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Special Edition
Deceptive Recruiting Practices
Readers' Comments

Feedback on the August 23 special edition, Deceptive Recruiting: HR's Last Stand? was voluminous, strident, and clear. It came from managers, business owners, HR folks, headhunters, and job hunters. Readers unequivocally turned thumbs-down on unethical recruiting practices. They snickered at the cheap rationalizations of Dr. John Sullivan and FirstMerit Bank's Michael Homula. And they attacked the bad behavior of corporations on the hiring front.

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No business is free of bad behavior, including executive search. But I like the fact that the most ardent call for high standards came from another headhunter, with which I'll lead this collection of your comments. Nonetheless, the most pointed cautions came from HR folks, including a staffing manager at Microsoft whose response to Sullivan's doubletalk about ethics is simple and sure: "Lying is never a best practice."

My thanks to all who wrote -- I wish I had space to print all your comments.

Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter®

from Tony Haley
Director, Fenton Chase International
Chelmsford, UK

I have recruited across 16+ countries in Europe, both East and West, and I have never needed to use dodgy tactics once or disguise them as innovative. Maybe it's the only way for some HR recruiters to compete with headhunters. People only adopt bad practices because they are not very good at good practices. If they get results they delude themselves that they are doing nothing wrong.

Whether you are a headhunter or an HR recruiter, we all work in an environment where our behaviour and actions need to be 100% professional at all times toward all parties concerned. We have a major impact on people's careers and lives. In other words, people put their trust in us. To try and raise your own profile at the cost of your own company's reputation, innocent candidates' jobs, and your fellow peers' professional reputation is selfish at best, narcissistic at worst.

If your only way of competing is to be unscrupulous, unethical, or unprofessional, there really is no place for you in this business. We all know what the difference is between right and wrong, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical, professional and unprofessional, legal and illegal. Are we now learning the difference between good headhunters and a new breed of HR recruiters? I hope not.

from Norman Williams

I applaud your anger in "Deceptive Recruiting Practices." I have never seen you use profanity in an article before, but you are correct, I would also call bull**** on practices of this nature.

I had the good fortune of running into one of these types of recruiters when I owned and was president of my first business. I learned then what I did not want in my own HR department. Once organized, we operated with the highest of standards. After all, HR is a direct extension of the standards and principles that the company it represents operates by.

There is no room for deception and wrongful practices in any company I am a part of. Great article, made me laugh several times and at the same time gave me great concern on the length of corruption companies will go to when hiring.

from N. Katchaluba

I am educated in the field of HR, but found it too distasteful. I now work in Marketing. (Yes, imagine -- Marketing less distasteful than HR.)

Sometimes I wonder what I am missing, but when I read articles as well put and articulated as yours, I am consoled. I may have wasted my time becoming educated in HR, but I don't need to wander into the swamp now every day, either.

from Name Withheld

I saw a blatant example of this approach years ago. Data General spun off from Digital Equipment Corp: they were fierce competitors. The head of a DG programming department -- not an HR guy -- one day parked his car in front of the DEC development building. The car had a huge banner on it: "Programmers -- we want you!" or some such.

Of course, the guy was fired for his poor judgment and overt invasion. Even though he didn't know any better, he should have.

from Yvonne Baert
Personnel Management Group
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

On recruiting ethics: It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and just a few minutes to lose it. Ethics, respect, ethics, good judgment -- in everything we do throughout our lives.

I would have thought that the exposure of corporate malfeasance (WorldCom, Enron, etc.) would be a reminder to anyone participating in any type of unethical behaviour -- financial, misleading information to consumers or staff, or dirty recruiting. People know when they are doing something wrong unless they have completely lost their moral compass. Keep reminding them. I like the way you think, Nick.

from Bryan Hanks

The silver lining in all of this is that Sullivan's article is like a big load of dog poo on the sidewalk. You know the flies will be attracted, so the best thing to do is sit back, write down the names of the recruiters and the companies they work for, and make sure they all go into your "never do business with" file.

You should tie this special edition back to your article Death by Lethal Reputation. When a company gets a poor reputation from members of the industry's talent pool, BECAUSE THEY PRACTICE IMMORAL, UNFAIR, ILLEGAL (bait-n-switch and/or fraud) RECRUITING PRACTICES, they're screwed. Without new talent in the pipe, they can't complete or even stay in business.

I hope FirstMerit Bank is satisfied with hiring less than the best, because that's what they'll (and anyone else who listens to Sullivan) get by following his "Best" practices.

from T.J.

AMEN! Thanks for exposing these cheese balls!

I wasted time awhile back with one rather avuncular guy. Finally, when I pinned him down about the specifics of the job (there weren't any, other than just "bringing in new business"), he told me that the job was 100% commission. At which point I thanked him for his time, told him I wasn't interested in working for free, and walked out. What a waste of a day!

I finally wised up. But I still see many people getting sucked in. Essentially, they are taking advantage of people who are in a tough situation looking for a job. They play on their fears and insecurities. I also think as soon as you walk in the door, they say to themselves, "This chump/sucker showed up here without even asking us what the position is! Wow, he must really be desperate -- let's just use him to find someone else."

Thanks for exposing this hidden cancer of the job market.

from Roseanne

I recently put in a good three days' work preparing a presentation that specifically required providing solutions for a company I was to interview with. I made the mistake of including too much information.

I was taken into the boardroom by HR. The manager ignored me for a good five minutes (not even looking up) while the laptop was loaded. Just as I realized the time was right to walk out (despite how much I wanted the job), he introduced himself.

You can guess how the interview went. At the end I was asked to hand over the presentation. I declined. I didn't get the job and the recruiter said I asked for it -- refusing to leave a presentation was a sure-fire way of not getting the job. The interviewer talked of "lack of trust."

from Name Withheld

I couldn't believe what you were writing, so I actually read Sullivan's article. It's good that I had finished my dinner hour before reading it, otherwise my computer screen would have been covered with vomit. It is amazing how these people can sleep at night or even look in a mirror. I guess if it's only about the money, it's OK. But what a horrible way to go through life.

from Jim Varriale
Publisher, QUANTster:
The Quantitative and Financial Job Market Daily

My hope is that your voice for ethics in recruiting is heard loud and clear. Candidates, to a large extent, consider many recruiters a necessary evil. The HR profession certainly doesn't need to add gasoline to the fire. Thanks for taking the time to speak your mind.

from Heather Hamilton
Staffing Manager
Microsoft Corporation

[Excerpted from Heather's blog

Job Seekers Beware! The big buzz in the staffing industry right now is around the definition of aggressive recruiting and "best practices". Specifically, the debate centers on whether some recruiters go too far by misrepresenting themselves (impersonating competitors employees), strong-arming candidates to get referrals (withholding offers until the candidate provides names and numbers). There's more, I'm just grossed out.

My opinion is best summed up by Nick Corcodilos at He provides advice for the job seeker, which I highly recommend that anyone in the market right now read (or anyone that will ever be in the market...this means you), lest you cross paths with a recruiter utilizing less than *honorable* practices.

My opinion is that lying is never a "best practice". And that even the most *strategic* of recruiting initiatives that produces results can harm an employment brand beyond repair.

In my opinion, honest and aggressive are not mutually exclusive.

My blog, my opinion ; ) Honesty is a best practice.

from Roberta E. Renaldy

As a Human Resource professional with over 14 years of experience in corporate recruitment, management selection, and leadership development, the "best practice" is to tell the truth. Offering job candidates realistic previews on work expectations, corporate culture, compensation, and the potential for future development opportunities is the best way to select and retain employees who will succeed and find satisfaction in their work.

Superior recruiters use creative sourcing methods, establish trust and credibility with job candidates, and market the benefits of a career with their organization. Resorting to deceptive and unethical recruiting tactics has less to do with a "war on talent" and everything to do with having little to offer prospective employees.

Keep telling the truth and doing great work! You're right on target.


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Readers' Comments
My opinion is best summed up by Nick Corcodilos at He provides advice for the job seeker, which I highly recommend that anyone in the market right now read (or anyone that will ever be in the market... this means you), lest you cross paths with a recruiter utilizing less than honorable practices.

Heather Hamilton
Staffing Manager

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