Michael Townsend readily admits many job-seekers are leery of approaching a staffing agency to help them find work.

As President & CEO of Townsend & Associates, Inc., of Morris Plains, N.J., a prominent staffing & recruiting firm providing staffing solutions to Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries, he’s talked with countless seekers who are overwhelmed by the process and feel that staffing agencies are more for employers looking for candidates than the other way around.

“We serve both the employer and the employee equally,” said Townsend. “And these days with a hyper-competitive job market, we encourage job seekers to look at staffing agencies for help.”

Townsend offers a primer of sorts – six tips for job seekers considering working with a staffing agency in hopes of putting them at ease:

1 – How exactly does an employment agency work for me, the job-seeker?
With few exceptions, the employment agency becomes your advocate and “represents you” – a relationship that starts whenever you apply for a job through an employment agency listing and submit your resume. In most cases there is no fee to you as you are the applicant; employer is the client. Your link is the headhunter or representative who contacts or helps you.

2 – If there is no fee for me – when who pays the agency?
There is no fee for you, as the client pays the fee. Many employment agencies work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless they successfully fill the open position by submitting the best candidate. There are also retained searches, meaning that the employment agency gets paid no matter how long it takes to fill the job, and there is no other competing agency involved. If the client finds a candidate on their own, they must go through the employment agency and the agency gets paid.

3 – Is it wrong for me to submit my resume to multiple agencies?
No, it isn’t wrong, but do yourself a favor and let the agency know that you have. When you submit your resume to an online service (i.e. Monster.com) you won’t get a chance to set up an appointment and talk to a recruiter and let them know. If you resume fits the bill – meaning of the keywords in your resume are picked up through the online services’ algorithms and an employer finds you, then you’ll get an e-mail or a call from the prospective employer. Agencies with real live recruiters would appreciate knowing you’ve submitted yourself elsewhere.

4 – What can a recruiting firm/employment agency do for me that I can’t do for myself?
A good firm will get your resume and set up an interview to talk about your skills, your goals, and the job you are applying for. Resumes don’t always do a candidate justice, and a good recruiter is almost like a job therapist – and will draw out of you information relevant to the position that you may not have thought to mention in your resume. A good recruiter knows a lot about the job you are applying for too, which can be helpful. Recruiters also have jobs that aren’t posted, and after talking with you may recommend you for something you didn’t even know was out there.

5 – I applied online to a recruiting firm and no one called me – what does that mean?
It can mean one of many things – you weren’t qualified for the job you applied for and they didn’t bother to let you know. Your resume wasn’t received – if you didn’t get a confirmation notice of some sort that might have happened. E-mail them and ask. It was received but they haven’t gotten back to you yet – sometimes these things don’t happen in “real time”.

Townsend’s advice? “Be aggressive. You owe it to yourself, and the worst thing that could happen is they could say no. Someone is going to say yes eventually.”

6 – If I get to the offer stage, do I negotiate my compensation through the recruiter or the employer?
That depends. Some recruiters handle this but very often you will negotiate directly with the employer. In either scenario, unless you are working with an agency that did little except send your resume over to the employer, you should ask the recruiter for advise and discuss any issues you have. A recruiter works for the client – but it is the recruiter’s job to turn every assignment into a triple play win: the employer is happy, the candidate is happy (and you really can’t have one without the other) and the recruiter is happy because in most instances they don’t get their fee unless they help produce a good and lasting match.

Townsend stresses an open line of communication. Be honest with the agency or agencies you are using. “It can only help you land that dream job,” he noted.



  1. I like how you said that a good employment agency is like a job therapist, and they can help make sure your resume is representing you properly. Lately I’ve been wanting to find a job but have been having trouble generating interest in myself as an employee. I hadn’t considered that working with an employment agency might help me, so thanks for sharing that advice!

  2. Here are a few tips for a successful interview:

    1.What to do before the interview
    Being prepared for your interview will leave a positive impression on any employer. Spend some time researching the company, this will help you know your audience. Put together your interview kit; this should include a notepad, pen, updated resume, portfolio and a list of questions you have for your interviewer. Making sure you are prepared for your interview will ease your nerves and guarantee interview success.

    2. Dress for Success
    The most important thing to remember when dressing for an interview is cleanliness. Nice and neat hair, a trimmed groomed beard and clean nails will go a long way on the day of. This should be an obvious statement, but make sure to take a shower and put on deodorant. Clean is the best smell there is, so do not load up on fancy perfumes or colognes and let soap do its job!

    When choosing clothing to wear to an interview, fit is imperative. Clothing should not be too tight or too loose. Remember, you should feel comfortable and confident. Dress professionally – traditional suits, tights or stockings, ect – knowing your audience will help you to know the expectation of attire. A good rule of thumb is to never go casual, even in a more casual industry you will want to dress at least business casual. Everyone should dress modestly, moderate shoes, moderate jewelry, nothing overly flashy or attention grabbing. If you need some ideas click over to our Pinterest!

    Tattoos and piercings have been a hot topic of debate among employers recently and every person has a different opinion on the matter. Just be aware of any visible body art that you have and try to keep it looking clean and understated. It is always safe to show less until certain of the company policy.

    3. Follow up
    After your interview be sure to thank your interviewer for their time, request a business card and ask them when you should follow up or could expect a response. Draft up a thank you email and send it to your interviewer within a day of your interview. Follow up on the day that was discussed. Be sure to let your references know they may be contacted and give them some information on the position.

    Follow these simple rules and remember the most important one of all: a confident smile and clean look will get you far with any employer. Good luck!

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