Ethics and Behaviour – why are Agency types so bad?

Not all of them but………..

It has been an interesting week this week on a number of fronts. However what has stood out to me in the last few days is the poor, some might say desperate business practices and levels of communication that exist in the recruiting market. It would be good if I could actually say it is the few that spoil if for the majority, unfortunately it is the majority that cause the issues.

This week I have had direct experience of, witnessed and been informed about the kind of behavior that has no place in a mature and grown up business world and the kind of behavior that only fans the flames of discontent that many have with agencies

The first instance was when at my desk I received an email from someone we used to do business with when he worked for an agency we use. I politely wrote back pointing out that he knew for sure how we worked and further explaining that we don’t accept speculative CV’s, we have a PSL and we cannot do business with him or his company. I asked him to call me or email me in another year if he wanted to try for the PSL then. He obviously couldn’t wait (or read) and calls me in about 60 seconds of receiving the email. The call lasted about 30 seconds and he now knows there is no point in calling in a year either! Why did he do that?

The second issue came about via a contact of mine in The FIRM. I’ll call her Sue for simplicity. She has this week received an invoice from an individual who had set himself up as a one-man band agency, let’s call him Dave. The invoice came about because a few months ago he without any prior contact with Sue sent a speculative CV to her. At the time she apparently rejected the CV because there were no vacancies etc. No relationship or dialogue was established and Sue thought that was the end of it. Time moves on and in recent weeks a few vacancies have been approved and Sue engaged with a search firm to source for candidates for her. They are successful and make the necessary hires. Sue then receives an invoice out of the blue from Dave for one of the placements, claiming a fee as a result of the speculative CV sent months before. No communication at all just an invoice. Why is this happening?

The question of how valid are speculative CV’s? has come up a number of times this week. It seems to be happening more and more. Is it a sign that agency people (I refuse to called them recruiters or consultants – they are neither) are desperate and are willing to try anything to generate business, regardless of how unethical it is? Whilst the practice has been common since agencies first existed, I am seeing an increase. Whilst sympathetic to their plight, these “send and hope” method is not the way to go about things; it is lazy and certainly will never justify a fee!

In the UK, companies are under no obligation to pay a fee to an agency unless they have received written instruction from an authorised source at a company instructing them to work on a specific vacancy and to submit CVs for it. So why do agencies continue to send them? Especially in today’s world where getting in contact with someone we want to speak with is but a few clicks away!

I also read some appalling immature comments online about an article in this month’s Recruiter magazine. Under the heading Consultants? Pah! a columnist who apparently happens to be an in-house recruiter made some contentious comments in her column. I personally don’t agree with some of what she said or her tone, but there were one or two comments made as feedback that came from the very people that give agencies a bad name; they showed a very poor level emotional maturity considering the in-house community they attack happen to be their customers! Now we know who they are. I expect in house recruiters will make their own conclusions about the value of doing business with such immature people.

Whist we are not obliged to educate the agencies and their staff I believe that if we want to improve the levels of service we have to help them help us.

I for one am open to having open discussions with any CEO, Owner or resposible managment of a company that provides sourcing or recruiting services, if it will help. The members of The FIRM are already participating in panel discussions with agencies to try and help them understand what is expected of them and how to go about delivering it.

Agencies have a place; bad practice and unethical behavior doesn’t.

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