The recruiter ‘moneypot’ (or, why people don’t like recruiters)

Last week I shared the best recruitment article I’ve ever read, which documented the ethical deficiencies of many agency recruiters with damning, real evidence. A classic honeypot.

One of the big issues was the repeated examples of recruiters poaching staff from the very company they were trying to work with. Poor form, and a practice that contributes massively to the cynicism and mistrust many people hold towards the recruitment industry.

So I was blown away when I saw a tweet yesterday, referencing an article from last month with some chest-beating from an agency recruiter about this exact practice: ‘When is a client not a client?

The author is a ‘passionate recruiter’ who despises ‘the cowboy recruiters who give the industry a bad name’. That’s a good start.

But this post is a brazen ‘you’re either with me or against me’ statement to justify when and how he draws the line between real clients, and ‘fair game’ for poaching staff.

As he says:

Companies in my marketplace broadly fall into two categories. I will either be working with them (i.e. a client), or they are a source of candidates.

Fair enough, perhaps. But then how to decide who’s a bona-fide client, and just some bozo who may have paid me once but isn’t a current favourite?

It is not just because they have called out of the blue and given me a job spec to work on, especially on a contingent basis. Similarly, just because we did some business together  at some point in the past, it doesn’t necessarily make them a client today. And they are definitely, absolutely and categorically not a client if  terms and fees have not been agreed and signed.

And in case there was any confusion…

The reality is that unless we have agreed to terms, have them signed and are working together, or at least speaking, on a regular basis then you are not a client. Sure, we can change that if it suits us both. But until then, if I do place one of your staff elsewhere, ….sorry, it is not my problem.

Now, I’ve met Luke and he seems like a pretty nice guy. This is nothing personal. But it does feel like he’s opened hunting season on anyone who’s not currently paying a bill. I’d go further and argue it’s exactly the type of attitude that ‘gives the industry a bad name’.

What’s wrong with this, specifically?

Well, let’s imagine a few examples:

You’re a small company who only hires 1-2 people a year. You work with a recruiter on one of the roles, but 6 months later get a great personal referral for the other hire. 

→ Not currently hiring? Not A Client. Fair Game.

You use recruiters for senior management roles, but recruit entry-level roles internally. A recruiter gets to know your management team while placing a role. But you go a few months without any movement at the top. 

→ No executive movement? Not A Client. Fair Game.

One of your best staff moves interstate so needs to find a new role. You refer them to a recruiter, who helps them find work (and picks up a hefty fee in the process). That recruiter picked up some juicy insights about your company from the departing employee.

→ Just did a favour? Not A Client. Fair Game.

To be clear, Fair Game means everything you’ve shared with a recruiter, all the connections they’ve made with your business and staff, will now be used to poach them for other roles.

I know for a fact not all recruiters would take this approach. But the actions of a few easily ‘tarnish everyone with the same brush’.

And you wonder why people don’t trust traditional recruiters.