Monday, 23 November 2009

Rogue agencies: the ticket touts of the recruitment world

We all know the scenario.

It's rock festival time, and the tickets are certain to sell like hot cakes. You want to make sure of getting your tickets for the must-see show of the year, so you find the glossy site on the internet, provide your credit card details, click submit and wait.

And wait.

And eventually it dawns on you that you've been had. You've fallen victim to a dodgy outfit who have sold you non-existent tickets that they were never authorised to sell.

Nothing like that would ever happen in HR would it?

Sadly, it's becoming common practice.

During the last week I have seen at least two online job adverts (by agencies of varying size and reputation) where they are advertising vacancies for hiring organisations, perhaps not without the permission of the organisation, but where it has been made perfectly clear to the agency that any CVs that are submitted will only be reviewed once the in-house campaign has run its course. If the in-house campaign is successful, no CVs will be requested from the agency.

So, any application submitted to the agency rather than the hiring organisation is likely to be merely seed cast onto stony ground.

In a job market where it's challenging enough already, to confuse, mislead (and possibly deceive) applicants in this way is far from helpful if not downright mischievous.

It wouldn't be difficult to stop either, would it!

  • Any suggestions?


  1. A perplexing problem indeed. Feels like it should be simple to resolve. But when you start to think about it the trickier it gets.

    Let’s work through this logically:
    1) An organisation decides to advertise a position but, just in case they don’t get the response they require, they tip the wink to a couple of agencies as a fall back position.
    2) Agencies keen to be able to help organisation out if they need to go to plan B
    3) To advertise or not? Hmm this is where it gets tricky.
    One agency decides to:
    • advertise without telling the candidates that actually they will only be supplying CVs if the direct campaign fails – outcome: they get candidates but candidates may be unwittingly wasting their time
    The other agency decides to:
    • advertise but state the exact situation. Potential applicants don’t bother applying as why would they waste their time and then spend the rest of their time trying to work out who is recruiting in order that they can apply directly. Oh and probably apply for the role advertised with the other agency mentioned above
    4) Organisation asks agency not to advertise the role – but then how to do they police this? Have one of the team trawling through websites and publications for vacancies entitled ‘HR Officer in the North West’ and then ringing up under an alias?

    I could go on (but I won’t).

    You could argue that people looking for jobs have the opportunity to apply for as many positions as they wish, advertised directly or not. If they haven’t spotted the advert in the press (because it was in the local paper or on an obscure jobsite) then applying to the agency may open up an opportunity that they otherwise would have missed out on.

    Perhaps there should be a Code of Conduct for all things recruitment – including things like:
    Employers/agencies should:
    Tell the truth to candidates
    Don’t big up the job
    Be up front about the bad bits
    Candidates should:
    Be honest about their experience
    Have the courtesy to turn up for interviews
    but then we all know that this would be a non starter!!

    I guess the moral of the story is – it’s a full time job applying for a position and the more research you can do the better. Spread as many seeds as you can and hope that you don’t just find the stony ground.


  2. EBTG:

    I just wonder if there isn't a simple solution which is just for a recruiting agency to put aline at the bottom of any advert that they place which says:

    ABC recruitment can confrim that they have been retained by XYZ industries as sole agent in the sourcing of this position.

    When that isn't there, the applicant can safely assume that either other agencies are involved, or the organisation is attempting to fill it independently.

  3. But if the comment isn't there - how can you tell which of the two scenario's it is? You may still be applying for nothing.

    And then what about those cheeky agencies who spot an advert in the press and just include it on their long list of positions. Get some candidates and then contact the company concerned. Seen a few of them in my time!!