Perks, pitfalls of using an employment consultancy company

INTERNATIONAL students are increasingly turning to employment consultancy companies to boost their chances of finding full-time work – but there are pitfalls to beware, says Monash University’s multicultural employment consultant Danny Ong. 

Photo: Itz via stock.xchng

Photo: Itz via stock.xchng

There is an increasing number of international students approaching employment consultancy companies or recruitment agencies for help, notably for permanent residency purposes. These companies do not only help students to look for jobs but also provide services that may improve their employability skills – in return for a fee, usually ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Within the international student community, some students are sharing their negative experiences with employment consultancy companies, for example, paying large sums of money for services that are unsuitable to their needs.

Do you homework. Look for reviews online of the employment consultant company you are considering. Are there any online discussions and feedback about the company?

Many of these stories are being shared on public discussion forums such as Whirlpool. In particular, some international students have expressed concerns about the following dodgy practices employed by some companies:

  • Students receiving unsolicited calls on their mobile phones by employment consultancy companies to come in for a free consultancy session. During the “free” sessions, students were pressured to sign expensive career packages, which they subsequently regretted.
  • Employment consultancy companies falsely advertising job opportunities on the internet to obtain students’ contact details. The companies would normally advertise for graduate positions and asked students to submit their resumes. Students were later contacted and pressured to sign on career packages that would “guarantee” future employment.
  • Employment consultancy companies claiming to have a strong working relationships with a number of companies that were ready to employ their student clients. The number of partner companies is often used to measure the success of an employment consultancy company in securing employment for students. However, it is often difficult to verify such claims as it is a challenge to measure how closely the employment consultancy company is working with these companies in the first place, or their success rate.

Related story: $800 for career advice? Maybe not.

This is not to suggest however, that all employment consultancy companies are engaged in poor practice.

In fact, my wife obtained her current accountancy job through an agency that specialised in recruiting graduate accountants for specific industries. There are other success stories of graduates who managed to secure employment after months of unsuccessful applications.

But it is important for you to recognise that such stories are highly subjective and largely depends on each individual’s personal circumstances – thus the same processes might not lead you to future employment.

If you do choose to approach an employment consultancy company, you could use the following tips to identify the most suitable company to assist you:

  • Do you homework. Look for reviews online of the employment consultant company you are considering. Are there any online discussions and feedback about the company? This can also be applied to your potential employers when investigating the work environment they offer.
  • Read the student testimonials on the employment consultancy company’s website. However, you must be mindful of two key issues. First, these testimonials may be written many years ago and do not accurately reflect the current employment landscape. Second, previous successful case studies may not reflect the success of their current clients – remember that career development is a very personal process and may vary among each student.
  • Find out if your career consultant has the right credentials. Google him/her. Normally, you can read interesting things about them in terms of their educational and professional experiences. Remember, these consultants are here to help you and you must be convinced they have the skills and experience to do so. Do they have post graduate qualifications in career development learning?

You will also do well to be aware of your rights as a prospective employee and consumer, and the assistance you may obtain from Consumer Affairs Victoria.

And finally, you can of course get help through your university’s careers service. Jobs on your institution’s website are likely to have been checked to ensure that they are genuine – and most of the career services offered are free of charge. Additionally, staff will comply with the standards set out by the Career Industry Council of Australia.

Danny Ong is a multicultural employment consultant at Monash University. 

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