Whose Fault Is It: When Does Recruiter Responsibility End

If you’re a sports fan (okay, even if you’re not) chances are you’ve heard about the University of Pittsburgh’s newly hired head football coach, Michael Haywood, being arrested on domestic battery charges on New Year’s Eve. He was later fired by Pitt, after serving just over two weeks as the head football coach.

What you may not have heard is that the search firm responsible for finding Haywood, Parker Executive Search of Atlanta, GA, has accepted responsibility for the recommendation for Pitt to hire Haywood.

Parker Executive Search is a global retained executive search firm that works primarily with intercollegiate athletics programs, leading colleges and universities, Fortune 500 corporations, privately held startups, and non-profit organizations.

Background checks and numerous interviews were conducted before Pitt settled on Haywood. Dan Parker, President of Parker Executive Search, said that he “went back through the checklist and found there wasn’t anything different we could have done on (Pitt’s) behalf…It was one moment in a person’s life, nothing historical we found that indicated this would occur.”

So as recruiters, where do your responsibilities end and the employer’s (and in this case, the employee’s) begin? When do you stop being responsible for the actions of your candidates? If you offer your clients X-day guarantees of service, then obviously your responsibility ends after that guarantee expires. But what about in this case, or in any case of unprecedented criminal activity?

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There are three obvious participants who could have prevented this bad hire:

  1. The recruiter: Parker Executive Search was ultimately responsible for the recommendation. But they appear to have been extremely thorough with their background investigations into Haywood prior to making that recommendation.
  2. The client (Pitt): According to the article, Pitt’s athletic director, Steve Pederson, did indeed do his own background checking on Haywood. They supplemented their search partner’s efforts with their own to make sure they were making the right decision.
  3. The candidate: Did he have a history of violence? None of the background checks seemed to indicate so. It was most likely an isolated incident. Therefore, he would have had no cause to disclose any prior altercations.

Recruiters, I do not know the answer to this one. What are your thoughts? Should Parker Executive Search take the blame for this one? Or should Pitt? And what about Haywood’s part in all this? Share your thoughts below.

Incidentally, Pitt  decided to use Parker’s company to assist them in finding Haywood’s replacement (who ended up being former Tulsa head coach, Todd Graham), indicating that a valued and trusting relationship exists between them.

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.


4 Comments on “Whose Fault Is It: When Does Recruiter Responsibility End

  1. I believe Parker took the right approach. There’s no blame to be shared between Parker & Pitt. We all know that strange factors come into play in the recruiting process. While Parker was not legally obligated, they certainly did “the right thing” by taking responsibility and as a result solidified a client. In my mind, when you ‘partner’ with your client, that means that you share some responsibility when the process doesn’t go smoothly, regardless of fault. I’d be interested in hearing if Parker has been contacted by any other Universities as a result. As far as Haywood, he’s laying in the bed he made.

  2. Here’s a recent judgement against a medical recruiter here in Houston – from the Houston Chronicle 01/19/2011,

    $10.1 million verdict punishes ‘pill mill’

    Jurors hope to send message after finding negligence by clinic operators in Conroe man’s overdose death.

    Jurors awarded $10.1 million in damages to the family of an overdose victim Tuesday, hoping the size of the verdict strikes fear into other “pill mills” that have turned Houston into a national hub for prescription drug abuse.

    “Our verdict shows how much our community is against these pill mills and wants things to change,” said juror Lauren Simmons, after finding gross negligence led to the overdose death of Michael Skorpenske of Conroe.

    Another juror, Tim Bammel, agreed, saying the verdict issued in 234th District Judge Reece Rondon’s court should discourage others who might be improperly churning out the addictive drugs that killed Skorpenske. Skorpenske, 54, died July 7, 2007, two days after his only visit to the Family Medi Clinic in The Woodlands, where he received a prescription for three potent drugs: hydrocodone, xanax and soma.

    He had sought help there for chronic pain he suffered from a motorcycle injury and a fall at a petrochemical plant.

    The clinic’s director, Dr. Maurice Conte, had prescribed this same drug combo — known as the “holy trinity” — at least 3,800 times between 2006 and 2007 at more than 17 area pain clinics that he then oversaw, records showed. But his prescriptionwriting came to an abrupt halt when he was forced to surrender his license to the Texas Medical Board just three days after Skorpenske died.

    Conte, who repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination during the four-day trial, was found grossly negligent and slapped with the stiffest penalty: $9.05 million.

    The 72-year-old physician chose not to be present for the reading of the verdict, and his attorney, Thomas Swanson, declined comment.

    The Skorpenske family’s attorney, Tommy Hastings, commented on Conte’s absence: “I don’t think he has any remorse or compassion. The other two defendants expressed their sympathy about Skorpenske’s death, but Conte took the Fifth even on that.”

    Hastings believes other pill mills will take notice, especially “if their only motive is profit and we can take that away.”

    Another defendant, Melissa Martin, also was found grossly negligent and ordered to pay about $745,000 in damages. She was an equal owner of the cash-only clinic along with her husband, Harris County sheriff’s deputy Lewis Martin Jr., and a chiropractor, Michael Kabzinski.

    Kabzinski settled out of court for an undisclosed amount before the trial started. The plaintiffs say they were unaware of Lewis Martin Jr.’s involvement until after the statute of limitations had run out.

    The third defendant, Jimmy Moore, a recruiter who placed the doctor at the clinic, was ordered to pay the least, $85,000, because one of the 12 jurors did not believe his involvement met the test for punitive damages.

    Skorpenske’s 88-year-ol d mother, Augusta Jackson, whowas a plaintiff along with her son’s three children, was speechless after the verdict. Then her eyes teared and she said, “Maybe some of those pill clinics will shut down. Let’s hope.”

    Skorpenske’s sister, Sandra Smith, referring to more than 1,200 pill deaths recorded in the last two years, says “the jury has given a lot of hope to other families of those who are dying all over the place from this.”


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