That depends (you knew I was going to say that, right?). In some circumstances, such agencies can be a useful tool when used in conjunction with other, stronger job search techniques. At other times, they can provide more frustration and aggravation than you want to deal with. It might be helpful to take a brief look at what staffing services are and what they do or do not do for job seekers.
There are at least two types of staffing services, employment services, or whatever term you choose (I use them interchangeably): direct placement and temp or temp-to-hire services. (The latter used to be called temp-to-perm, but I don’t think anyone uses the term “permanent” in relation to employment any more.) They have a lot in common, and for my purposes I’m treating them both the same here. These services do want to place candidates in positions with companies–that’s how they make their money. Consequently you might think your staffing service rep is highly motivated to find you a great opportunity and will work closely with you to achieve that goal. Well, not necessarily.
First, it’s important to understand that employment services don’t make any money until they place someone in a job or temp assignment. They take a pragmatic approach to that, which generally means getting someone into a slot–maybe any slot–as soon as possible while meeting their agency’s revenue objectives.
Second, you need to be aware that you are part of a numbers game and will rarely, if ever, get really close, specialized attention from a staffing representative. You’re not the only candidate he or she is trying to place somewhere.
Although it might sound as if I’m knocking staffing services and their employees, I’m not doing that across the board. I’ve had resume-writing clients in the past who worked for employment services and were dedicated, hard-working people with strong integrity. However, they often didn’t stay with a company any longer than they had to in order to find a better one, because there were so many agencies that rated candidates much lower on the scale than volume and profit. Like any sales person, those clients had quotas to meet, and they were usually expected to do whatever it took to fill their quotas.
What you most need to know about using staffing services in your job search is that they can be worth including if you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time “chasing” them, jumping through hoops for them, or expecting your rep to aggressively pursue an opportunity you either have interviewed for or are hoping to interview for in the near future. If they present you with a good job opportunity you wouldn’t have known about otherwise, you owe it to yourself to spend a reasonable amount of time and effort in pursuing that opportunity. Just understand that it’s their job to sound enthusiastic and get candidates pumped-up about possibilities, but it’s your job to hold realistic expectations about the results the enthusiasm can and will produce.
In other words, don’t let involving staffing services in your job search negatively affect the time and energy you put into more significant areas of that search. Networking and other active job search tools, including diligent research into companies and opportunities that aren’t available through staffing services, still represent your best bet for conducting an effective job search–one that produces a desirable job in the least possible amount of time.