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

kevorkianmachine

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

FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke (PHR) is VP of People at DAXKO. That's right - the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of because there are only so many people (okay, just one) in the big B'ham who are worthy of that VP of People title. Dawn would be it. Former actor/singer/retail guru, her HR career has spanned the last decade. A true Generalist she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She's based in the good 'ole blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching tons of Sex in the City reruns, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wine, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…. Talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, or Twitter...

16 Comments

  1. James says:

    Question: Are they saying that they won’t take the deal because if they get future openings for other clients they won’t be able to recruit from your company? Meaning they have a policy not to recruit from the organizations they hire for.
    Or am i misunderstanding?

    Reply
  2. Scott Kahle says:

    This sounds like they are asking you to pay for “protection” from THEM.
    “Unless you provide us with a substantial revenue stream from your business… we are going to have to come after your people.”
    Don Corleone would have been proud.

    Reply
  3. sourcerkelly says:

    So as I read this all I could think was “freaking dumb-asses”.
    Seriously Dawn, you’re better to be rid of them.
    Personally, I don’t care if I do one hire for a company or 100 or if I just generate a list of potential candidates that the company then runs with… My mind-set is I’m not going to go after your employees no matter what you contract for, because your referral is my biggest asset.
    If you are happy with the service provided, sure you’ll come back again but even better, you’ll refer me to your HR Executive friends and I’ll build out my business.
    And if you’re not happy you’ll tell your HR Executive friends, blog about the incident…get that blog retweeted and +1’d and all of a sudden I’m wondering why none of my RFPs get picked up…..

    Reply
  4. SurvaleIan says:

    Perhaps not smart in the long term, but at least the honesty refreshing in an industry that is not without many examples of less than honest practitioners.

    Reply
  5. @james: you got it….
    @scott: You are right! Don Corleone would be proud…and I’m channelling Fredo
    @sourcerkelly: you are a gentlewoman and a scholar. You give sourcing a good name!
    @survalelan: I give you that: at least they didn’t try to hide their foolishness…

    Reply
  6. @james: you got it….
    @scott: You are right! Don Corleone would be proud…and I’m channelling Fredo
    @sourcerkelly: you are a gentlewoman and a scholar. You give sourcing a good name!
    @survalelan: I give you that: at least they didn’t try to hide their foolishness…

    Reply
  7. You’re right, you’re not the smartest person in the room.
    Or, you’re just faking.
    You know you’re a source company. So the recruiter you called has to have a good reason to lay off your guys and one payroll clerk with maybe the promise of future business is a bad deal for them.
    If you tell them that it’s okay for them to recruit people from you even after they place that clerk with you, then maybe they’ll bite.

    Reply
  8. Harry Joiner says:

    Allow me: I would have done exactly the same thing as a contingency-based, third-party recruiter. If I’m not inside your teepee shooting out, I’m outside your teepee shooting in. In full effect. Congrats on your agency for having the stones to dial you in.

    Reply
  9. Eric says:

    I agree with Recruiting Animal to an extent. However, I think the firm could have said in effect “we’ll help you out, but it doesn’t change anything”. Certainly, I don’t like the tactic of going after the exclusive arrangement for some sort of protection. In the end, though, your company is much more valuable as a source than as a client (and most certainly more than a referral). Its better for you and them to keep those lines drawn thick.

    Reply
  10. KD says:

    I like Harry’s comment about teepees and shooting in and out… But also like Eric’s comment and I’d guess I’d build on that. It’s a payrolled clerk, the margins on which are razor thin. Why have that conversation with Dawn at all? Why would that change whether the hired guns at the firm could still go after Dawn’s talent for a big fee?
    Dawn doesn’t use these folks, and most of them know she’s unlikely to at any point in the near future. Payroll her clerk and continue business as usual. By stating the “policy” straight from the manual, you’ve only alienated a good HR pro when you could have payrolled her person, and recruited from her shop if it came up.
    Dawn had no expectation that a payroll-serviced clerk would mean her shop was off limits. In Bham, Dawn assumes everyone is hunting her people, including the people she does small business with.
    As Ice-T once said, “you played yourself”. You read the policy to Dawn and now she’s an enemy. Ugh….
    KD

    Reply
  11. RC says:

    Ok, so help me understand – you are upset because a recruiting company had the common sense not to let you jerk them around with a low-margin deal so you could back them into a corner and prevent them from recruiting from your pool? Kudos to them for being honest, it would have been bad business for them since by your own admission you are hostile to recruiters.
    If you are losing people, you aren’t creating the culture you claim. If you institute “culture” as policy, it isn’t culture anymore, it’s just corporate motivational propaganda that seasoned professionals will see right through – “culture” as an excuse to pay below market.
    My only take away from this article is sour grapes from a conceited HR worker. Ethics are a rare thing in Birmingham IT staffing, too bad you can’t appreciate it.

    Reply
  12. @RC–
    Your passion is inspiring.. and misplaced.
    I agree, I like honesty from the agency. But they are not being honest by capping this under the “ethics” umbrella.
    No where did I say I was losing people (outside of regular TO). As a matter of fact I am so confident in our “culture” that my post indicated I told the agency in this instance I was aware of and wouldn’t stop them from calling my folks.
    As far as jerking the agency around- you give me too much credit. I did not try to engage them in a low-margin payroll gig in some sort of back-handed,chess-play to become a future protected client for all time. I really just needed to payroll a temp. Frankly, I don’t have the time for game-play. I just wanted a simple service with no drama.
    It’s because I appreciate Ethics that I had a problem with this scenario from the start….

    Reply
  13. @RC–
    Your passion is inspiring.. and misplaced.
    I agree, I like honesty from the agency. But they are not being honest by capping this under the “ethics” umbrella.
    No where did I say I was losing people (outside of regular TO). As a matter of fact I am so confident in our “culture” that my post indicated I told the agency in this instance I was aware of and wouldn’t stop them from calling my folks.
    As far as jerking the agency around- you give me too much credit. I did not try to engage them in a low-margin payroll gig in some sort of back-handed,chess-play to become a future protected client for all time. I really just needed to payroll a temp. Frankly, I don’t have the time for game-play. I just wanted a simple service with no drama.
    It’s because I appreciate Ethics that I had a problem with this scenario from the start….

    Reply
  14. Harry Joiner says:

    So where’s the comparison between third-party recruiters and Jack Kevorkian (a guy who actually killed people and had no qualms about it whatsoever)? Puh-leeze. All the agency did was tell you that you make a better target than a client. That’s so ethical it’s almost stupid. Your post should have congratulated them for their transparency and challenged all third-party recruiters to behave the same way.

    Reply
  15. Ricky Bobby says:

    Let me get this straight….so you called them and asked for them to payroll your ONLY contractor on a LOW margin that will accompany the usual non-compete? Furthermore, you want them to give you great service even with a lower margin for ONE contractor?
    Think about it, what’s in it for them? You mentioned that you have a team that covers recruiting and that you rarely use third parties. Why would they payroll your only contractor on a low margin when you are not going to give them anymore business?

    Reply
  16. Ricky Bobby says:

    Sorry, hit the submit button as I was editing.
    I was making the point of good and bad business decisions. It would be a bad business decision to payroll for a low margin one person. The only way to make money with low margin is by high volume (in any business). And one is not high volume.

    Reply

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