The Deadly QBHR2 Virus

What is it? It is a common affliction of small to mid-sized companies that are at a critical point in their evolution. These firms have figured out that they cannot survive without the help of external recruiting agencies but have not quite figured out how they will interface with these outside firms. Out of frustration they often run into the deadly QBHR2 virus.

QBHR2 stands for “Queen Bee Human Resources Recruiter.” They are hired because of their past recruiting expertise (often in HR, often as a contract recruiter) and are given their mandate from very high in the firm (sometimes even from the CEO) to “get the recruiters in line and start getting us some top-rate talent.” Seems like a reasonable mandate, but it is never that simple. Given the newly christened mantle of superiority, the new QB sets about building her web (more often than not, the virus is female; this is a mystery to scientists to this day).

Recruiters call in to the QB (sometimes the QB even calls recruiters and invites them into her web). Recruiters are given the “corporate sales pitch” on how great the company is, how many jobs will be filled using recruiters, and how great life will be in the new relationship. Recruiters are told that they will be part of a select minority of recruiters, and some are even told they will be given total exclusivity on a search. The recruiters ask:

– What about returned phone calls? QB will return phone calls within four hours!

– What about feedback on candidate’s submissions? QB says she will get the feedback in 24 hours. QB will even walk the résumés around to the technical hiring authorities and get feedback – amazing how nice the world will be.

– What about feedback on phone interviews or on-site interviews? QB will provide feedback immediately. The interview process is almost at the speed of light.

– What about getting paid for a placement? QB will issue the check herself and hand-deliver it to the recruiter on the day the candidate accepts!

At this point the recruiters have soiled their pants; they are hell-bent to join this club, make millions, and retire in the Caribbean in their 30s.

Now the real story:

РThere never was an intention to hire at all for the large majority of the searches. All this work was for benchmarking and r̩sum̩ gathering so the QB database is well stocked.

– The technical hiring authorities watch this process with great interest but really pay it no mind. They know how to get staff when they need to, and when they really have to, they will work directly with great recruiters behind QB’s back if necessary, especially if they are in a bind and need candidates now.

– Phone calls don’t get returned. QB is on vacation a lot. QB only works on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. QBs go home at 4 p.m. (on the dot). Hiring authorities are on the road or too busy with other important things to bother (they know the process doesn’t work). QB apologizes profusely about the lack of feedback (those darned hiring authorities).

– Candidates go without feedback; recruiters lose good candidates and their reputations to boot.

– Hires don’t happen, but in the ultra-rare event that they do, the cash terms are 180 days and have a money-back guarantee. Generally by that time, the candidate can’t stand the company and thus has quit and you need to find a replacement, so the “get paid” clock starts again. Thank God you have not been paid yet because if you had, you’d have to give the money back due to the money-back guarantee you agreed to.

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– The company ends up with bottom-tier recruiters who don’t know enough to walk away from the deal, and the candidates are reflective of the recruiters who do business in this hellhole. The system eventually breaks down under its own weight, especially if the QB has persuaded the firm to install an elaborate ATS (applicant tracking system). I’ve seen it hundreds of times. The virus moves on to another company and starts the process all over.

– Sad but true.

Why do recruiters get duped by this ploy? Are they new, uninitiated? Insecure? Are they afraid to get on the phone and find better searches? Are they wowed by the QB’s tantalizing riches and rewards?

Why do companies allow the QB in and give her such power? Are they unsure and sometimes afraid of the recruiters? Are they afraid to interview, afraid to hire, afraid to take the time to work with great recruiters who make a decent return on invested resources? Are they afraid of recruiters who ask the tough questions and take the time to find out what the real problem is, what the real spec is, what the real urgency is? Perhaps! The clients learn, the recruiters learn, but you can’t imagine the waste and agony associated with the virus.

A lesson learned over years and years of viral affliction.


I just ran into the QBHR2 virus again. This outbreak had a special twist. It seemed that the QB was in a bind and needed a particular high-level candidate and was willing to pay a full fee to our contingency firm. I turned down the offer because I smelled something wrong. What I found out was incredible. The firm had hired a prestigious retained firm to do this high-level search. QB was using contingency firms to find candidates that, if good, would be turned over to the retained firm. When the contingency firm asked about the candidate, QB merely said that the candidate was already presented by the retained firm. The prestigious retained firm in essence gets the contingency firm to recruit for it at no charge. Hard to believe? Yes, but unfortunately it’s true. Very, very sad.

Donald D. Bell has over 33 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and chemical business. He currently co-owns and co-manages Shore Consultants, an executive recruiting firm in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Founded in 2004, Shore Consultants is one of the fastest-growing, most comprehensive recruiting firms within the Management Recruiters International (MRI) Network. Don holds a BS degree in biology and chemistry from the State University of New York, an MS degree in environmental studies and toxicology from the University of Rochester, and an MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.


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