Client or Source: Perspective From the Corporate Recruiters

In a recent blog post by Jessica Lee, Senior Employment Manager at APCO Worldwide, a privately held, global public affairs and strategic strategic communications firm, she laments about some ‘shady’ business practices she has been seeing as of late from some third-party recruiting professionals:

“…how am I to respond and react to a headhunter/recruiting agency who I know has tried to recruit our company’s talent away who then reaches out to me to try to solicit our business?” 

The situation in question is this: employees at her company are getting called by external recruiters (naturally) and offered opportunities elsewhere. However, those same recruiters are turning around, sometimes on the same day, and calling her to discuss offering their recruiting services for APCO. Lee’s reaction to this:

My gut reaction? “Oh… You want to try to source from my firm and recruit away our talent, then the very next day you want to solicit business from us? Well, that just ain’t right in my book. No, we don’t have any staffing needs you can help us out with and no, don’t bother to follow up with me either.” And that would be the polite version of what I would say to said offender. I actually just ignored the latest outreach attempt to solicit our business, because I am so baffled by their practices.

Whether you feel like she is correct or not, this is her perception of the activity. Something to consider here would be the age-old ‘chicken and egg’ question: which comes first? Would you solicit business first, and then go after the talent? Or would you solicit talent and then go for the business? What would you do?

On a related note, PwC recently discovered an external recruiter attempting to collect staffing information by presenting themselves as a PwC employee. This recruiter knew some of the PwC terminology to support their inquiries, and as a result, PwC issued the following statement to its employees:

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External Recruiters Impersonating PwC Staff

There have been recent reports of an unethical recruiter attempting to collect PwC staffing information by presenting themselves as a PwC employee. This individual has proven to be very convincing and knows some of the PwC terminology to support their deceptive practices. One of PwC’s best defenses to this type of activity is to protect our information and to not readily disclose it without verifying the requestor and their need for the information.

What to do if you receive a request for staffing information

If you should receive a call from an individual requesting staffing information, e.g., names, staff levels, phone numbers, etc. , do not provide this information by phone and do not send it to an external e-mail address. Politely obtain the caller’s information and inform them you will look into the their request. Do not be fooled by the information displayed on your phone. The caller typically blocks their caller id and the firm has also experienced instances of phone spoofing where the phone displays a false PwC extension from a call originating from outside of the firm. You can verify if it is a legitimate caller by contacting the individual through their PwC office phone number or e-mailing their PwC account. If you determine the call did not originate from the PwC individual, please report the situation to your HR representative or e-mail the call information to and a US Security representative will respond to you.

Harsh assessment! “Unethical?” “Deceptive practices?” As an interesting aside — take a look at one of the comments on the PwC post:

I would have no issue helping a recruiter steal employees from my firm. Why? It’s an opportunity to have your worse competition removed out of your path and get your most annoying co-workers out of your hair. So when a recruiter calls me, I provide them a list of names and phone numbers of the people I would love to see depart from my firm.

In my personal opinion, calling in to a company seeking staff information is hardly unethical. But presenting yourself as an employee of the company to gather said information — many believe this practice to be unethical. I leave it up to you to decide. Again — it is the perception. What do you think?

So recruiters — what are your thoughts on these two situations? There is the sentiment out there that a company has two choices: they can choose to be a client or a source. YOU are the experts. Let’s hear from you and see what you think!

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, and, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.


3 Comments on “Client or Source: Perspective From the Corporate Recruiters

  1. This is a black and white issue from where I stand as a “3rd party” recruiter. If you haven’t signed my fee agreement in the last two years….your people are fair game.

    Am I suppose to stop doing business because you might do business with me one day….if the mood should strike you and the stars align. How do I pay my bills in that scenario?

    You want me to give you something (hands off your company) while you in turn don’t give me the time of day. Why??? Because you’re special?

    Also, I’ve had companies become clients because I was effectively recruiting their people. Ironically, some of the most respectful client relationships I’ve ever had.

  2. I divide the companies. Some companies take too long to decide or are too demanding of the recruiter, or pay too low because they are a prestige corporation and all that…so I list my companies that I recruit from (like the above) and those to companies that have the need for well-trained people in similar positions.

    But, I won’t rob Peter to pay Paul.

  3. In the staffing industry, people are the product and a company that doesnt do business with you, are nothing more than a warehouse for your future product.

    The idea that recruiters will pass up on top talent to make her happy, even thought they are not a client, is pretty arrogant and nieve.

    I wonder if she refuses to hire people from her companies competition and is this wise when her job is to get the best people for the company.

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