If you have ever looked for a job in the domestic services field, there is a good chance you have dealt with a domestic employment agency. If not, your next job search should include at least one agency to represent you. Whether you have had good or “not so good” luck with an agency before, the following tips and information will be very valuable as you approach your new job hunt.
First and foremost, you can’t find something if you don’t know what you are looking for. Before you approach an agency to represent you, know for certain what position and what job description you are seeking. If you don’t know already, you probably should not use an agency. Here’s why: Domestic agencies get paid by clients to find them skilled employees that have been successful in a home and have the references to prove it. Therefore, an agent tries to present candidates that have years of experience in their field and impeccable histories.
If you are just starting out or are making a “career change” because a domestic job sounds like something you want to try, forget it. You can, however, call on an agency and kindly ask advice for breaking into the field, but don’t expect too much attention. The only exception is if you have skills relative to the work you are looking for, some agencies accept “entry-level” applicants for clients who may not need an experienced person. It is very rare, but apply to agencies that encourage you to do so. If you want to learn how to get started in the domestic services industry, read “Finding Your First Domestic Position.”
Next, when you do contact agencies, be prepared! Don’t even call if you don’t have a resume. See the very important article “Becoming a Better Domestic Employment Candidate” to be ready for any situation. Once you are ready, call the agencies local to where you want to work and also try the agencies that place nationwide. The best advice is to register with every agency in the world if you have the time and patience, because each agency gets different clients, and more clients = more jobs! This will take a lot of your own effort, but if you have prepared as discussed in the other article, you should be up to the challenge. Also, agencies work for you for FREE, so use them all. Never pay an agency to register for employment. They are paid by the employer when you get hired.
The registration process for each agency will be different. Some will ask you to fax or send a resume first, then if you are qualified you will fill out the full application. Others will have you do a complete application right away to be considered for representation. Some may not even take your application. Either way, follow the instructions of the person you are in contact with. After submitting the application or resume, allow the agent to get back to you on their time. They may be busy working with placements or more likely do not have a suitable position to talk to you about at the moment. A good rule is to wait 3-5 business days to follow up after you have spoken to or sent something to an agency. Be persistent, but try not to be annoying. If there is a job on an agent’s desk that you are perfect for, they will call you immediately and treat you like a long lost friend! Be patient.
Did I mention patience? Let’s look at the numbers for a moment: A typical agency has several hundred to several thousand applicant files. Some are computerized, but most are in filing cabinets and are searched manually when a job order needs to be filled. For example, here’s what happens when a client calls the agency for a private chef:
The client will have specific details about the type of person, cuisine, schedule, living arrangements, salary, etc., that they are looking for. Based on the job details, an agent goes through the files of all available chef candidates for a possible match either by computer search, flipping through applications, or by memory. Out of maybe 100 available applicants, an agent selects just a few to send to a client, maybe four or five. The client reviews the files sent by mail or fax and decides whom to interview. And then if a perfect match is found through the interviews only one person gets hired! So if a very busy agency does just two chef placements per month, your chances are about 2 out of 100 or 1 out of 50 that you will land a chef position through the agency. It’s not pretty. Many candidates on file with agencies for a year or two never even get an interview.
Here’s the trick: Try to be in the four or five applicants sent on every job order at every agency. How? Have the best, most complete, most up-to-date application on file and follow up periodically to have a great relationship with the agents representing you. Basically, it all comes back to the preparation and presentation from the “Better Candidate” article. This is assuming, of course, that you are equally qualified with the other applicants. Likewise, the specific requests of an employer might disqualify you right away, but there is nothing you can do about that. Your only mission is to beat out the other candidates on jobs you are a match for. So be the best applicant in the files and have a solid, ongoing relationship with the person representing you.
As a last note, you should remember that even though agencies can help you, you do not have to take any abuse. You are a human being and professional and should be treated that way. If someone is rude to you without cause, simply don’t ever speak to them again. They probably don’t have any positions for you anyway if they treat you poorly. No big deal, there are plenty of agencies out there. In turn, have patience when going through the interview process because clients are sometimes flaky and agencies have no control over the schedule. Hang in there and pursue all the opportunities you can. Your only goal is to find the right position for you.
About the Author (Author Profile)Steven Ferry is chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the author of bestsellers "Butlers & Household Managers 21st Century Professionals" and "Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators." He also trains and consults for the profession around the world.
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