Working with a Recruitment Agency

Working with a Recruitment Agency


by Melanie Joy Douglas,

Founded in Canada fifty-five years ago, global HR solutions leader, Drake International provides a comprehensive range of services that focus on Human Resources outsourcing, including:

  • Job placement and recruitment
  • Productivity enhancement
  • Training
  • Performance management
  • Skills and behavioural testing
  • Motivating
  • Supervising

We spoke with Meredith Arbus, the Director of Candidate Care at Drake, about why job seekers should consider using a recruitment firm, what they can expect from the process, and how to make the most of their experience.

Tell me a little bit about Drake.

We started in Winnipeg in 1951 as a productivity improvement company by outsourcing talent in a new way—by charging our clients based on what our people were actually able to produce. That’s really how Drake’s temporary staffing evolved. We provided workers for the purpose of completing a specific job within a certain amount of time for a company instead of hiring people full-time. That way, we matched our client’s workforce to their workload—that is, during the fluctuations of slow and busy periods, they never had workers being paid to do nothing and they’re never short-handed either.

Since then, our company has evolved into permanent recruitment as well, and is also working with clients to increase the productivity of their people by providing a range of performance enhancement solutions. What we found was that our clients were facing other challenges, and it wasn’t just people that were the solution. Often the solution was a consulting service. It was helping develop their leaders or building stronger teams, and so we started to assess how to better put the right people in those positions.

Over the last ten years our solutions have gone one step further. Everything we do still supports productivity improvement, but now a company can outsource their entire HR department to us, saving themselves the administratively heavy tasks of payroll, benefits admin, and workplace health and safety. We can design onboarding and orientation programs, surveys, exit interviews… really anything where the “people side” of the business is concerned, Drake has solutions that can help.

And your role at Drake is…

I oversee Candidate Care. What that means is that I want to make sure our candidates are achieving their goals and have the tools to be the top performers in the marketplace. We put on regular workshops and training to support them in their career growth and skills development. We want our people to think about their career path and how they’re going to get there. We want them to see Drake as a resource that can help them get the great roles they want—a true career partner.

What are the common misperceptions about placement agencies?

Some people don’t know that using a recruitment agency doesn’t cost them a thing—that it’s the client that’s going to pay the bill. The fees that Drake gets paid come from clients that are happy to have us to find them the best talent out there. Where Drake is competitive is that we recognize the need to do more for the candidates, especially facing the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. Candidates are only going to go where somebody goes that extra mile.

As well, I think, some people don’t exactly understand what service we’re providing. We’re here to assist in placing people in the right roles for them. If someone does apply to a position through us that’s not right for them, it’s our job to direct and support them and say, “You know what, looking at your resume, it doesn’t look like you have the skills and experience for this position. Maybe that’s incorrect. Maybe your resume just doesn’t reflect what you’ve done to see that you’re suited for the role…. Let’s figure this out.” We have to understand what it is you’re looking for in a job and if we can support that.

I think there have been a lot of recruiters who, unfortunately, haven’t been as responsive to people looking for work as others. Job seekers might think their email goes into this black hole and sometimes that does happen if you’re not working with a responsive company. There are recruiters who have created a bad name for agencies. This happens also with corporations using the job boards on their own, without an experienced recruitment team. At Drake, we treat this as a critical stage where we can first prove ourselves to prospective candidates.

Can you briefly describe the process (from the time the job seeker contacts you until you find them a job)?

We have applicants register at our website, How they get there could be from another job board where we’ve put up a posting because we use a lot of different job boards. Or, they can actually register with Drake though not necessarily for a specific position, but so that if we do get a role that would interest them, our recruiters would find them first when we start our candidate search. Something that’s really important to us at Drake is that we make sure we get back to everyone who applies and right away we begin the pre-screening process.

How do you follow up with your clients (the employers)?

We call them the first day that someone we’ve placed starts work. Then, we call after a few days and again every couple of weeks to make sure we can address any concerns, both for the client and for our candidate. We keep that contact because we don’t want to be surprised. If it doesn’t work out and we’re surprised, then we’ve failed the client as well as the candidate.

What are the advantages for job seekers to work with you?

It’s another avenue to find a great job. I think the greatest advantage would be that we could get job seekers in places they wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in themselves. We have access to the hidden job market, where they may not know the companies they should be going after. They may not know how to get their foot in the door. If they come to us we can ask them where they want to work. We may have contacts in those companies and our recruiters could call and say, “I just had a great candidate walk through my door—are you looking?”

What sector / industry is most in demand in Canada right now?

Nurses—Nurses are really in demand. There is also a lot of work in skilled trades right now. Besides that, it’s so dependant on region. In Calgary and Edmonton, we can’t find enough people. Every office across Canada is experiencing a different demand right now.

What percentage of your jobs are full-time & what are temporary?

I would say it’s about 50 / 50. There are a large percentage of jobs that start temporary and turn permanent. There are certain companies that will only start people on temp—we call it “flex”, short for flexible staffing. If you’re unemployed, you really should consider trying that route. You’d be surprised how many people come in and say, “No, I’m not interested in flexible assignments. I really want to hold out for that permanent job.” But they’re not making any money right now and not gaining any on the job experience. The longer the gap you’re not working, the tougher it is to find a position.

You can get your foot in the door with so many great companies. I know I started my first job at Mackenzie Financial on a contract and it was a great opportunity. I worked there for five years, started in admin, and then went to customer service and then marketing. It was a fantastic career path. And they only hire their people that way.

Getting a ‘B’ job at an ‘A’ company is better than getting an ‘A’ job at a ‘B’ company.

How honest should the jobseeker be with the agency in the interview?

Be very honest, but remain professional. Sometimes people will come to an interview dressed inappropriately. If you’re not dressed for the position, I have to wonder how you’re going to represent me in front of the client.

The more honest you are the better we are equipped to find a role for you. Let’s say you’re looking for a new job because your current manager micromanages you. It’s important for us to know that because then we won’t position you with employers who have that managing style. We’ll look for someone who has more of an independent work environment.

Remember, you should try to develop a rapport with the recruiter just as you would in any interview; the recruiter needs to feel good about you, as they are presenting you to their client.

How can job seekers get the most out of their experience working with an agency like Drake?

There are plenty of stories about candidates who start their first day on the job expecting one thing and finding something else. If you work with a recruiter and you get an interview with a client, it’s important to confirm everything you’ve been told. Sometimes the recruiter is dealing with HR and HR is dealing with a hiring manager, and so on. There’s three points of communication in there where the message could be changed. So, a person going for an interview needs to be sure to take some of the responsibility in the process.

Utilize the expertise of the person. Try and know what it is you’re looking for in a job. Ask questions. Ask if your resume is good for a particular position. Is there anything you could do? Ask about transferable skills. What other industries or positions could they recommend because agencies deal with different types of companies? Make sure you are proactive and follow up.

Sell yourself. Write your own elevator pitch to give to your recruiter. Not only will it help your recruiter to position you, it will help you when you’re talking to people in your own job search. Know how to pitch yourself. It’s not easy for everybody. But it’s something you can’t shy away from. You have to know your greatest assets and your weaknesses.

Ultimately, our goal is to find the right job for people for the long term. We try to create an ongoing partnership; one where we can help throughout the evolution of their career. Eventually, for whatever reason, people are going to want new jobs, or a new direction, and we want them to think of Drake when it’s time for them to thinking about their career again.