An employment agency matches employers to employees, in its simplest terms. In developed countries, they fall into one of two categories; either publicly funded or privately owned and operated business.
Employment agency has been a concept since at least 1650, as proven by historical records. An Office of Addresses and Encounters was proposed in British Parliament by Henry Robinson. While his proposal was rejected, Robinson had faith in the concept and opened a private agency that was, unfortunately, short-lived.
Nearly worldwide, in the 20th century, developed countries have created public employment agencies to both help people to find work and jobs, and to combat unemployment. Some of the agencies started out in major or capital cities, but soon gained a successful reputation and spread countrywide. Most of the public employment agencies are administrated by the government. Any sort of job can be found through these agencies, including upper-level management, in some cases.
A private fee-charging employment agency, in the 20th century, found itself in a legal gray area, as most were considered quasi-illegal under international law. International organizations instead called for the formation and establishment of public employment agencies. Private agencies were allowed to continue, but tight regulations and restrictions were placed on them to prevent abusive practices. Most countries today permit private employment agencies but regulate them.
Employment agencies that charge fees to find positions for candidates are sometimes called executive recruitment agencies. These executive search firms specialize in recruiting executive management personnel. They charge the job candidates a fee for helping to find the correct company for the correct person, or vice versa. Most specialize in mid to upper management positions and executives. Job search firms are now using the internet to match management personnel to companies with vacant positions. Some of these firms provide the service at no charge to the prospective employee. The recruiting firm’s fee is instead included in salary and compensation negotiations between the prospective parties.
Third-party recruiters can be considered an employment agency. These recruiters work independently of a recruiting firm, and act as a direct link between the candidate and the client company. Some of these recruiters specialize in permanent, full-time positions. Others only work with direct-hire candidates or companies. Still other recruiters match candidates to contract positions. Some recruiters do all of these. In these executive employment agency scenarios, the client company, not the employee, pays the search firm’s fee.
Many executive recruitment firms have a threshold salary level that must be satisfied. For instance, a firm might only recruit candidates for jobs that pay a certain amount of money. While this might appear, on the surface, to be discriminatory, these recruitment firms are used almost exclusively by corporate or other entities who are seeking highly skilled professionals and are willing to compensate the right person accordingly.
Historically, an employment agency verified the credentials and capabilities of job candidates before referring the candidate to the hiring company. In the 20th century, administrative assistants, for example, would be tested on typing speed or other requirements of the position. This is no longer a common practice. In-house human resources departments handle the testing, if it is found to be necessary.
An employment agency may specialize in those people who are seeking temporary or contract work. These candidate workers may be students who are seeking summer employment or retired persons who don’t want to work full time, but don’t wish to lose their skills.
A federally funded or local publicly funded employment agency offers placement in all types of jobs, from simple position that require little skill to mid-level management positions. While the process may seem extremely slow to someone who needs money on which to live, the federal or local agencies do their best to meet the demands of both the workplace and the prospective employers.
Some agencies are very job-specific, for instance, an actor or actress might use a talent employment agency to land a role in a theatrical production. The employment agency might work exclusively with photography models, for another example. Cooking schools sometimes have an in-house employment agency that will place graduate chefs in a restaurant or other food enterprise. An employment agency is available for nearly any career.
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