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Questions to ask Agencies

Questions to ask Agencies


by Jennifer Lordly Stemes,Senior Staffing Consultant


Now that you’ve decided to venture into Private Service as a Household Manager, or even if you’ve been in private service for a while, prudence suggests you reach out to a professional staffing consultant for assistance in getting that perfect placement.

Asking Questions ArticleWhat are the questions you should ask of the agent?  

Here are a few I’ve tested myself and found to be a reliable for getting to know who you might be working with to represent you.

1.  Based on my resume / experience, will you be able to represent me?

If no, the agent should be able to suggest ideas to improve your background and presentation.

2.  What are the fees charged to me, the Candidate?
Answer should ALWAYS be zero, unless you are asking for general educational training, resume writing, or other requests outside of assisting with a particular placement.

3.  What do you usually know about the clients and how much will you reveal to candidates at the appropriate time?
   I have heard where persons pretending to be employers have fooled agencies.  Can my information get into the wrong hands?
This is an important question to ask.  At HSNI we make sure the Candidate’s information is provided directly to the Employer (Client) or their representative.   We do not publish the Candidate’s information without his or her permission.

4.  What is the format that you will use to represent me to the potential employers?
These formats vary by agency, but typically involve a neat and concise resume or presentation that reflects on the work-related objectives.  It is very important to limit or eliminate “fluff”.  The objective should always be to honestly present you on paper in a way that connects you, your skills and your experience to the job.  The goal is to get you an interview!

5.  Will I be advised in advance, and asked to confirm interest in a specific job, before my details are sent out?

“Absolutely” is the HSNI response.  We have your interests at heart and when you agree to be presented to a specific job we do so.  Best to make sure how the other agents operate.

6.  How often will you and I communicate during the process and in what way?
This can vary depending on the time line for hire of the employer.  If there is employer interest, then we can assume that the agent will let the candidate know.  Remember that an agent is often dealing with many candidates on various levels from the “getting to know you” stage to candidates in process for a specific job order.  It would be nice if the agent will contact you even when there is no update, but candidates should feel free to check in for updates and expect a response. Generally, by email is best.

7.  Will the Agency offer a written agreement outlining the terms of employment for both the employer and employee?

Each employer operates differently.  We at HSNI have a template “offer of employment” that we suggest and encourage our clients to use.  A good employer will want a written agreement as will the new hire to avoid misunderstandings.

8.  Will I be provided with interview tips, including what insights the agent can share about the potential employer on various levels?

“Absolutely” should be the agent’s answer.

9.  Will you mediate if there is something that comes up during my employment, if asked by the employer or by me?  
This is most often a very difficult area in which to venture – simply because once hired, the private service worker serves at the pleasure of the employer; however, a good agent will continue communicating with both employer and employee appropriately and provide feedback and help if requested.  Perhaps the best question is for last.

10.  Has this agent ever worked at the role of House Manager, and if so, what has his or her experience been?  If not, how long have they been in this industry?
You can put this question in context by asking yourself– “would I go to a dentist who never went to dental school?” How can they sympathize with what you may encounter if they have never been in the trenches?   Many agents have not been House Managers but the longer they have been in this specific staffing industry, then hopefully the more they have come to understand what candidates experience in the private service workplace.

Key qualities of a great candidate from the Agent’s point of view are:

  • Pleasant and professional communication – verbal and written feedback done in a timely manner.
  • Relevant experience in private service or if weak in this area, a good resume of relevant skills and attributes from experience in a related industry like hospitality or executive personal assistance.
  • Ability to communicate by email with file attachments.
  • Honesty – if you have issues in your past, make the agent aware of them and recognize that some issues are total red flags for some employers.  These can include legal problems both criminal and civil, unexplained credit problems and an unusual driving background.  
  • Understands that private service is intensely personal and requests by the agent for a photo or honest feedback about your background are normal and are meant to save time for you and the others involved in the hiring process.  And when you do send a photo, send it of you only, head and shoulder, professional attire with a smile!

Finally, a good agent will value you as a customer and treat you with courtesy and respect, even if he or she is not able to ultimately be of service to you.

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