Why Staffing Agencies Are Bad

You might have seen an uptick in staffing agencies while job-hunting, especially in job portals where they would post dozens of job openings by the day. Acting as a middle man between employers and employees, staffing agents have been expediting the filtering of job applicants as well as lifting some burden off companies’ shoulders in recruiting ideal candidates.

But is seeking help from staffing agencies truly just a bed of roses? We uncover 4 reasons why staffing agencies are not suitable.
1. Tendency to go “missing in action”
2. Promoting you with irrelevant positions
3. Repeated calls for the same position
4. Overly high commissions

1. Tendency to go “missing in action”

Credits: The SPIN OFF

One major gripe job seekers often have towards staffing agencies is that the agents would update them late (if at all) about the outcome of their job applications.

It is worth noting that agencies, including staffing ones, have target-based incentives which they earn monthly. They would have to hit certain quotas per month, which differ for different agencies. As such, they would usually ghost you if other applicants have been selected for the role instead since they would want to “close the deal” fast by attending to those applicants first.

Although understandable, it is rather unfair for applicants who might be very keen on a position but remain entangled in a web of false hopes. Since an astronomical 83 % of candidates concur that there should be a clearer timeline of the hiring process, according to a 2022 Smallbizgenius report, a lack of updates from staffing agencies would not bode well for most of us.

This is why it is recommended to keep searching for other positions if you have not gotten a follow-up after around 1 to 2 weeks. You can even contact your agent after this duration but they might not be responsive.

2. Promoting you with irrelevant positions

Credits: The Economic Times

You might have received calls from unknown numbers, or numbers that you have seen before but did not save. You pick them up, hoping that they are from recruiters whom you have been in touch with regarding a job that you applied for. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a staffing agent who is trying to entice you into applying for a completely different role altogether.

As they are essentially a business, staffing agencies would try to sell off positions that have not garnered much attention, or that have not been considered by more qualified candidates. Since every applicant’s CV remains in the databases of these agencies (unless you firmly request for your details to be omitted), anyone working in the same agency could contact you. Hence, you might not recognize some of the numbers of those calls.

Similarly, you can read our post on whether media can be trusted.

The calls become more vexatious if the agents promote a job whose nature is entirely contradictory to what you are looking out for. For instance, you might have informed them that you are not looking for shift work, but they then start trying to woo you into accepting a job that operates on a shift-based system.

Of course, some of the roles that agents might share with you could be relevant to your field of study or past work experience, and you might end up appreciating their help if you find the suggestions appealing. While this may be true, staffing agencies tend to bombard one with unsatisfactory positions, hence wasting one’s time along the way.

3. Repeated calls for the same position

Credits: iStock

Although you have secured an interview for a job posting with an agent, other agents who work at the same company as that agent might still contact you to ask you if you are keen on that role.

This is because agents, despite working for the same company, might not communicate well amongst themselves regarding every candidate’s list of applications. Another possibility is that the agents might not keep abreast with the positions that you have applied for or been considered for, despite your job hunting progress being updated on their information systems. Therefore, they would not know if a certain role has been proposed to them yet, leading to their repetitive calls for just that one role.

4. Overly high commissions

Credits: Lone Oak Payroll

Have you ever wondered why the stated salaries for several postings seem lower than the usual values or market rates? It is because of commissions, perhaps the main lucre of staffing agencies.

As underscored by Advanced Partners, which offers payroll funding and back office solutions to temporary staffing firms, the mean staffing agency markup for temporary employees or independent contractors alone ranges from around 20 % to 75%. In terms of permanent placement markups, the markup is around 10 % to 20% of the employee’s gross yearly salary.

Joe Winder, a engineer, also shared in a YouTube comment that getting employed through a staffing agency will end up being offered 10-25k. The staffing agency highlighted the various mark ups such as background checks. 

What all of this means is that you would be earning considerably less than you could if you were to apply for a job directly, in lieu of through a staffing agency. While some permanent employers might not mind a relatively small portion of their wages being handed over to the agents, that portion does accrue over time. Over the years, these employees might begin to ruminate on whether it is really worth losing that much moolah all told.

In hindsight, staffing agencies are more useful if you plan on starting work quickly, or if you need more help in getting hiring managers to recognize you. However, if you are not rushing for a job, you should first try to apply for positions that are not posted by staffing firms. This helps to raise your chances of acquiring greater job satisfaction and encountering fewer distractions in your quest for the best role possible.


Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form

Liyana Mokhtar Hussein
Liyana enjoys exploring different cultures and cuisines during my travels.


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