The first and foremost characteristic that recruitment agencies should have is honesty and integrity. This is most evident during your initial interview; if you have a sense that something just isn't right, and your recruiter seems a bit shady, you may want to take your CV to a different agency.
Another thing you should look for is their attitude towards you
as a freelancer. A good recruitment agency doesn't just take your
CV, drop you in a position and toddle off; they keep tabs on the
position, checking in frequently to ensure that both you and the
client are pleased with the arrangement. Again, you should be able
to gauge this during your initial interview - the agency should put
you at ease, without seeming too eager to please.
The logistics of the position are also important, and one thing most freelance contractors find very important is the reliability of pay. You'll want to know whether you'll be paid by cheque (old school), or by electronic funds transfer; you'll want to know how frequent the payments will be; and you'll also want to ask about how quickly they resolve any issues with payroll.
Before the interview, you should try to get online and run a few searches - just to see what other people are saying about the recruitment agencies you're considering. While every company garners at least one or two complaints, if you find several issues in a single area, you might want to pass on that agency.
To conclude, recruitment agencies are a great way to have the comfort and stability of company support, while still having the flexibility and excitement of freelance work. So if you're thinking about going it alone, why not polish up the CV and go see a few agencies, I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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Image: The Choices by Orin Zebest