Third-Party Recruiters are like Jack Kevorkian; They’re “Ethical” When They Kill You…

Dawn Burke Dawn Hrdlica, Working With Recruiters

OK, there are a lot of third-party recruiters at FOT whom I respect tremendously.  I think using agencies
is an essential component to every recruiting strategy.  I’m not a hater.  So I need some feedback, help, education or maybe a slap in the face.  I’ve never thought myself the smartest person in the room nor the dumbest.  But I’m starting to think I’ve been too naive.  For too long.

I work for a software development company and am always in search of top development talent. If you haven’t heard, the market for developers is a doozy. There are far too many jobs for the talent numbers available, so competition is stiff.  College kids—if you are still “undeclared” run to the MIS, Engineering or Computer Science department now.  Like Carl Lewis fast.

I have a full recruiting department and an engaging work environment so rarely (if ever) do we use third-party recruiters.  However, I did recently have a need to payroll a temp. I usually like for third-parties to do this because it is just cleaner. So I called a local agency (Tech and Accounting Specialist by the way, nationally known) and after determining that I could not promise to use them exclusively for any future fills they refused to payroll my temp.  Why?  They stated it was for ethical reasons.

Bottom line:  If they took us on as a “client”, even just to payroll someone, part of their “ethical practice” is to, in-turn, not solicit, contact, pimp-out, steal or poach my current working developersThey didn’t want me as a low margin “client” so they could “ethically” steal my employees.  And they weren’t afraid to say that.

Ain’t that a bitch.  Not to mention a horrible business strategy.

Here’s the deal (and I told this to the rep), I know that my company is a high-profile tech company in a city not known for tech.  My developers get calls from third parties every day. I don’t try to monitor it or stop it.  My job is to make my work environment engaging, exciting, and productive enough for my developers to stay despite the calls.  I get that my guys are ripe for the picking and you, third-party recruiter, have got to pay the bills too.  I don’t want to stop you from doin’ what you gotta do.

But isn’t there a line.  To refuse my business so you can “ethically” interfere with mine seems like a croc of crap.  Wouldn’t it have been a better move to:

  • I don’t know, take my business and money?
  • Give me great service even at a lower margin?
  • Through our “low-margin” interactions build respect and trust with me?
  • Through our relationship be positioned as my TOP choice when I do need a “high-margin” direct placement?
  • Oh- and make more money from me in the long term than from the short term win you would get from stealing my guy?

Please advise! Signed,

Bent in Birmingham

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke, founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.