Why I’ve had enough of unethical recruitment agencies

By Altitude Advisory |

Altitude Advisory director Andrew Mattner says traditional recruitment agencies and recruitment agents have lost the plot and it’s time employers disrupted the way these businesses operate.

Recruitment can be one of the most challenges aspects of being a business owner and employer. The challenge of identifying and attracting the right candidates (not just from a skills perspective but, more importantly, from a culture perspective) is difficult.

It’s especially difficult when you must navigate your way past what I would describe as largely unethical “services” of little value provided by recruiters.

I believe that the fundamental purpose of recruitment agents should be to enhance the employment experience for employers and employees by getting to know clients (those they seek to make placements with and those they wish to place) and making connections.

They should be doing this by building meaningful relationships with both and gaining a deep understanding not only of the desired roles but also of the culture, values and relevant behaviours of each. Instead they play a numbers game and seek to shortcut the critical relationship building part of the game and then charge ridiculous commissions that bear no resemblance to the real value they provide.

This is how many of the agencies that I have dealt with in the past work

  1. They take no time to understand your business, your culture and your needs. As such they have no idea what an ideal candidate looks like.
  2. They randomly send unsolicited emails with multiple candidates (almost all who don’t suit your profile) in order to claim an introduction on the off chance one may suit (now or some random time within the random introductory period).
  3. They generally provide no follow up with the employer and employee to check in and review the process and experience.
  4. They wait until employees move out of their “guarantee” period, at which time they “check in” to see if they can churn the candidate to a new employer and pick up another commission.
  5.  They charge random commissions that bear no resemblance to the actual value provided in the transaction.
  6. They don’t disclose to candidates how they operate and that employers are charged those ridiculous commissions if they find them a role.

Examples of reprehensible behaviour

  • Churning candidates: This means that they place a candidate and then deliberately attempt to unseat that candidate by placing them elsewhere.
  • Badgering candidates: Badgering occurs where they constantly harass team members, trying to place them even after they have received feedback that they are not interested (they do this with no shame by direct email, phone messages, messages on LinkedIn etc).
  • Presenting unsuitable candidates to employers: This is offensive as it shows you have no understanding or care for me or my business.
  •  Trying to claim an introduction fee for random and unsolicited introductions: Our most recent experience occurred after recruiting a candidate over 12 months after that person’s resume was sent to our office via an unsolicited introduction.
  • Not only did we not have a role over 12 months ago and were not recruiting, we never engaged with or requested the agent to provide candidates for review. More than 12 months later, after the candidate had been placed in another role by that recruitment firm, they were hired by us (they were presented by another recruitment firm, again unsolicited) after we had undertaken an extensive recruitment process through our HR consultants. Twelve months later the original recruitment firm wants a commission……seriously!
  • Harassing an employer when a candidate was rejected: I have heard an instance when a recruitment firm harassed and insulted a business when they didn’t place a candidate after they deemed them not suitable. The prospective employer happened to know of the candidate via their network and after the appropriate checks (the ones the recruitment firm should have done) decided not to place them. What a barrage of abuse they received.

How recruiters should operate

  1. You spend the time to get to know me, my business, our culture and our values. Take time to understand how we work. Spend time in our office and speak to my team members. If you don’t know us, how can you possibly know who the best candidates for us might be?
  2. Agree a set fee for the work you do. Don’t charge me a random commission based on how much the employee gets paid. That bears no resemblance to the value you provide (I am pleased to say that the HR company we are currently working with does this and that we are very happy with our engagement with them).
  3. Guarantee your work. Recruitment and induction is expensive for employers. As such if you introduce a candidate that we hire, train and develop, guarantee that you will not place that candidate elsewhere as long as they are employed by us. Don’t just offer a replacement guarantee if the candidate doesn’t make it out of probation, guarantee your work for the life of the engagement. Agree that if you move them you will reimburse us for the direct and indirect costs for the next recruit.
  4. Split the fee with the candidate. You are acting as an agent and advocate for both the employer and the candidate (at the very least disclose your exorbitant fee to them).
  5.  Understand the candidate. Be clear on their skills and abilities, do proper checks with previous employers, their peers and their clients. Undertake psychometric testing and present it with the candidate summary.
  6. Find candidates ethically. Advertise through normal channels, present opportunities that are available but do it in a manner that is respectful to both employers and candidates. Buyers are always looking and good candidates will find the adverts on LinkedIn, they will contact you directly, they will see something on Seek or on Facebook. You don’t need to slither through the back door looking for a cheap meal.

Employers have much responsibility

Sure, people are always looking for a better opportunity and fundamentally I have no objection to generic marketing to customers or potential customers. I’m all for a free labour market and acknowledge that it is our job as employers to provide an environment where team members are happy and are meeting their objectives.

If you are not doing that as an employer then it is reasonable to expect that your team will be unsatisfied and will be looking at alternatives. If you are an employee and you are not meeting your goals and objectives then it is incumbent on you to go and find a meaningful role that helps you do that.

It is the job of recruitment firms to create a positive experience for employers and employees. But to create that positive experience things need to change from the current paradigm. If employers start saying no more and candidates are more aware and call out bad behaviour then things will change. I hope they do.

I have hope that the sector changes so that both employers and employees can have a better recruitment experience.

Do you agree with my view? Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to read your comments!

Andrew Mattner is a director of Altitude Advisory, a South Australian business advisory and accountancy business and part of the Hub 39 group.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

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