Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: The Case of The Over Zealous Recruiter

This  posting is what actually happened to a candidate a few years ago.  And, yes, it really did happen.  You can’t make this stuff up.

The head of account management at an agency gave me an assignment to find someone to run a major car account.  It was obviously a very senior job.  I came up with a great idea for a candidate, Jim.  I called him, got his permission to submit him and sent his résumé.  The client and I agreed on a time and date for them to meet.  The interview was confirmed and would take place on the following Monday at 10am. 

On Wednesday I briefed  Jim.  We discussed the job and I told him what to expect during the interview, and then I left for a long weekend of skiing.  On Friday morning, at the end of my first run, I called my office to find a very distressed message from Jim.  It seems that another recruiter had called him on this job, told him  that he had an exclusive and that I could not represent the candidate.  The candidate further went on to tell me that the other recruiter had insisted that only he was now representing my candidate and I was no longer involved. Needless to say, I was upset and quite perplexed.

I immediately called my client and found out that, indeed, the new president of the agency (it just happened that week and had not yet been announced publicly) had given the assignment to another recruiter. The president was unaware of my relationship with the head of account management, who also happened to head the automotive account.  My client (the head of account management) reassured me that I still had the assignment, that I was his preferred recruiter and he would be seeing my candidate on Monday morning as originally scheduled.  He told me he would handle it internally and with the other recruiter.

I called my candidate back, reassured him, reconfirmed the appointment and continued skiing.

I wrote the incident off as merely an aggressive competitor and spent a lovely weekend in Vermont.  On Monday,  I had not heard from my candidate by about noon, which I took to be a good sign.  Long interviews are generally positive.  At a little after noon, Jim actually stopped dropped by my office since it was just a block away from the client’s office. Boy, was I surprised when my candidate told me why his interview ended more than two hours after the scheduled start.

It seems that when Jim showed up for his 10am appointment, my client was unavailable and in another meeting.  After waiting a few minutes, the administrative assistant came out to the reception area and asked my candidate why he was there.  My candidate said that he had an appointment.  “No,” the admin said, “you called me Friday and canceled.”  He couldn't believe what he was hearing but immediately knew what happened.  He, of course, had not made the call.  He explained the situation.  He was told to wait and, after a few minutes, was informed he would be seen at 11.

When Jim told me what happened, I was as shocked as he was.  Nothing like it has ever happened before or since.  With Jim still in my office, I went to the phone and called the other recruiter’s boss, with whom I had had a long-term relationship.  Her comment about her employee, “I guess he was being a little aggressive.”  I was flabbergasted that another recruiter would permit this kind of behavior.  If the offending recruiter had worked for me, he would have been terminated without any discussion.

It takes all kinds.... 

The end of the story is that all’s well that ends well.  Jim got the job.  I subsequently learned that the other recruiter actually sent an invoice to the president of the agency.  He did not get paid.  What I cannot believe is that the president of the agency continued to use the other recruiter.

I have never understood why recruiters are not held to higher standards by the firms who hire them. 


  1. What do you as the 'recruited' do about an aggressive recruiter. I am not in the job market. My only means on contact are through linkedin and other job sites where only I am only contactable through their site or at most my private email address, and yet, this is the second time I have been contacted by a recruiter at my current place of employment, which I find highly unprofessional.

    Through some web research, I have found out that recruiters keep a blacklist on you, the possible job-seeker, but there is no blacklist for bad recruiters. I don't want this person calling me at home (I have an unusual last name, so I am not hard to find), or at work. How can I get them to stop, without them putting me on the recruiting blacklist?

    1. @Verbally Challenged. First of all, I have been recruiting for many years and run one of the most successful headhunting firms in advertising. I would like to see your web research because I have never heard of a recruiters' blacklist.

      Therefore you should not be concerned about telling this recruiter your preferences. Tell him or her that you are not looking and that you do not wish to be contacted at the office. If they have a good data base they will note that in your file. There should be no harm done

      I should tell you that until the advent of the internet, only a few short years ago, all recruiters contacted candidates at their offices. It was part of the :game" and relatively harmless. However, now with sites like LinkedIn it is fairly easy to contact potential candidates. You are under no obligation to respond. I still leave potential candidates phone mail messages to contact me and they respond most of the time. It is not unprofessional at all.

      However, in fairness, the best time to see a reputable recruiter is when you are not looking. That way you are free to be totally honest in your needs and wants and, if the recruiter is good and you like him or her, it is a wonderful opportunity to establish a beneficial long term relationship.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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