Why is the Recruitment Industry Rotten to the Core? PART 3: Unethical Tactics and Practices

The vast majority of recruitment agencies and recruiters place little or no value on ethics, candidates or clients. In my opinion they care only about two things - the ‘billing cycle’ and their commission.

In this editorial I’m going to talk about the unethical practices and tactics that I have witnessed within the industry including the short sightedness, lack of passion and absence of genuine interest for the sectors they recruit in.

Whether you’re a temporary/freelance worker, a hiring manger, a director or work in HR I am certain you will have your eyes opened.

Now I understand that businesses have to make money to survive but in my opinion success is not solely measured on profit. When I formed CAS Recruitment I wanted (and still do) to make a positive change in the way the recruitment market operates. As an aircraft engineer who has worked on a freelance basis for many recruiters over the years, I have been appalled on more than one occasion at the way my colleagues and I have been treat. I decided from the outset that CAS Recruitment would always be ethically lead and decisions would always be based on what is best for our clients and candidates ensuring that we stay true to our core values of integrity, honesty and transparency.

As this is a very broad and complex topic, it encompasses the subject matters of many other articles. Please keep in mind that these other topics will also be discussed in depth in my upcoming editorials.

The blocking of freelance and temporary workers

The perception of the recruitment industry is that it is fiercely competitive. While this is true, don’t be fooled into thinking that recruiters don’t speak to each other or collaborate with one another because they do.

‘Blocking’ and ‘lock down’ of freelance or temporary workers is quite common but rarely spoken about. In the political arena it’s actually known as horse-trading. The definition is:

Unofficial discussion in which people make agreements that provide both sides with advantages”

How it operates:

Let’s take two recruiters from different agencies. Each are serving two different clients within a certain geographical location and the skill set they both require is quite niche.

After a quick chat they agree to the following:

- Neither will actively target any of the others freelance or temporary workers to fill the positions they have available.

- Neither will hire a temporary or freelance worker that approaches them directly if they are currently under assignment with the other recruiter.

- Both will agree a set pay rate for the temporary or freelance workers and also agree that they will not compete with one another by increasing hourly rates.

Recruiters do this because it saves them time and effort replacing freelance or temp workers that leave to work for other recruiters/businesses. It also allows them to focus their time on their core goal, which is placing more candidates, increasing their billing amount and commission.

Triple Rusing

This is becoming a worrying trend among certain technical recruiters at the moment and is a good example of the unethical and immoral lengths some are willing to stoop to.

How it operates:

Take two different recruiters who are serving the same client with freelance or temporary workers. The client has no requirement for any more workers at this time.

Recruiter A wants to increase the freelance or temporary workers he has on the clients site, but because there is no requirement the following happens:

Recruiter A calls one of his/her freelance or temporary workers who is currently working on site for the client. The conversation may go like this;

Recruiter A: “Hi Mr Bloggs, how are you and how’s things going down at client site at the moment?”

Mr Bloggs (Freelance/temp): “Yeah everything is fine Recruiter A. All is going well. We are quite busy at the moment.”

Recruiter A: “I was speaking to Mr Smith the other day and he said that Davey Jones is there with Recruiter B.”

Mr Bloggs: “No Davey Jones is working at ABC at the moment but Bart Simpson, Tina Turner and Stephen Hawking are here with Recruiter B.”

Recruiter A: “Ah okay Mr Bloggs, well I am pleased it’s going well. Just thought I would give you a call to get your thoughts on how it’s going as I value your opinion. (etc.)”

From this one conversation Recruiter A has discovered the following information:

Davey Jones is working for client ABC so they might need more workers.

This has generated a lead but does not stop there.

Recruiter A now calls Tina Turner who is working for Recruiter B and offers her a job which has an excellent hourly rate, great benefits and mentions he needs about 3 workers.

Tina Turner tells her Friends Bart and Steve about the new job. The rate is fantastic, the benefits are great and the job is closer to home. They decide it would be in their best interest to go for the new job offered by Recruiter A.

Recruiter A tells Tina, Bart and Steve about the job and gives them a start date in two weeks time.

Now because Tina, Bart and Steve are professional they go to see who ever they report to on their current job in order to give as much notice as possible.

To their surprise though - the line manger already knows that they are leaving.

Recruiter A has already called the hiring manger and explained that Tina, Bart and Steve are leaving but not to worry! He conveniently has great replacement candidates ready to fill the positions immediately. The client is relieved because it means less of an interruption to their schedule.

Here’s the catch:

Just as Tina, Bart and Steve are about to leave they get a call from Recruiter A explaining that unfortunately the client has put the job back or it has been cancelled.

The truth of the matter is that there was never a job for Tina, Bart or Steve. Recruiter A just wanted to increase his monthly billings by replacing them with workers generating him revenue and commission. The fact that Bart, Tina and Steve are out of work now is of no concern to Recruiter A.

I don’t feel I need to explain how the triple ruse is unethical, immoral and bad for clients and candidates – its self explanatory. 

Black lists

We are told repeatedly that blacklists among recruitment agencies do not exist, but many people that work on a freelance or temporary basis will know first hand that they do.

On more than one occasion I have been told by recruiters that they do exist. After all, recruitment agencies are known to communicate among themselves regarding who to hire and to not to hire.

Freedom to speak or whistle blow lockdown.

It’s not surprising that recruiters and recruitment agencies do not like to be questioned by candidates on their unethical or immoral behavior. If any candidate or freelancer/temp worker chooses to speak up (be it via social media or in a closed group or forum) it’s not unheard of for them to lose their job.

I have experienced this first hand as an aircraft engineer after commenting on a post that was circulating social media.

The post in question was highlighting a horrendous job advert from a recruitment agency who was looking to hire aircraft mechanics for airline ‘X’ (they openly stated the name of the airline) and that no aircraft experience was required for the position.

I voiced my concerns over the safety of such an approach and questioned whether airline ‘X’ was aware of their recruitment practices.

The agency in question (whom I was working for at the time with a different airline) immediately contacted the director of maintenance and told him that they wanted me fired for the comment.

The director of maintenance then phoned the station engineer where I was working and explained that he would have to let me go because I had publicly questioned the recruiters job advert. Thankfully for me the station engineer dug his heels in and said that I was a valued engineer and that he was not prepared to let me go because of a comment. He also shared my concerns that the job advert was not only ridiculous but should have never been placed.

How many freelance/temp workers have not been as fortunate as myself in this position?

Zero hour contracts where there is only a stick and no carrot

Although zero hour contracts (if used correctly) could have a place in the employment market, today they are systematically abused by unscrupulous recruitment agencies and some employers. They are used as yet another management tool to penalize freelance or temporary workers for a variety of reasons. If they don’t jump through every hoop that the recruitment agency hands out, they will often find that their hours for the following week have been reduced or given to someone else in an attempt to send a clear message.

Personally I feel that zero hour contracts should be made illegal and I can safely say that they would never be utilised here at CAS Recruitment Recruitment.

These unethical and immoral lengths that recruiters and recruitment agencies will go to not only restrict the clients ability to source skilled workers but to create a monopolistic environment for candidates that decreases hourly rates and does not allow them freedom to move where they choose.

I welcome opinions from both sides of the debate. What are your thoughts?

This article is the 3rd instalment of my editorial series ‘Why is the Recruitment Industry Rotten to the Core?’ 

Click here for Part 1: Why is the Recruitment Industry Rotten to the Core?

Click here for Part 2: The Skill Shortage Myth

Click here to read part 4Damage to Clients and their Industries with Potential Fatal Consequences.

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