I received a phone call this week from a regular Whiteboard reader in a rather grumpy mood. He wondered if a recent spat he had been engaged in could be aired here on the blog to garner some opinion and hopefully generate some useful debate. I thought it was a great idea, so I’m afraid you lot will have to contribute to this week’s post with your own thoughts and opinions. This is a doubly good idea as I’m short on time as another regular reader is here visiting from England and I’m taking her to Waiheke today.
Hi Mum *waves*
So. The premise:
Boutique kiwi recruitment firm (Recruiter A) wins the business of a small Auckland manufacturer who briefs them on the role. Recruiter A is told they can work the role exclusively and so posts the advert co-branded with the client’s logo and commences the recruitment process. The next day a consultant from a large, global recruitment firm (Recruiter B) who runs a desk covering the South Auckland market spies the advert and calls the client directly, bypassing the other agency. Through some specious and cunning sales techniques Recruiter B convinces the client that they should look at a CV they have too even though they gave the role exclusively to Recruiter A. The CV is submitted and the client brings the candidate in for interview. Then a second interview. And then reference checks….where it all falls down and the candidate turns out to be a dud. Meanwhile the client held off seeing any of Recruiter A’s candidates because they thought they were onto a winner with the candidate from Recruiter B.
So here’s the multiple choice question: Is Recruiter B:
(a) Behaving unethically
(b) Just doing what any other recruitment company would do anyway
(c) Behaving in a somewhat underhand and aggressive way but doing so in an innocent manner since this is pretty much what agency recruitment has degenerated into anyway…
A heated phone call between the MD’s of Recruiters A and B resulted from this scenario with Recruiter A circling option (a) above and Recruiter B stressing that option (b) applies. Me? I’m plumping for the third option…
Every recruitment firm I’ve worked for had some sort of system around chasing ads. Normally this would entail either calling up the company who had advertised the vacancy and offering our services, or in the case of rival recruitment firm adverts, trying to work out from the text in the advert who their client was and then putting the call in the same way. This scenario falls into a kind of grey area since there’s no effort being made from Recruiter A to hide who the hiring client is. This was presumably done on the understanding that the role was held exclusively. As it turned out, the client’s mettle was tested by an experienced recruiter and they folded in, which ultimately resulted in them now having to wait until the New Year to re-start the recruitment process and potentially hold back the development of their own business.
Recruiter B was probably somewhat arrogant and aggressive in their approach but they were right in one thing, most other recruitment firms would probably do the same thing. The issue here is that Recruiter A clearly didn’t forge a close enough business relationship with the client to fend off the inevitable rival approaches. I think Recruiter A needs to look more closely at managing their client relationships and advising around these probable scenarios rather than trying to accuse others of being unethical.
The very fact that this behaviour is generally accepted by many in recruitment is the real shame though. Calling this kind of activity “recruitment” is like saying you play football when all you do is pop down the local bookmakers to lay some bets on the weekend’s football results each Saturday. It’s a numbers game with no real craft or consulting service on offer. But, increasingly, it is the primary way that recruitment agencies now manage to keep the lights on and remain in business at all.
What’s even sadder is that the MD of Recruiter B actually agreed that this kind of behaviour was symptomatic of the decline of the relevance of the agency recruitment offering. But, seeing no alternative, felt it was ok to do it anyway.
What do you reckon?