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There have been studies that match this phenomenon.
Adler (1985) ?consumers initially select an artist at random and, by chance, one artist ends up with more patrons than the rest, and this initial advantage leads to new consumers preferring that artist and existing consumers switching to him or her?. Substitute Agent for artist to get a sense of what might be going on.
The problem roughly equates to lots of managers tend to use certain agencies because other managers have used them and therefore they are a known quantity. The value or quality of service is subjective and difficult to measure so it becomes a leap of faith by the manager looking for an agency.
The problem in Australia is that there are barriers to entering the market creating a very inefficient market, and for some unknown reason HR likes to outsource this stuff so they can?t be blamed for any bad decisions. I believe this is the same if not worse in the US and the UK where the margins enjoyed by agencies are much higher which reflects an inefficient market. My current agency works as a payroll only; I have to find the job and they hold the contract and look after workers comp etc, and they charge a rate that is less than 7% to do that. I have had other agencies charging me out and taking close to 50%. That is just rude. When an agency does that; it is not my services that become too expensive, it is their margin that has put them and me out of work.
The other problem is that most ads are placed by HR staff, whom have little to no idea about IT. IE SQL experience is the same as SQL Server experience, ETL is the same as Datastage, Data Modelling is same as using Erwin once, etc ad nausea. Therefore someone who has 10 years data modelling experience on other tools will not get past the agent or past the HR staff member even though the technical manager looking for staff would love them. IE a good manager knows a good data modeller can learn Erwin within an acceptable period; however an inexperienced data modeller will create all sorts of havoc. But this is not understood by the HR staff or the agents. It is disheartening when you know a position is right up your alley but can't get past the fool who doesn't know the difference between an Architect and a Technician.
This is not a transparent or efficient market and therefore it will not work efficiently or effectively. However, that is what we have to live so we might as well get used to it.