I put my suit on. I put my résumé and my ID in my crisp, black folder and headed to the interview. I called my friend on the way to the train -- and then turned around and went right back home. The interviewing agency wanted their name on my work before I even stepped into the office.
I recently applied for a job through a well-known placement agency. I was aware of the risk of taking a pay cut, but the ad was tempting and I figured it couldn't hurt.
The agency called me within two days. The conversation seemed rushed, but I set up an interview anyway -- after all, shouldn't job seekers be grateful just to get a call for an interview? In the confirmation e-mail, I saw a line telling me to edit my résumé. To bring "a hardcopy of [my] resume with [my] contact information removed and replaced with "Representative of [X Agency] [(123) 345-6789]."
I was floored. My resume is just that -- my résumé. Before I even interview with you, you're instructing me to edit my own information out of my own résumé and put your name on it? You want me to give it up before the first date? With one sentence, this agency demonstrated a very unfortunate business practice: taking the autonomy away from the employee without asking.
I still intended to interview, but as I kept talking to my friend on the phone about the situation, I realized that I was talking myself out of going.
Remember when they told you not to put your name on anyone else's work in school? Well, it seems that plagiarism is alive and well -- and apparently legal. To put another party's name on my résumé would suggest that the other party had placed me at my previous companies, essentially claiming credit for my work experience and implying that any of my previous companies could have been clients of theirs. And yes, I have worked at some of the biggest names in my industry.
Placement agencies can be helpful for a lot of people, especially if you don't have the work history or the resources to find a job. In this sense, they do represent you. I used smaller, personable employment agencies in my late teens to make myself less vulnerable to ageism.
Employers go to employment agencies because it is easier, faster, and more reliable than taking a gamble on an unknown, potential employee. The recent trend for hiring "temp-to-perm" positions -- that is, starting employees out on a trial period before adding them to staff -- is a perfect example: if the employee doesn't fit the bill during the trial period, employers can make a clean break. In essence, temp-to-perm positions are a lease with option to buy; they put a lot of pressure on new employees.
I'm fortunate enough to have the work experience to know what standard business practices are. But because of high anxiety in the job market, there are a lot of people who don't know when or how to say no when an employer is being unreasonable. An employer telling you to edit your résumé before the interview is not standard practice.
It is okay to say no. Your work is your work -- don't let anyone coerce you into claiming ownership for your intellectual property.