Recruitment is a cut-throat industry at times; experienced and inexperienced candidates alike can unwittingly fall into the same traps over and over again as they tread the job boards in search of their next contract.
In this article, I explore some of the common pitfalls and half-truths and suggest simple ways to protect your professional integrity and preserve your sanity.
The “2nd Wave”
What’s the setup? Recruiters know that clients can be a picky bunch at times; so they always need to be ready at short notice with a 2nd wave of candidates, if the 1st batch all get rejected. Some unscrupulous recruiters will promise to submit you to the client, but the reality is that they are keeping you in reserve for the 2nd wave.
How to spot it? If a recruiter wants to represent you to a client, they will normally need to ask for your written permission to submit your details. If they have not asked you for this, then consider following up.
How to avoid it? The simplest approach is to ask the question, “Have 1st round candidates already been submitted for this role?” You should also ask when the client is due to provide feedback and call the following day to check progress. It demonstrates to the recruiter that you know how the process works, as well.
What’s the setup? Some recruiters periodically put out adverts for non-existent jobs in order to harvest fresh CVs to put in front of their clients speculatively; it can also help a recruiter to spot which companies are likely to have vacancies coming up (i.e. if you’ve stated in your application that you’re available at 1 week notice, you’re potentially broadcasting to the recruiter that your current employer will need to recruit to replace you within the next month or two).
How to spot it? The giveaway is normally in the wording of the advert. If the specification is particularly generic, references multiple types of roles (e.g. advertising for project and programme managers), covers a very wide geographical area (e.g. Yorkshire, Midlands, et cetera), and gives very wide salary ranges, then it is unlikely to be a genuine job.
How to avoid it? Depending on your circumstances, you might still be happy to submit your CV anyway; but just don’t get your hopes up!
The “Promiscuous Client” (aka the “PSL Quandry”)
What’s the setup? Sometimes it is the client that creates the headache for both the recruiter and the candidate! Certain clients will outsource a single role to several recruiters which inevitably results in different recruiters chasing the same candidates; this effect can be further compounded by unscrupulous recruiters posting copycat adverts to harvest the same group of candidates, and proactively undercutting the competition by approaching the client.
How to spot it? Although you may have your suspicions when you come across some similar adverts on the job boards, the proof will be when you receive calls from different agents in quick succession about the same client.
How to avoid it? In this situation, the tables are turned slightly, and you may be able to create some leverage. The first question to ask is, “Is your recruitment consultancy on the Preferred Supplier List (PSL) for the client?” If not, do some investigation; perhaps call the client, or call around other recruiters. The second question to ask is, “Will you put me forward as a 1st round candidate?” Some clients place an upper threshold on the number of candidates that each recruiter can submit; if you responded to the advert too slowly, some of the recruiters will have used up their allocation, but others may still have places to fill.
The “Exclusivity Illusion”
What’s the setup? You may receive a proactive call from a recruiter who describes a client who is likely to be recruiting in the near future. The recruiter claims to have an exclusive relationship with inside contacts to supply candidates, but then you subsequently discover that the roles are being advertised elsewhere.
How to spot it? You should always take any claims of exclusivity in recruitment with a “pinch of salt”. Clients sometimes play “fast and loose” themselves, and whilst a particular client representative may genuinely have an exclusive relationship, a separate part of the business, or the HR department may take a different view and work with other recruiters.
How to avoid it? Sometimes, these types of introductions can work in your favour; but unless you have confirmed that the recruiter is on the Preferred Supplier List, and you have written evidence that your CV has been submitted for a specific role, then do not commit to any exclusivity with the recruiter.
In summary, playing the job boards can be a difficult game at times; for candidates, recruiters, and clients alike. Remember to ask the right questions at the right time, and keep your wits about you. Also, remember that there are plenty of good recruiters out there; the trick is to identify the best ones through personal recommendations and experience, and cultivate lasting relationships; this isn’t the last time you will be out of contract!
This article was penned by Peter Roy.