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Best Employment (Job) Agencies in Vancouver

As a frequent contributor to many expat web sites linking Brits to jobs in vancouver I’m often asked who are the best agencies to go through, particularly in IT. Anybody looking to find a technology job here, particularly in the current climate, needs to understand a few basics. Namely, IT isn’t a popular acronym they often use IS or simply computers so you need to throw your Google net a little further afield. It will also be rare that you see anybody using ICT.

As for the best agencies, you can count them on the fingers of a one-handed Arab that’s been charged with theft … twice. There are none, I’m afraid and employers in Vancouver need to understand this.

The agency looks out for themselves and the hiring company, everything else is smoke and mirrors. Every agency also has the same patter here, they all want to meet with you before they put you forward. This usually means you meet with the office intern that knows very little about IT and has limited interest in you, they just want to tick the box that confirms you have two arms, two legs, able to string sentences together and doesn’t smell like a greasy wet fish.

After you’ve passed this ordeal and proved you’re employable you then wait … and wait … and wait. If you call them, they’ll be pleasant and will even play email ping pong with you but they’re not working for you. They’re waiting for their client, the employer, to give them a job. They’ll then keyword search their database, short-list candidates and *then* speak to you. If they don’t find anybody in their database, they’ll send out a broadcast email and ask you to refer a friend or two. Every now and again you’ll also be asked to help them with their RFP proposals so they can remain as a preferred supplier to the many government clients. Of course this time-consuming process helps them but it doesn’t help you. When a position does arise they’ll still keyword scan the database, find the best candidates and then call you if you fit.

From the employers perspective they don’t really understand why the resumes they get are not fantastic but they persevere nonetheless and usually find somebody but it’s a protracted situation. The employer doesn’t know that the best candidate didn’t even get submitted to them.

The best candidate has to pass a keyword scan, be selected by the office intern and also be selected by the account manager who is the person with the real knowledge, allegedly. Only if you pass all three filtering processes does the employer see your resume.

However, if the intern and account manager doesn’t understand the industry and can’t read between the lines of your resume you’re hooped. I know because it happened to me. The leading agency chose not to submit me for a role because I hadn’t explicity done that role before. Fortunately, another agency did submit me and I was their only submission but I got the job much to the chagrin of the leading agency. I was also renewed four times on that contract and the agency lost out on $100K of easy money.

This happens a lot though. The agencies don’t even post the vacancies on their web site unless they can’t fill it. I’ve had several phone calls about roles that are not even posted. Probably because they don’t want to alert other agencies to the position and increase competion.

So employers if you really want to find the good people, you need to bring HR back and compile your own database. The agencies will get you lots of resumes but they’re probably a poor match as they’re matching your the title of your new role to what people have done in the past, they don’t really understand what you want.

The agencies need some more competition but the decision-makers need to be career-oriented and understand IT.

As for candidates, I strongly recommend using a resume-forwarding service and getting on the books of every agency in BC. Submit your resume, attend the pathetic interview with the office intern and wait. In the UK, I used to have filters setup so I’d only see relevant jobs. I can’t do this here, it’s simply better to watch every IT position and make the decision myself.

They say 85% of the jobs in Vancouver are never advertised.

Canadian companies also like to employ Canadians, people with Canadian experience or those with Canadian academic qualifications. They also like to ensure that the senior positions are made up of people that have worked their way up. There are very few management or executive positions advertised. The few that are advertised are usually just a front to prove there are no external candidates with precisely the skills they’re looking for so they can shoe-in their colleague.

Sometimes it makes you wonder if BC is just living a lie that’s going to explode in its face one day. Growing an economy from within and not tapping into the experiences that outsiders bring is a slow process. One day we may grow impatient and just go somewhere else. Who will then be funding your real estate growth that pays for many of your lifestyles.

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