I am not a recruiting apologist. I feel to best understand recruiting as an industry, one should recognize the glaring problems in the profession. Ignoring these shortcomings benefits no one and further deepens the divide. I also feel that recruiting is, by and far misunderstood, leading to frustration. There are people that hate recruiters and there are recruiters that will defend the industry under any circumstances. Those people are either 1) lying or 2) grossly unaware. Either way, recruiting brings out the worst in people. As well as the best. Let me explain.
No recruiter is perfect. We all make mistakes. I certainly do (every day it seems). To me, the severity of the mistakes depends on "intent." Was it an honest mistake? Did you truly forget to get back to someone? Or was the intent showing something else? Early on in my recruiting career, I was the worst. I wanted to do well, but considering the fact I didn't know that recruiting was even an industry until the interview, the actions didn't equal the intent. Most young recruiters resemble a baby deer trying to stand. Forget about walking....we just want to stand. There is a lot of pressure to produce, both from management AND the mortgage company. Decisions can be made selfishly, based on self-preservation. It is in *these selfish moments* that you learn most about yourself. It is in these moments that your career direction is forged, and your reputation is made. Do you learn from those mistakes? Do you recognize the difference in selfish intent and the true purpose of the job? Do you then pivot, take that experience, and figure out a better way? Or do you accept the results and make a results-oriented career? The two paths wildly diverge, resulting in the love/hate relationship that many have with the industry. The people that hate the industry might not always be correct, but it isn't like the industry doesn't give them plenty of basis to make an informed opinion.
What we can do for people can be life-changing. Several years ago, a candidate came to me. Out of work, an extremely ill wife, and a young daughter to take care of. Right from the beginning, my recruiter Spidey Sense was tingling:
Going to need understanding/flexibility for daycare and doctors visits (CHECK)
Criminal conviction (CHECK x 20)
Now, there isn't a single recruiter that would not appreciate that information up front. But it is what the recruiter chooses to do with that information, the path that they choose to take, that defines the intent of the recruiter. Do you recognize that it would be a hard sell to a client and 1) back away gracefully 2) back away honestly 3) never respond. OR do you take the additional 2 minutes and look at the situation empathetically?
*AUTHOR'S NOTE* This essay is not about me tooting my own horn. I have a point I promise. Stick with me for a bit.
I decided to see what I could do to help. If that were me, I would hope someone would take a chance on me, or at least think about it. In discussing with him, he told me the reason he was upfront about everything was he would find himself in the process with recruiters and companies, these facts would emerge, and then the opportunities would promptly end. I respected the fact he respected my time...the least I could do is return the respect and see how I could help. I asked for a list of all companies that had his resume, so I could eliminate options and brainstorm which of my clients might work. I presented him the list, we discussed options, and came up with a target list to pursue. Then, leveraging relationships I had built over time, I went to each client, presented the case, honestly and openly, to gauge interest. Only one firm was willing to meet with him.
He was weary about going on another interview only to be shot down for the same reasons as previously. We talked it through, made sure everyone was on the same page and he knocked the interview out of the park. He was upfront and honest about his home situation, his criminal past, and the interviewers appreciated it. They loved him. They understood the need for flexibility for his wife and child, and appreciated that he had moved on from his conviction and had built a career and life for himself...everyone made foolish mistakes as a kid. Only problem was, there was a bit of a snag with the criminal conviction. After much discussion with the client, I was able to work out a solution...some documentation for the hiring file about the circumstances of the situation, etc, which was promptly completed. One of the interviewers (who I knew personally) told me that they were in tears after hearing his story. An offer was made and promptly accepted.
See, recruiting is the best right? Now see how intent can play a part in making recruiting the worst.
The candidate, proud of his new role, updated his LinkedIn profile. Immediately his profile views went thru the roof with recruiters taking a look. A recruiter who had ghosted him almost immediately after resume submission sent him a text-
"Congrats on your new role. How did that come about."
The candidate explained that a recruiter had gotten him in there.
"You know, I had submitted you there."
(Recruiters, you know where this is going.)
The candidate responded that he did not know that. He said the recruiter never mentioned the firm to him and he had never agreed to be submitted there.
Immediately the candidate called me in a panic. "Was something wrong? Did I do something wrong? Is everything going to be ok? I need this job and I swear he never discussed the firm with me."
I assured him that, no matter what, his job would be safe and that we would wait and see how it played out. Five minutes later I got an email with the dreaded subject "Call me."
After a lengthy discussion with client HR, I was informed that this recruiter apparently had sent my candidate's resume to the client. He broke protocol and did not send to HR. There was also no job open at the time. Nor was there a response. But upon learning of hire, they wanted their fee. The full fee.
For those of you not in recruiting, the "spray and pray" method is the bane of any good/ethical recruiter's existence and accounts for 90% of all recruiting-related problems that candidates face. (One can even attribute ghosting to this, because once a recruiter submits a resume to a client only to find out 3 other recruiters have submitted it already, some recruiters simply move on without informing the candidate. I am not defending the practice (it's lazy) but this is one explanation.)
To recap, the recruiter:
Never discussed the firm or job with the candidate
Sent the resume without candidate permission
Did not follow protocol and send to HR
Did not submit the resume for an open job
Never followed up with the client regarding resume submission
Never followed up with the candidate about anything
And now wanted a full fee for the placement.
They pointed to their signed placement contract. Contracts for the most part place claim of resume ownership on whoever submitted the resume first. Truly progressive clients have their own placement agreements which recruiters must sign that stipulate the client has full discretion in placing resume ownership.
To her credit, HR pushed back on the recruiter, saying they didn't request resumes, they didn't submit to HR, apparently the candidate didn't know, etc. One of the recruiting firm's owner then called to state none of that mattered, a (vague) contract was still a contract. And they wanted their fee.
At this point, the client didn't want to get into the middle of a messy situation, and some internally discussed pulling the plug on the whole thing. I said "tell me what you want me to do." I asked both HR and the candidate. Both agreed that it wouldn't be fair to me because I guided this entire process to fruition. I offered to split it in an attempt for everyone to move on and alleviate the stress on the candidate. Keep in mind his wife was extremely ill and everyone was aware of this...everyone. The recruiting firm counter offered with a 90/10 fee split. Reluctantly I agreed...only for the sanity of my candidate. Extreme circumstances call for extreme solutions.
Unfortunately, soon after starting, the candidate's wife passed. No one got paid for the role. It still angers me that this recruiting firm filled the wife's last weeks with such unnecessary and vindictive stress. Knowingly.
This search services as a daily reminder to me why recruiters do what we do- the lives that are affected by every single decision we make as part of our jobs. No one should take that lightly or for granted. And it shows *why* some people hate recruiters so much. You can't tell them not to...some really deserve it.
Recruiters, when you are presented with situations (and you always are), take a second. Think "Are my actions in the best interest of the candidate? Or are my actions in *my* best interest?" And if the answer is ever you, get out of the industry. To those of you that make a career out of these selfish decisions, get out. To those of you still finding your way, do your best to not succumb to the pressures. But if you do, learn from them and become better recruiters because of them. Become better recruiters in spite of them. Become better. Be the recruiter that your candidate and client deserves. Let reputation and word of mouth take care of the other recruiters, because believe me, they'll find out one way or another. Don't just pretend the industry isn't flawed. Denials help no one. Just promote the positives as best you can through your actions.
If you have any questions about anything I discussed in the above article, looking for a job and/or working with a recruiter, just ask! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about me or my firm, please visit www.karpiakconsulting.com or www.linkedin.com/in/akarpiak I am always looking to network with good professionals that share my values in recruiting, so shoot me an invite if you agree with me (or at least Follow me)
If you're curious about my take on recruiting in social media, or if you want to see me yell at T-Mobile about my phone bill, you can follow me on Twitter @Adam_Karpiak
You can find job postings, as well as loads of content on Karpiak Consulting's Facebook page www.fb.com/karpiakconsulting Please "like" or follow the page to be kept up to date on all of new content daily. I re-post articles of interest I find online regarding recruiting & public accounting, and I also post emails & messages I get (redacted of course) regarding recruiting that I think are of interest, including stories from candidates about other recruiters doing bad/confusing things.