First-time job­seek­ers beware

Un­scrupu­lous ‘ re­cruit­ment agen­cies’ prey on thou­sands of peo­ple who have fin­ished their stud­ies and are search­ing for a job

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Many ma­tric­u­lants and univer­sity grad­u­ates are now look­ing for a job. Armed with en­thu­si­asm and their new qual­i­fi­ca­tions, many of them will be ap­proach­ing re­cruit­ment and staffing or­gan­i­sa­tions to help them find em­ploy­ment in South Africa’s strained job mar­ket. How­ever, the Fed­er­a­tion of African Pro­fes­sional Staffing Or­gan­i­sa­tions (Apso) warns that not all staffing agen­cies are as le­git­i­mate as they may seem.

While most re­cruit­ment agen­cies have the can­di­date’s best in­ter­est at heart, there are those that prey on peo­ple who are un­fa­mil­iar with the re­cruit­ment process and who may be des­per­ate for a job. This places first-time job­seek­ers at risk of be­ing scammed.

To help job­seek­ers se­lect a cred­i­ble re­cruit­ment com­pany, here is some ad­vice:

Jobs won’t just land in your lap

When look­ing for can­di­dates, re­cruiters will ei­ther post the va­can­cies on their web­site or on an on­line job por­tal. The po­si­tion may also ap­pear on the em­ploy­ing com­pany’s web­site.

You will not re­ceive a job of­fer out of the blue from a re­cruiter un­less your CV is on their data­base and you have been in­ter­viewed be­fore­hand – ei­ther in per­son or tele­phon­i­cally.

Ver­ify that the re­cruit­ment agency ex­ists

You can do this by check­ing for an of­fi­cial web­site. If it does not have one, or it does not have con­tact de­tails, then you should be cau­tious.

If it does have a web­site, check if the web­site is real by ex­am­in­ing the URL.

Scam­mers of­ten use fake URLs to pose as well-recog­nised com­pa­nies. On bo­gus web­sites, the URL may con­tain num­bers or mis­spelt words. You should also es­tab­lish in what coun­try the web­site is based or hosted in.

In ad­di­tion to look­ing at the com­pany’s web­site, you should do on­line and off­line re­search about the or­gan­i­sa­tion. For in­stance, you could check to see if the com­pany’s phone num­ber is listed in the Yel­low Pages and as­sess whether the com­pany is au­tho­rised to trade in South Africa by check­ing the VAT num­ber. Avoid agen­cies or com­pa­nies that use free email ac­counts “Re­cruit­ment agen­cies” that cor­re­spond us­ing free ac­counts such as Ya­hoo, Hot­mail or Gmail are likely to be scam­mers. Gen­uine job-re­lated emails will be sent from cor­po­rate email ac­counts. Do not pay them any money You should never have to pay a rep­utable re­cruit­ment agency so that you can be listed on their data­base, to se­cure a job or for any other rea­son.

You should also be aware of re­cruiters who of­fer to train you for the job in ex­change for money.

The law for­bids em­ploy­ment agen­cies from charg­ing can­di­dates to se­cure em­ploy­ment.

Ser­vices pro­vided by le­git­i­mate agen­cies are free of change for job­seek­ers – they make their money by charg­ing a ser­vice fee to client or­gan­i­sa­tions for sourc­ing and man­ag­ing their work­force, never the job­seeker.

The fee charged to client or­gan­i­sa­tions also does not come out of the worker’s back pocket.

Never share pho­tos or per­sonal in­for­ma­tion

Never in­clude a photo of your­self, un­less it is an im­por­tant fea­ture of your in­dus­try, such as modelling. What you look like is not rel­e­vant to your qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the po­si­tion.

You also should also not di­vulge your ID num­ber, home ad­dress or salary un­til you have con­firmed the com­pany’s au­then­tic­ity.

By re­veal­ing this in­for­ma­tion, the scam­mer could com­mit iden­tity theft, ap­ply for credit cards and run up enor­mous bills in your name.

It is im­per­a­tive that you do not dis­close your per­sonal bank­ing de­tails dur­ing the re­cruit­ment process, un­less you have been hired and are mak­ing ar­range­ments for your pay­ment and tax de­duc­tions.

If it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is

Job de­scrip­tions that state that no spe­cific skills or ex­pe­ri­ence are re­quired should be treated with scep­ti­cism.

Those that have “work from home” in the ti­tle should also be con­sid­ered with cau­tion be­cause they are a favourite among fraud­sters. Also be aware of very large salary of­fers. Check the amount be­ing of­fered against the norm for that par­tic­u­lar role and your level of ex­pe­ri­ence by look­ing at the re­sults of salary sur­veys. If you are be­ing pre­sented with a salary that is way higher than this fig­ure, you are prob­a­bly be­ing scammed.

Scam­mers will of­ten ad­ver­tise that they can guar­an­tee can­di­dates a job, but all an agency can do is con­sider you for a po­ten­tial va­cancy, pro­mote you to the client and hope­fully se­cure an in­ter­view – dur­ing which you can sell your­self.

Fa­mil­iarise your­self with gen­uine re­cruit­ment agen­cies within your de­sired in­dus­try

Ask peo­ple you know in your pre­ferred field to re­fer you to re­cruiters they are fa­mil­iar with. You could also go to or­gan­i­sa­tions that in­ter­est you and find out which re­cruit­ing firms they use.

If you have been a vic­tim of em­ploy­ment fraud, en­sure that you stop all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the “agency” and re­port the mat­ter to the depart­ment of labour.

If you have paid over any money, con­tact your bank im­me­di­ately and go to your near­est po­lice sta­tion with all the cor­re­spon­dence you have re­ceived, to­gether with proof of the pay­ment, and open a crim­i­nal case.

To en­sure that you deal with an agency that is legally com­pli­ant and ad­heres to a code of ethics and good prac­tice, ap­proach one that is an Apso mem­ber. When it comes to your fu­ture and your ca­reer, it is al­ways bet­ter to be safe.

Makhubele is vice-pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of African Pro­fes­sional Staffing Or­gan­i­sa­tions, South Africa and Africa’s largest pro­fes­sional body. The fed­er­a­tion also be­longs to the SA Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, and the Ethics In­sti­tute

of SA. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit

KC Makhubele

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