The other day I went to a "job fair" that featured representatives from 90 companies, including some national staffing agencies. At this event there were several breakout sessions on job hunting, including one on the prospect of using the services of staffing agencies as a bridge to permanent employment. The comments from the crowd weren't particularly positive, especially on the topic of professionalism, and I thought I would share a few of them.

The first person who spoke up from the crowd was fairly brief in her remarks. Here is what she said. "They don't follow up with applicants and the recruiters are rude and unprofessional. I can't imagine why anyone would put their careers in the hands of a staffing company."

"They don't follow up with applicants and the recruiters are rude and unprofessional. I can't imagine why anyone would put their careers in the hands of a staffing company."

That kind of opened up the floodgates and this is what the second person in the crowd said.

"The staffing companies I have worked with have a very poor approach to responding to candidates and following up. They receive an F for customer service as far as I am concerned. I wonder if they treat clients the same way? I would do everything in my power to put a bad word in for most staffing companies."

And another person echoed those remarks.

"They are very rude and they don't care about you. I live outside the metro area and drove quite a ways to come in to try and meet with a recruiter since they had a position open that I thought I was perfect for. I spoke to the recruiter before I came, and when I got there , I heard the receptionist call her on the phone and tell her I was there. It was quiet in the reception area, and I could hear the recruiter tell the receptionist 'I don't know why this b---h came here without an appointment, tell her I am out to lunch.' I was shocked."

I was feeling kind of bad at this point for the local staffing agency reps who were on the panel. I mean what do you say in response to experiences such as those? But then a nicely dressed man who looked to be about 40 or so spoke up in defense.

"I've worked with several recruiters who were great and never once tried to get me to make a decision that wasn't in my best interest. I don't know a whole lot about some of the big, national staffing agencies that I have heard some of you mention, so I won't comment specifically. But anyone who categorizes all recruiters as 'car salesmen' and 'scum' as I have heard some in this room say are very narrow minded and just plain wrong. That has not been my experience at all."

"I've worked with several recruiters who were great and never once tried to get me to make a decision that wasn't in my best interest."

In the couple of years I have written for Staffing Talk, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of these types of events. And of course you know going in that people looking for work, especially those who have been looking for a long time, aren't typically overflowing with self-esteem, and often in fact paint themselves as victims in one way or another as a sort of self-preservation technique.

So some of these comments you could probably dismiss out of hand. But perhaps not all of them. I will close the comments with a former Marine who said he had an experience that forever changed his view of staffing companies.

"I applied for a position as an electronics technician and went to an interview with a recruiter who said I was a slam dunk for the position following a short phone interview. When I arrived for the interview in person, she told me the job had been filled and started asking if I knew anything about a field that had nothing to do with electronics. That kind of threw me. But she said 'its not that hard of a job' and since I was already there she was going to submit me for that job. Two days later, she calls me back telling me that she's still waiting for an answer from the employer, but until then she has a position open as a clerk making $7.50/hour. I told her no, and she ripped my head off, telling me I was worthless and unaccountable and ruining a great opportunity.'"

You can find people to say disparaging remarks about any business or industry, or any specific company or organization, particularly these days when you have legions of disgruntled people. But there are some common denominators here in terms of the way these people say they were treated. Is there something here? Do staffing agencies need a boost of professionalism or can these comments be easily dismissed because of a less than objective source?

Tags: Staffing agencies, Staffing Talk, Unemployment, Staffing Companies, Industry, Job Fairs, Professionalism, Staffing Specialist