Oh, Those Unethical Recruiters!

Recently, I read a discussion where people were sharing accounts of what they deemed unethical practices of third-party recruiters whom they had encountered. Just a few of the examples given included:

  • Beefing up salaries to include the maximum possible bonus that almost no one is capable of achieving.
  • Advertising non-existing jobs to build up a resume database.
  • Blasting jobs in LinkedIn groups and other online communities.
  • Recruiting candidates from current or former clients.
  • Requiring candidates to pay for their services.
  • “Doctoring” candidates’ resumes to make them more suitable for a position.
  • Sending a candidate on an interview as a “slot-filler” when they don’t really have a shot at the job.

(reminder: these were examples given by real people & are simply their opinions)

There are two schools of thought here:

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  1. These practices aren’t necessarily illegal, though a few might be grey area practices. But some (like sharing jobs in online communities) are simply cost-effective methods of getting the word out. When done appropriately, of course!
  2. Regardless of our argument on the ethics of any of these actions, the fact that this topic continues to surface itself from time to time is a notice that there is a major disconnect between the intended and perceived message of our industry to its target audiences. The best of intentions means nothing if the message being perceived by the recipient is poor.

I know that readers of Fordyce strive to run their businesses with the utmost integrity and it is unfortunate that there are recruiters out there who don’t operate with integrity and honor and make it more challenging for those looking to do things right. I am interested in your thoughts on these issues. Whether it is right or wrong, it is a perception that needs to be overcome. Please share your feedback on some ways we can change this perception.

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, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, 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.


6 Comments on “Oh, Those Unethical Recruiters!

  1. Well,no issue with your points here. I work on changing impressions one poor mis-guided soul at a time. And some of what I do to change impressions is probably viewed by others as ‘unethical’ but I do try. Now, I want to say something about their opinions. Things can be stupid,illegal OR unethical.
    I doubt much salary puffing actually goes on anymore but if they are referring to advertising then what’s new? ALL advertising is puffery. It’s supposed to be. I don’t do it. This one is just stupid.

    Fake jobs to build a database is stupid and could be unethical but is also probably mythical. People with this opinion COULD NOT know and may believe this just to feel better. I don’t want their resume just to ‘build a database’. I don’t get paid for that. EVER.

    Blasting jobs is stupid and not unethical. Might not even be stupid for some people, but it is for me.

    Recruiting from current clients IS unethical if you have agreed not to and if you are using knowledge gained from the association. On the other hand, if you mean MRI placing with IBM in California and recruiting from New York, maybe not.

    Requiring candidates to pay for anything while also recruiting makes me sick. I still like the friend who does it but that’s just wrong. She probably thinks I am dumb for doing it for free…advising candidates, that is.

    Doctoring resumes is, I believe , both stupid AND unethical. I decided long ago that if I was trying to place a technical writer who had title Techical Writer on her resume and I had to submit her because she was the only one who had a clearance. I wanted the client to think she is stupid as opposed to thinking I am a snake for making her look smart. This just happened a couple months ago.

    Finally,belief in sending a slot-filler may be another candidate defense mechanism. There’s NO reason to do this intentionally. No recruiter makes money by wasting the clients’ time. This is another one that probably happens out of ignorance or stupidity and not ethics.

  2. Dave and I are usually on the same page but we differ a little here and there and that’s as it should be – keeps life interesting.

    • Beefing up salaries – huh? That’s not a recruiter trick but a candidate one. Some of them like to add their bonus into their base salary and call that their salary. Then they never get any calls because they’ve priced themselves out of the market. (Just plain dumb).
    • Advertising non-existing jobs – That’s a company trick not a recruiter trick. Does anybody think I really have time to cull through any more resumes? They’re already pouring over the transom unsolicited.
    • Blasting jobs to online communities – I’m sure some do that but I don’t. It sounds like a great way to have to spend time explaining to a hundred “perfect candidates” why they’re not. I’d rather pound my head against the wall.
    • Recruiting from current or former clients – I never recruit from current clients or I wouldn’t have them as clients for very long. They don’t have to be currently active. As long as I know that when they need a recruiter that I’m going to get the assignment I consider them a client even if it’s only once every two or three years. A former client is NOT a client, so what’s the problem?
    • Requiring Candidates to pay – RUN! A recruiter can charge a company far more than a candidate. When they charge candidates it’s because they aren’t very successful at charging companies (i.e. placing people). Candidates only have to pay the guys who can’t do what they paid them to do.
    • Doctoring resumes – I don’t have time to redo people’s resumes. I do give them advice so that they can make a better presentation. In thirty years how many times have I seen manager spelled “manger”. It blows right through spell-check. Why do 50% of sales executives NOT list their accounts on their resumes when that’s the most important piece of information that a hiring manager wants to see. Pound my head on the desk. Is that unethical – I don’t think so.
    • Slot fillers – I usually have a top pick that I think the company should hire. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. But slot fillers? I don’t look very good by wasting my clients time or by pushing in crappy candidates.

    I’m quite sure that most of these things go on but they’re self-defeating in the long run. I would encourage all of my competitors to adopt such practices. Discount Dave (not Staats) already practices most of them.

    Tom Keoughan

  3. Why is it unethical to post jobs on Linkedin groups? Isn’t the point of the groups to network and aren’t a lot of jobs discovered by networking? I recently did it for the first time and it wasn’t very helpful but there was a lot of response.

  4. For the candidate that does not have a personal relationship with their recruiter, staffing has long been an industry where all parties are wary of each other, and it is not limited to the 3rd party recruiter. Corporate recruiters also have metrics in place that can cause them bring in interview ‘slot-fillers’ etc. Beefing up salaries/ not setting expectations and padding resumes are some of the quickest ways to blow up a hire. And recruiting candidates from current clients is a fast way to lose one. Any recruiter that has been in the business for a while knows this – and if they’re in it for the long haul they don’t do it. It’s the job-hopping (client hopping) people who are looking for a quick buck (the next placement) that typically give our industry a bad name, and unfortunately it is possible for them to get away with it.

    I have long been bothered by this ‘perception’ of recruiters(ing) and have wanted to be a part of something that could help change it. Checkout the site Staffcred.com, it is still being built but it going to be a place where you can go when you get a call from a stranger (recruiter) from a company you have never heard of. Think a Yelp for Staffing with eBay seller type ratings.

  5. As far as posting bad jobs I am in agreement with Tom – why would a recruiter post a bunch of bogus jobs? To what end? A company might post a job the fish for candidates for something coming up, or leave a posting up for a req that is on-going.

    The main culprit in this area are the ‘broken’ job boards. I believe a lot of the people AmyBeth is referring to are the frustrated candidates who are “spraying and praying”. They are not sure what jobs are real, so they are applying to everything remotely within their skill set and hoping to get a response. The boards know that w/o high visitor counts, and new resumes pouring into their databases, they cannot charge the prices they want for ads and resume ‘search’ access, etc. As a result they not only keep unreal positions posted, some are now populating there sites with random crap off the web. They need an overcrowded system because it benefits them–not the candidate.

  6. Is there any mechanism of reporting such practices and getting these individuals, recruiters, a criminal record? Is there a government agency in charge of policing the practice? For example, just today a recruiter contacted me on Linkedin about a senior job in a company where I used to work. He claimed the job had been frozen from last week when in fact the job was frozen one year ago as confirmed by my former employer. He kept then posting the job again and changing the salary range (I saw that yesterday).

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