Defence Against the Dark Arts of Recruitment

Thankfully, the Wolf of Wall Street days are somewhat behind us.

The eighties gave us lots of good stuff. This is Spinal Tap was out in cinemas and Aston Villa became Champions of Europe.

But, more specifically to recruitment, it also gave us some pretty bad stuff. Power hours. The hard sell. 300 calls in a day. Boiler room environments full of people scared to sit down, let alone put the phone down. I won’t mention the shoulder pads, let’s move on.

Because GDPR will be in full force soon. Making it punishable by public flogging to contact anyone you haven’t asked permission of. But despite the impending legalities, people are already sick of mailshots.

Even if you do the honour of including [Insert First Name] they’re lazy, formulaic and often unimaginative.

Recruiters who send mailshots have very seldom read any sales writing. They haven’t read any of these books. And often, they’re simply completing a KPI.

But, there are still some bad practices that slip through the net. Some of the below are definitely still in full force.

If this is you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. And if your boss is adamant this is how recruitment’s done, here’s a secret they don’t want you to know: It’s not. 

1. Demanding references

Obtaining references for a candidate is good practice. You need to know they can do what they claim on their CV.

What’s not good practice is running off the line “before I send your CV I need to take two references.”

A lot of candidates won’t realise their old managers will be sold to almost as soon as you get a name. The candidate call is merely an entry to BD.

Asking for references before sending a CV is questionable. It’s not a bad thing to build rapport with a Managers who recruit the same skill you offer. But asking for someone you have no intention of placing is a negative.

You’ll also look pretty bad if you’re called out for it by a potential client.

Here’s how to do it better.

2. ‘Rusing’

‘Rusing’ is a practice that arose pre-LinkedIn. It’s essentially calling a client and pretending to be from the same company in order to get information. This, on the face of it, isn’t the end of the world. But it doesn’t exactly scream professional.

Many agencies that practice ‘rusing’ will almost certainly pin it on the Researcher. They need to find out the best person to send CVs to, so the Consultants can get on with the ‘champagne stuff’… like sending the email.

But whether you pretend to be a candidate, colleague or family member, there are much better ways to network.

Here’s how to do it better.

3. Fake profiles

This is a practice you’d hope was over, but it’s definitely not. And it comes in many forms.

Firstly, there’s creating a fake CV to put onto a job board with the intention of jobs being emailed across to you with details on.

Secondly there are those who send fake candidates to a client. Done with the intention of gaining interest from a hiring manager that doesn’t currently use you, with a CV that ticks every box.

Thirdly, creating a profile for a Recruiter in order to direct flack away from you. It’s not hard to fake a profile on LinkedIn, or create a different email address for a fake employee in your business. And in doing this agencies can spam away without fear of personal reprehension.

Here’s how to do it better.

4. Advertising fake jobs

I’d guess this practice still happens at an incredibly large number of agencies.

It’s obviously wrong to place an ad for a job that doesn’t exist. The reason it happens? Because within minutes you’ll have a large list of active candidates, all looking to speak to you. You can then market these out and reverse engineer the placement.

On the flip side of the argument there’s a difficulty in keeping track of every job ad you place. Most CRMs will place ads across many websites. And managing individual ads is probably impossible without logging in to each website directly.

Similarly, because of the sometimes labour intensive job of recruitment, it’s unlikely your top priority will be to take down an ad once it’s filled.

On balance, for true recruitment specialists, I’d question whether it’s wrong to have an ad online for a skill you’ll always need? But, if you get caught out advertising a job which never existed, you’ll look pretty bad.

Here’s how to do it better.

5. Changing CVs

This is another practice which has two arguments.

Outside of changing fonts, I’ve spoken to candidates and clients in the past that have specifically asked me to change job titles and include skills they may have omitted on a CV to represent their target job more closely.

Their ‘official’ job titles may be more whimsical than needed, and many hiring managers will take a mere 30 seconds to ‘first glance’ a CV. This is worth thinking about for anyone with ‘Rockstar’ as a job title. Not many recruiters are going to search for that job title on job boards or social networks.

That aside however, changing a CV in any other aspect is clearly not advisable.

This includes adding skills not used previously, changing tenures or anything simply not factual. As with any document, you’re likely to ‘spell check’ before sending. Whether or not that’s best practice I’m undecided on. You’re not hiding an inability to spell. You’re hiding an accidental omittance of clicking spell check.

Here’s how to do it better.

6. “They have other offers”

This is another practice that’s probably done by most Recruiters to some degree.

Saying a candidate has other offers in order to force a decision probably isn’t too bad. Equally telling a candidate there are other people in the process (whether you know that or not) probably isn’t too bad. Nine times out of ten, there will be. And a candidate becoming lax about an interview’s avoidable.

The line’s probably drawn when there’s an outright lie portrayed as fact. For example, telling a client they need to make a decision by a certain point may create unnecessary haste and negatively affect a decision.

Here’s how to do it better.

7. Sending a candidate without permission

Some candidates, usually the more desperate, won’t grumble if their CV ends up at multiple companies. The trouble is, where there’s a number of agencies representing a candidate, often the CV just won’t be considered.

Any decent recruiter will know the pain of speaking in depth about a client and job, sending a CV, only to be told you’re late to the party.

If you send a CV without asking or even speaking to the candidate, everyone will find out that’s what you’ve done. And if your name isn’t dragged through the mud, because you’ve created a fake email account, your employer’s will.

Here’s how to do it better.

8. “Where are you interviewing?”

This question can start a game of cat and mouse. Firstly, if a candidate tells you openly where they’ve been interviewing, you can bet every other recruiter they speak to knows about your job too.

It’s important to know what else a candidate has on.

Recruitment’s a sales job. Therefore it’s reasonable to try and understand your competition. What’s not fair is finding out the companies and immediately sending over a different candidate to oust the one you’ve just spoken to.

Here’s how to do it better.


Staying on the right side of these practices will show your network you’re ethical and have everyone’s interests at heart. Get a name for doing them and you’ll likely be called out. If not in person, then on the phone or worse a public forum.


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