitment agents have problems with basic reading skills.

This morning I got three emails from agents containing details of potential jobs. In two of the three cases they were actually quite good matches for my skills. But, of course, I’ve just started a three month contract at the BBC and I’m not looking for work right now.

To make life easier for agents (and, in theory, myself) I maintain a web page which has up to date information about my current availability and the list of skills that I’m interested in using. The theory is that an agent will have the address of that page in their database and they’ll check it before contacting me about work. That way they don’t waste their time contacting me unnecessarily and I don’t waste my time replying to their email.

So I wrote back to all three of them pointing out that I wasn’t available and giving them the address of this useful page. I’ve just heard back from one of them who said:

Thank you for getting back to me. Anything changes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Well no. Did you even read my email? The point is supposed to be that I don’t need to get in touch with you when my circumstances change. When my circumstances change I’ll update the web site and the next time I come up in the results of one of your searches you’ll check the page and see that I’m now looking for work.


I swear that one day I’m going to snap and spew so much bile about recruitment agents all over this blog that none of them will ever deal with me again. Hopefully I can hold off from doing that until I’m rich enough to never have to work again :-)

Update: Just got a reply from one of the other agents. As I mentioned above, my email to them pointed them at a web page where they can always get my latest CV. This new reply simply said:

Please send word doc cv Thanks

My web page does has the CV in a number of formats. Including a Word document.


Huntress Group Update

Update (October 2011): Time passes and companies change. I should point out that this blog post was written a long time ago. I’m assured by Huntress that they have addressed the issues I mention below and are a much better company to work with these days. It’s certainly many years since I received an inappropriate email from them.

A couple of months ago, I wrote this entry about the Huntress Group and how they were pissing me off.

Well, having published that piece everything went quiet. I didn’t get any more unsuitable job requirements sent to me from Huntress. Until yesterday.

So when I replied to the agent yesterday, I pointed out what I’d written about them and also that this page ranked rather highly in a Google search for “Huntress Group“. Within a couple of hours I had their contracts director on the phone apologising and explaining what was happening.

It seems that Huntress agents have been removing my details from their database each time I requested it, but that because Huntress share their database with other agencies through iProfile then each time my profile was updated by another agency, then iProfile sent Huntress a new copy. Frankly that all makes me a bit nervous about dealing with any agency that uses iProfile, but the Huntress director assures me that he will ask iProfile to ensure that my details never get sent back to them again.

That still leaves us with the problem of Huntress agents assuming that I’m a good match for an SAP role simply because my CV contains the letters ‘S’, ‘A’, and ‘P’, but the director I spoke to agreed that this was unacceptable and promised to do what he can to put a make sure that they look a bit more closely at a CV before assuming it’s a match for a job requirement.

So, all in all, I feel a little happier about the Huntress Group. But I think I should take a closer look at how IProfile works.


Recruitment Agents

Update (October 2011): Time passes and companies change. I should point out that this blog post was written a long time ago. I’m assured by Huntress that they have addressed the issues I mention below and are a much better company to work with these days. It’s certainly many years since I received an inappropriate email from them.

[Please read this entry for an update on this situation.]

The Huntress Group are a recruitment agency who seem to specialise in employing the most unprofessional agents that I’ve ever come across. I strongly recommend that you don’t deal with them.

I’ve now been a freelancer for ten years. Over that time I’ve dealt with a lot of recruitment agencies and my contact details and CV are stored in a lot of databases. This means that I’m often getting speculative phone calls and emails from agents asking what my current work situation is and what kind of jobs I’m interested in. This is fine.

Over that ten years, I’ve specialised in various areas. If a job requirement doesn’t involve moving data into or out of a database on a Unix platform (probably using Perl) then I’m not really likely to be interested. The most cursory glance at my CV would tell you this.

However, also over that ten years, the systems that I’ve worked on have interfaced with many other systems. So my CV contains phrases like “worked on interface with SAP system” or “exchanged data with Stratus system”. This is where the problem starts.

If you’re a lazy agent and you’re, for example, trying to fill an SAP role you might do a basic search in your database for CVs containing the phrase SAP. If you’re vaguely sentient then you’d check these CVs before contacting any matching candidates about the role. This simple check would remove inappropriate CVs like mine from the list.

And this is where Huntress go wrong. They seem to specialise in areas of computing (like SAP and Stratus) where I have no knowledge, no experience and no interest. But their lazy employees are constantly matching my CV in searches for roles in these areas and sending me emails asking if I’m interested in the role. I reply politely explaining their error and asking them to remove me from their database. My emails are always ignored.

So this is my next step. Hopefully, my Googlejuice will be good enough to get this page high up in a search for Huntress and people will read about their unprofessionalism and decide not to do business with them.

Here’s a partial list (I don’t think I’ve kept all the emails) of the inappropriate requirements that they have sent me. I’ll add to this list as more emails come in from them. I currently seem to be getting about one every two weeks.

Date Agent Job Description
23 Jun 2004 Jeni MacLucas Business Object Developer
28 Jul 2004 Anthony Kiamtia Business Objects Developer
16 Aug 2004 Jon Macauley SAP Training Lead
14 Sep 2004 Jon Macauley IT Analyst – SAP
17 Sep 2004 Anthony Kiamtia VB and SQL
20 Sep 2004 Anthony Kiamtia Java Developer
05 Nov 2004 Sanjay Daryanani Developer (VB, SQL Server, Cold Fusion)
24 Feb 2005 Gurvinder Bains APO/FI/MM/LES Trainers
13 Apr 2005 Gurvinder Bains Senior SAP Consultant
20 Apr 2005 Will Richardson SAP Administrator
21 Apr 2005 Charlie Loud Stratus Systems Administrator
23 Jun 2005 Robert Burling Oracle and Cognos datawarehouser