Don’t let an agent undermine your job interview.

Posted on April 28, 2011


If you are job hunting I recommend that you apply the PRINCE2 principle of “learn from past experiences”, in this instance mine, in order to improve your chances of success. Unfortunately, I learnt the hard way!

I had been thinking about a change of career for a while, not because I was unhappy where I was, but because I was looking for a new challenge, and so started doing some online research. I came across and advert for what sounded like a great job that I knew I could do well. The only issue was that it was in an industry I had no experience of. So, I called the agent who had ‘posted’ the advert to find out more about the job specification and the company before sending him my CV with a covering letter.

The agent seemed helpful and, after a few phone calls, CV and e-mail exchanges etc. he told me which company it was he was recruiting for and, after some further research, I decided that this was a company I really wanted to work for.

The agent told me he had excellent connections with the company and that he thought I would be ideal for the position they had asked him to fill for them. I contacted him several times, and each time he had a plausible excuse as to why the recruiting process was taking so long, then eventually (after several months) he told me that the company was not interested in interviewing me.

Not prepared to take no for an answer, I decided to try again without the ‘help’ of the agent. Having nothing to lose, I emailed the company’s Head of Project Management, to introduce myself and put myself forward for the apparently, as yet, unfilled post.

Some months passed and I’d almost forgotten about the job when, to my surprise, I received a message asking if I contact them about coming for an interview for the job. The funny thing was, as I had contacted the Head of Project Management via Linkedin (I had to upgrade my account to send an Inmail!), she could not reply to my personal email or send me a message as I was not a direct contact. So, her PA was tasked to track me down, and did so via this blog by sending me a comment asking that I call her. I was quite impressed that they’d gone to the effort of finding me and all my pre-interview dealings with the company were really positive.

I was faced with a dilemma however: should I tell the agent I’d got myself an interview or should I just keep quiet?  As I would never have been able to find out the name of the company if it wasn’t for the agent I felt, naively, I had a moral obligation to phone and tell him. This turned out to be a BIG MISTAKE.

First, he thanked me enough for my honesty as, during a recession like this, most people would have keep quiet. He claimed to have sent my CV to the company twice and that there must have been a misunderstanding between the HR and Project Management departments. I sympathized with him and even offered to compensate him for the loss of his fee if I got the job. He thanked me again, but said that wouldn’t be necessary as, it wasn’t him that had arranged the interview (somehow I had succeeded in getting an interview when the, supposedly, well connected HR expert had failed). He wished me well in the interview and I felt I’d done the right thing in being open with him. Then, a little while later, he came back to me to say he thought it would be better if he ‘clarified’ the situation with the Head of Project Management BEFORE my interview….he did, and I didn’t get the job!!*

* After the interview I phoned the agent several times, he never replied to any of my calls , e-mails and texts. I did eventually contacted the company and got told, 2 months later, I did not get the job…no feedback though I wonder what happened 😉

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