By Marion Smith
I have been placing staff in homes to take care of children for 11 years now. I am often asked by new parents why they should make use of an agency as opposed to sourcing someone on their own.
Of course it is a lot cheaper to get someone out of the local newspaper, a referral from a friend, your local community centre or church and while you do hear success stories of these searches you also hear about a lot of frustrations and difficult situations that parents found themselves in.
You are paying an agency to provide you with a service and while you may not have walked into a store and bought an item and taken it home, you have made a very important decision on a person who you will be entrusting with your most precious being, your child. She will be responsible for the daily care and well being of your child and you want to know that when you leave home in the morning you do it with a feeling of “ I have made the right decision for both my child and myself “. The agency’s expertise come into play with being able to wade through the candidates and identify the experienced, honest and reliable from the influx of job seekers that try anything to secure a position.
Some pointers as to why you are paying an agency:
- Saving time
Everybody has a full time job now days, with both mom and dad working. When you get home the last thing you want to do is sit and read through streams of names in the the local paper and then start calling them. It is a lot easier to submit an application form to an agency with your requirements and have them send you only three of the best candidates suited to your requirements and even if you interview all three it will only take up 2 - 3 hours of your time and they should have all been valuable candidate
- You don't know exactly what you are looking for
Often moms will phone me and say that they know they need someone to take care of their children but they don't quite know what they want. It is up to the agency to then try and find out the family dynamics and make suggestions on what type of candidate they think will work best. Sometimes the agency will have to send one or two different types of candidates in order for the parents to interview and get a better feel. Only then are they able to identify exactly what their needs are.
- Pre - screened candidates
All the candidates that you receive from an agency should already be screened. So they should have been interviewed in person, the agency will have confirmed that they are literate, they will have a copy of their ID, passport or asylum, work permit, they will send you an up to date cv with all information on it including salaries, ages of children, job description etc, copies of certificates , references will be produced. By doing this you will be receiving candidates that are suitable for the job that you have a vacancy for.
- You want a candidate that is trained properly
While childminding and aupairing in South Africa do not require any formal qualifications, there are many courses that can be taken to train these candidates and better equip them with the necessary skills to perform their job to the best of their ability. An agency will have the knowledge and understanding of which courses are best suited for which position and many agencies now offer their own courses. This makes it a lot better for the clients as they now have piece of mind knowing that the candidate has been through a course at that particular company and they can question the company on what the course material involves.
- Advice on market related salaries
The agency will be able to give an honest opinion on the market related salaries. Over and above the minimum wage set by the government they will be able to recommend a salary based on a candidates experience and qualifications and also suggest to a family what they should offer when they know what the working hours and the job description will be. A good agency should not over price a candidate in order to increase their commission as this is just unfair to the candidate who in the long run will suffer when she has to move on to a new family.
The agency is responsible for setting up the interviews once the client has confirmed a date, time and venue. The agency must confirm with the candidate and make sure that she understands the location and time. The agency must then let the client know that everything is confirmed. After the interview the agency must follow up with both the client and the candidate to get feedback. One should never assume that because the candidate is looking for work she will just accept the position, it is very important to see if she was happy with everything that was discussed and if the distance she would travel is fine etc. The agency must try and prevent any issues from arising should the candidate be offered the job.
Money is never an easy topic, and while people are desperate for work they don't want to be taken advantage of and at the same time parents don't want to feel like they are under paying someone because they know they are looking after their children. The agency should be left to do the negotiating of salary always as both parties are a lot more honest and straight forward when a third party is involved. I always ask the candidate to tell me how much their transport cost for example so that we can see what they would be earning daily. Often the agency has to go up and down between the two parties to reach a happy medium, this can be the make or break of a new job.
- After placement support
As I mentioned earlier this is not the same as walking into a store and buying an item, it can often lead to a long term relationship. I have clients that I have been placing with on a yearly basis for more than 8 years now. Once the candidate has been placed the agency is there to offer support to both the candidate and client when ever they need it. The agency should supply an employment contract, provide info on how to register for UIF, give recommendations on courses that the candidate can attend to maybe better improve her caregiving for that particular families child and then answer any questions at any time that may pop up.The agency will also provide a guarantee on their placement so if it does not work out they should be able to assist the family a lot quicker than if they had to start searching on their own again
By using an agency you don't need to place an advert anywhere so nobody will know that you are looking for staff. You may have a current childminder or aupair and you don't want her to know that you are looking for a new person or you may have a high powered position and do not want your information out there on the net for the world. What ever your reasons may be, by using an agency they are not able make your private details common knowledge and that way your privacy is respected.
- Large pool of candidates
Any agency that has been running for a long time should have a very large pool of candidates. Most families don’t think about this when they are in the process of recruiting someone. But should they need to replace their candidate will the agency have enough people on their books to continue sending cv’s until the family finds a suitable replacement? It takes a fair amount of time for an agency to build up a good database but once they have one this is a great asset to a family who is looking urgently and needs a candidates to start tomorrow.
These are some of the reasons why a family would be paying an Aupair agency or any childcare agency to help them source a caregiver for their home. Corporate companies pay recruitment companies to head hunt staff for them and parents are paying for the same service on a smaller scale.
Parents are head hunting for the best caregiver in Johannesburg to take care of their children :)
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