Recruiters… Ever had a Client backdoor you?

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while… just a little too nervous to let fly.

After all, some of my clients have admitted to reading this blog… and… to be quite honest… upsetting my clients = no business.

Anyway, imagine this if you will…

bad-client1I make contact with a candidate who fits my client’s requirements to the letter – could not be more perfect!

So, I complete a thorough (but fair) interview. During the interview the candidate tells me that he interviewed with the hiring manager about a year ago – when the hiring manager was recruiting for a different role, at a different company… remember that… at a different company.

I call the HR Manager and tell him that I have this amazeballs candidate. I tell him that this candidate covers off every competency, skill, personality trait and experience level that they have been looking for. I tell the HR Manager the candidate’s name and ask them if they have interviewed, or received a direct application from my candidate… I’ve used the word candidate far too many times already… let’s start calling him Duane… So, the HR Manager tells me that he’s never heard of Duane. In turn, I tell the HR Manager that Duane met with the hiring manager… let’s call her Mata Hari… when she was working for her previous employer and would that be a problem? I received an emphatic… ‘No!’

I emailed the profile over immediately. I followed up twice over the next 24 hours, and again the following day. Finally, the HR Manager returned my call. (Let’s give him a name too… how about Louis Tully?).

‘Hi Craig. Louis Tully here, sorry I keep missing your call.’

‘Not a problem Louis. I just wanted to tee up an interview for Duane – with yourself and Mata – as soon as possible.’ I began confidently enough.

‘Ahhh… yes… about that…’ Here we go… ‘I spoke with Mata, and she said that she’s not prepared to accept an introduction from you in relation to Duane as he is already in her network…’

What!? I thought. ‘What?’ I said.

bad_client2‘Yes, Mata tells me that she is already connected to Duane on Linked In, and if she had have known that Duane was interested in the role she would have contacted him directly.’

But, she didn’t… I thought. ‘But, she didn’t.’ I said, or implored, or screeched. Whatever it was, it was definitely an octave higher than my previous utterance.

‘Be that as it may,’ Be that as it may? Who says that? ‘Mata won’t accept the referral. Mata also said that Duane is probably not quite right for the role anyway, and won’t fit our culture…’

I don’t really remember much more of the conversation. Let’s just say that the culture must have changed, because 2 weeks later Duane was employed by Mata for the exact role I had represented him for…

So, what are my options? I could say that by accepting the profile binds you to our terms of business, which are clearly laid out in sub-section blah, blah, blah of our commercial arrangement. I could sack them as a client, and headhunt the hell out of them, or I could look at what this business spent with me over the past couple of years and let this one slide…

I’m not going to tell you what I did, I want you to tell me what you’d do… comments below please!

Craig Watson


23 thoughts on “Recruiters… Ever had a Client backdoor you?

  1. Ashleigh on Reply

    TOB’s and Contracts are there for a reason I would utilise them, otherwise you are setting unrealistic expectations and unclear guidelines for this client and any future clients that feel they can use this excuse/method as well.

  2. Glenn Willow on Reply

    Great Blog! One of the best I’ve read. Linked In has opened up a can of worms for ‘backdooring’ clients. Maybe we need to tighten up our tob’s. Whatever we do – I hope Duane is so good at his job that he makes Mata Hari redundant, and when she comes to you for her next opportunity you tell her that you don’t represent unethical backdoorers.
    Also, great sneaky use of Louis Tully, but I admit I had to Google the name. Keep up the great work!

  3. Debbie Capuano on Reply

    To be honest, I couldn’t help but send an invoice regardless. The reality is Mata wouldn’t have secured that candidate other than you referring him through, and also given that Louis had given you the go ahead to send through the referral – it all adds up to a well deserved fee! At the end of the day we need our clients, but we also need them to respect the work we do for them and not blatantly disregard us when we do it well.

  4. MelbRecruiter on Reply

    I would have serious concerns about the candidate too, with that behavour. That would make double the reason I wouldn’t deal with them.

  5. James Marroun on Reply

    This has happened to me on a number of occasions, I simply play good cop bad cop routine,
    Once we find out a candidate has been placed (through the back door) my accounts department send through an invoice,
    Once the hiring Manager gets involved with our accounts department and some terms and conditions are made clear (the riot act being read!!) it usually accelerates to higher management say GM,
    Once me and the GM get talking I make it out like I dint know, he also plays stupid, at this point we are both apologetic, then the negotiations begin
    A lot of times we might agree for half the placement fee, I’ve had the whole fee bad a couple of times, but to a real good clients I will not charge a fee even if the GM insists, At that point I have them eating out of my hand and they feel the sense of owing us something and usually not to far down the track we get approached for another placement.

  6. toscamaster on Reply

    Good post Craig,
    Has anyone ever used a Representation Agreement? I have one in my files but have never used it. It is signed by Candidates to confer exclusivity to the recruiter for placing the Candidate into a specific company, or associated entity, for a specified job for a specified period of time.
    My own system is that clients (Hiring Manager and Final Decision Maker plus others if appropriate) go through a 15-20 minute briefing process that reveals their individual thoughts and automatically draws those thoughts together as the team’s weighted rankings of required attributes. An interesting side benefit is client team commitment to the ranking and hence the recruiter.

  7. Stephen Simpson on Reply

    My manager has always told me it’s not our job to remind people of who they know, but to find the right candidate that will fulfil their requirement. As long as the candidate was not submitted for the same position within the past 12 months (either via a direct application or another recruitment company) and the client agreed to accept the initial introduction, then I would hold them to our terms and send the invoice.
    Although I appreciate maintain a positive relationship is good business practice, I agree with Ashleigh that clear guidelines need to be set. And lets be honest, if they wanted to maintain a good relationship between both companies, then they wouldn’t have lied to you by saying the candidate would not fit the culture of the business and then recruit them.

  8. stuhaddow on Reply

    I’ve experienced this a few times. When you work in a specific industry for long enough it seems that connections and relationships between key people can develop on their own after we seed them.

    By way of example, one of my clients employed a candidate I courted and presented only a year earlier. There was no prior relationship between my candidate and any one of my client employees. The candidate contacted the Global Sales Director a year after I had presented him. He did this without my knowledge and successfully secured the senior position I had previously put him forward for. The original courting exercise was pretty extensive and included both on-site and off-site meetings after which my Candidate was offered the job. Although he declined at that time, both parties would probably feel that they had a warm relationship.

    So, the question for me would be “who actually owns the relationship?” Forcing a contract upon my employer seemed like a crude way impose ownership. The same client committed this sin twice so I stopped supplying. They have since made redundancies.

  9. Ross Clennett (@rossclennett) on Reply

    Send the invoice, Craig. You have the ethical, moral and legal high ground. If that’s their standard of professional dealings with a supplier I would claim the whole fee and forget about them as a future client.

    Saying that a fee is not appropriate because the candidate is ‘in their network’ is like a vendor saying to the real estate agent that they won’t pay their fee because the vendor once met the buyer of the vendor’s house at a party (when they owned the house before this one!).

  10. Greg on Reply

    Go back to the candidate – I often think recruiters really well and truly completely underrate how a candidate spins themselves when we conduct an interview with them. So louis met Mata a year ago – what EXACTLY happened then, why wasn’t the candidate hired then? – when did they become a Linked In connection? – what interaction have they had since their original meeting?- have they met socially ?, are they in touch? – do they regularly ‘Like’ each other statuses?? etc and so forth. This situations stinks to high heaven and I think before invoicing and calling the solicitors make sure you aren’t being set up for a fall.

  11. Marcus Doo on Reply

    Clients that conduct business in that manner probably don’t reserve that treatment for you exclusively and are habitual. Sooner or later such unprofessional practice in business will be their down fall …in the meantime refuse to support that particular individual within the client hiring team with any of your good candidates and sideline the individual where ever you can…eventually their manager will realise there is a problem that is holding the company back from obtaining the best talent. Do also feel free to point out to the candidate the individual in question works unethically ..I some times find this causes the candidate to with draw their candidature with the consequent knock on effects.

    On a separate point and as a business owner …if I ever discovered a member of my team tarnishing the name and reputation of my company I would terminate them immediately, I wouldn’t want my balance sheet enhanced with ill gotten profits.

  12. Stephanie on Reply

    Great post Craig. I read and re-read it several times as it has happened to me. There are some clients that will try anything to avoid a placement fee and when this happens I feel this speaks volumes about their character and is quite frankly unethical. You have done the work on sourcing the candidate, briefing, interviews etc – the client should be invoiced as your candidate was successful. I would also share this transparently with the candidate so they are aware – you may be surprised at their response. I recently tightened my T&C’s on legal advice and send them out with every candidate profile.

  13. Wyn Nathan Davis - The Sales Experts on Reply

    The moment you heard from ‘Duane’ that he had previous contact with the decision maker was a huge ‘read flag’. At that point you should have addressed the issue with the HR contact and received a decision from them in writing. That being said, clearly your contract did not protect you and you may want to prepare a simple, clear contract that stipulates your terms of engagement.

    You may have been shot down but really you pulled, with all due respect, a rookie move. It happens to everyone, which is why I only work on exclusive, retained searches. Sorry to hear it happened to you!

    1. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

      Wow… I may have been described as many things over the years, but a rookie… I’m not quite sure how to respond to that. It’s kinda like being asked for id at a pub when you’re 40… Facts are – the issue was addressed up front with HR and our terms of business are clear. But this doesn’t take into consideration the fact that I billed over $170k with that client in the previous year (all be it at other locations). Would love to work solely in the retained space, but unfortunately over 97% of assignments within recruitment are contingent and that’s the space I find myself in. Appreciate your comment!!!

  14. Jon on Reply

    Happening more frequently unfortunately.. Strangely, not among our SME client base but progressively more among our larger, corporate clients where HR / Internals run the show.

  15. Dimitre on Reply

    Suck it up princess. This just proves how little value recruitment agents actually add to the process. Without you, the ideal candidate and employer would have easily connected simply by posting a job on LinkedIn.

  16. Chris on Reply

    Send the invoice, be prepared to go all the way, then recruit the hell out of their company. You will find two things happen if you are good at your specialty. It has happened to me. First; If you do it right, the company will re approach you after they realize they have had to pay out several hundred thousand in fees to replace the good people you have plundered justifiably. They will ask for by gone to be by gone, let us bury the hatchet, we want you to work with us again.

    The second thing that will happen is that company that allowed that type of bad faith prevail has done it before and it is part of their modus operandi. This substantiated by the people you have recruited from them. They will be sorry and come to respect you. But do not do business with them again!

  17. Rob on Reply

    I always enjoy when they do this.

    Means we can charge full fee … no negotiations.

    Also if your client is like that then they arent really a client. They are a speculative time drain at best.

  18. Paul Swanwick on Reply

    Contractually this industry does not stand up – I would guess 90% of terms of business do not reconcile the fact that LinkedIn, Facebook and other methods of indirect communication play an important part in modern hiring. If a client is serious about you filling their job, they should be willing to sign a piece of paper stating all introductions must come through you and that prior working relationships or network association has no relevance. I’m sure good clients would appreciate why this is the case.

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