Dealing with rogue recruiters – are your recruiters legal or lethal?

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Recruiters are often subject to fair amount of bad press. Whilst I’d love to say that these negative typecasts are often unfounded, it would seem that in some cases, they’re rather more accurate than we would like to admit.

I’m talking again about the worrying trend of certain recruiters sending candidate CVs to companies without the owner’s permission. I’ve talked previously about how this behaviour damages the candidate’s reputation (Dealing with rogue recruiters – do you know where your CV’s heading?) but now I’m looking at it from a hiring manager’s perspective.

To start with, let’s reiterate the basics.

When a recruiter sends a candidate’s CV to a company without their permission, this is not simply a “slap on the wrist” situation. It is illegal. It is in breach of the Data Protection Act 1988, The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, and it contravenes APSCO’s and the REC’s Code of Conduct (if they’re a member, which most reputable recruiters are).

Any company which engages a recruitment agency does so on the basis of trust. Trust that the recruiter will work to find the right people for their vacancy, trust that they will deliver them in a timely and professional manner and trust that they will do so in an ethical and legal fashion.

When an unsolicited CV lands on the hiring manager’s desk, all these assumptions fly straight out the window. The CV may have been sourced in record time, and it may well be red-hot. But if it’s been sent without the knowledge of its owner, there is a critical link missing.

No matter how quickly the recruiter presents the CV, this is timewasting – as the candidate isn’t necessarily going to be interested in the position/company/salary/location… and the client will have no idea until the hiring process is well under way.

The main reason to engage a third-party recruiter is to remove the time-consuming element of hiring new staff. This, of course, is the sourcing and preliminary qualification of prospective candidates. It is the recruiter’s job to find prospective candidates, contact them, ensure they are a good fit for the role, brief them fully on what the role/company would require from them, and most importantly, confirm they are interested in progressing with this particular opportunity – at the salary stated.

If the recruiter fails to do this, they might as well not have turned up (and at that stage, their client probably wishes they hadn’t!)

Talented jobseekers, especially those with scarce tech skills AND a good work ethic, are game-changers for employers. They are the sort of people who transform your average recruiter into a hero overnight. So, it’s understandable that there is often fierce competition when it comes to representing them to the best employers – and this is where the less reputable and more mercenary recruiters start cutting corners. They want to be first over the line with the CV, and this means shaving time off wherever possible.

Why wait for the candidate’s permission when they can get in quick, and have a cup of tea later?

Besides wasting a hiring manager’s valuable time, there can also be other critical ramifications. For example, illegal submissions throw up questions as to who gets the Intro Fee when a candidate is hired. If a new employee’s CV was presented by more than one recruiter, is it really fair to rule that the first one to present the CV gets the fee, even if they’ve only done half a job (and have broken the law)? I would implore you to consider the other recruiter, who has I would implore you to consider the other recruiter, who has taken the time to diligently complete all checks. Even if they have taken a little longer, they’ve presented a fully qualified application – and gained the candidate’s express permission.

When a CV is presented by more than one recruiter, confusion and frustration can quickly ensue, drawing in all those involved throughout the selection process. Potentially, such a dispute could end with the client either forking out for two Introduction Fees, or costly legal representation to resolve matters. Thus, their coffers are emptied, more time is wasted and the employer’s reputation is left tarnished.

And all because of the underhand tactics of a greedy, lazy (or perhaps un-trained) recruiter.


What can you do?


  • When you’re receiving CVs from here, there and everywhere, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, start with the simple – don’t accept speculative CVs from agencies who are not approved or preferred suppliers to your business. They won’t have been through the requisite checks.


  • At screening or interview stage, ask the candidate their views on their recruiter. This is good practice anyway, to understand how fully they’ve been briefed (saving you time at interview) and how professionally your company is being presented.


  • If you learn that your approved/preferred suppliers are operating unethically or, in this case, illegally, then it’s probably time to reassess your company’s relationship with them. Even if they are apparently delivering the goods, they aren’t behaving correctly and could cause you problems in the future, so it’s certainly worth a formal warning. Give them a chance to mend their ways.


  • Check your Terms of Business. Whether you’re working to your company’s own terms, or the recruiter’s terms, consider adding a clause such as this:


If the Company receives a CV from more than one Recruiter, they shall deem that Candidate to have been introduced by the Recruiter only if a) they were the first to submit that Candidate’s CV to the Company, and b) the Introduction was made with the Candidate’s prior consent. Notwithstanding this clause, if a Candidate requests the Company in writing to deem another agency to have made the Introduction, then the Client reserves the right, if such request is considered reasonable, to deem the Recruiter not to have made the Introduction.


  • Ensure your recruiters are corporate members of the REC (Recruitment & Employment Confederation) or APSCO (the Association of Professional Staffing Companies), the largest professional UK membership bodies for the recruitment industry. Whilst this is no guarantee of professionalism, these recruiters are bound by additional codes of conduct, which go beyond what is required by law. These codes explicitly prohibit member companies sending CVs without their candidate’s permission, along with affording additional protection elsewhere.


  • Make it clear that you and your company won’t ever accept unpermitted profiles. Even if you’re under pressure to hire, consistency is key, so don’t leave room for doubt. Make sure all your hiring managers appreciate the consequences of dealing with dodgy recruiters, and understand that the (seemingly) easy decision of “I’ll deal with whoever presents the best CVs first” can lead to no end of problems, as well as wasted time.


  • Ethical recruiters will spend time ensuring they have permission, which inevitably will take them a little longer than simply plonking pilfered details on your desk. However, this will ultimately save time. Stick with the recruiters you know and trust. And if you don’t have such a relationship with a recruiter, then go and find one, taking referrals from colleagues or HR.


  • A good recruiter is of incalculable value to your business. Work with them, keep them on side and ensure you’re the first to see their very best candidates. If they’re penalised for doing things properly (and taking a little longer to fully qualify and interview applicants) they are less likely to prioritise your work.