The hidden costs of unethical recruiters

Could less-than-scrupulous recruiting practices be hurting you more than you know? High unemployment numbers in recent years have created an intensely competitive marketplace in which some recruiters are driven primarily by the final fee – with little regard for due diligence or quality of service. And, fairly or not, candidates who have a negative experience often place the blame with the hiring company, as well as the recruiter, which can damage your brand as an employer.

The fact is, candidates may not make a distinction between you as the hiring firm and the people you choose to represent you, believing a recruiter is acting on your instructions. Bad news travels fast – and candidates will complain loudly on social media about their poor experiences. With the potential impact to your brand in the balance, it’s critical to be on guard and to develop strategies to deal with a variety of scenarios.

Scenario: You’ve been sent the same CV from more than one recruiter

The problem: Receiving the same CV from two different recruiters poses a dilemma: Are you obliged to use the first one you received even if you haven’t directly briefed that agency or don’t want to use them for financial reasons? This scenario most frequently occurs when you’ve advertised directly or haven’t given the brief to an agency on an exclusive basis. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for recruiters to send out CVs speculatively, without a candidate’s knowledge or permission, in the hope of getting in first and winning some commission. It’s something of a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. But this tactic overlooks some of the key components of recruitment best practices: due diligence, full disclosure, and ethical handling of candidates’ information.

The response: Assuming an even playing field, where both recruiters had done the proper background work and gained permission from the candidate, you should absolutely give preference to the consultant who got there first. But you’ll need to dig deeper to find out. You could ask each recruiter outright if they sought and obtained the candidate’s permission first. Or you could try a more subtle approach, perhaps asking the recruiter an open-ended question, such as “How did Candidate X respond to the opportunity when you discussed it with him?” It should become obvious if there was a genuine discussion with the candidate. And if you suspect there was not, you are well within your rights to avoid that recruiter and work with someone who deals with you openly and honestly to find viable candidates for you.

Scenario: Recruiters are sending CVs to more than one department

The problem: Here’s another common tactic some recruiters use in the race to the finish line: sending a CV to the hiring manager, as well as the Human Resources department, and maybe even others in the organisation. Perhaps the rationale is “The more people I send this CV to, the better the chances someone will respond to it.” Again – seeing what sticks. But in reality, these recruiters are circumnavigating the in-house processes you have in place. And if you don’t have in-house procedures in place, recruiters will try to exploit that. By attempting to deal with more than one department, they can create extra work, aggravation and confusion for internal teams. In addition, the candidate may be approached by several different people and conclude that your company is disorganised or not well managed. Not only have you lost out on a potentially valuable candidate, but he may then go on social media or online forums and tell others about his experience.

The response: You must work closely with your recruiter to articulate the chain of command. They need to understand to whom CVs should be directed, and should be held accountable for it. Explain that any CVs sent to others in the organisation will be disregarded.

Scenario: Bad recruiters are costing you good candidates

The problem: Once burned, twice shy. Strong candidates who have had negative experiences with a recruiter could refuse to work with them again, choosing instead to only respond to opportunities from a consultant who you are not aware of or don’t have terms in place with. This is a case where a recruitment agency’s bad practices can cause you to incur opportunity costs, by losing out on a potentially ideal candidate because he or she just won’t pick up the phone to your representative. A telltale sign that this might be happening is when an agency has been looking for your candidate for a long time and isn’t able to send you relevant CVs.

For example, a recruiter can cost you a good candidate by mishandling a previous recruitment brief that had nothing to do with you personally. I recently heard a story from a candidate who, as a management level jobseeker, was sent on an interview for which she’d prepared extensively. The hiring team were impressed with the level of expertise on display for the job in question… which turned out to be a mid-level job that paid £20,000 less than she’d been told by the recruiter. Presumably hoping that the candidate might settle for less or the hiring company might offer more, the recruiter effectively wasted everyone’s time and energy. More importantly however, the candidate came away with a poor impression of the company she’d interviewed with. When we approached her later about another position there, she turned us down because of the old recruiter’s behaviour– the employer’s brand was tarred with the same brush.

The response: The lesson to be learned here is that you must select your recruitment partner very carefully. Your reputation as an employer is a crucial brand issue – and who you choose to represent you can truly make an impact, for better or for worse. Work to establish relationships with niche recruiters who understand your firm, what you do, and your specific hiring needs – and who place client service and integrity at the forefront. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their practices and how they vet potential candidates before sending you CVs ¬– in addition to providing you, as the client, with quality service, they should handle their candidates with respect and open communication as well.

Your recruiters should feel like an extension of your internal HR team: there to serve your brand. For more advice on how to sort the wheat from the chaff, you might be interested in our blog post ‘Appraising your recruiter.’

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more hiring advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

Chris Bongard

October 7th, 2013 View my profile

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