Fight Dirty Hiring Tactics

By Zimmerman, Eilene | Workforce, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Fight Dirty Hiring Tactics

Zimmerman, Eilene, Workforce


Unethical recruiters resort to lies, theft, and bribery to woo away your employees. Here are the tools you need to stop them.

With unemployment holding steady at about 4.2 percent, many recruiters scrambling to fill open positions have moved beyond the gung-ho, to the flat-out dirty Lying, intimidation, stealing, and bribery are par for the course. Recruiters are flocking to pricey Internet courses that teach a kind of "legal" hacking, using sophisticated, little-known search techniques.

But there are ways of protecting yourself by closely controlling how company information is given out, and by whom. Procedures for verifying a caller's identity should be developed, and private corporate information on the Internet should be kept securely behind a firewall, a locked cyber door that can't be opened simply by using the right search terms.

In the roiling sea of contemporary recruiting, one of the first ethical standards to go is honesty. Phone misrepresentations are commonplace. Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, Inc., in Fremont, California, says he knows recruiters so adept at creating a false identity that they can delve four or five levels into a company to obtain information.

"I know a recruiter who has called companies saying he's with the Larry King Show. He says, 'We'd like your CFO to be on our show; can you spell his name?' It's amazing, but he gets all the information he needs. And the CFO's secretary would probably send you her boss's fourth-grade report card if she thinks you're from Larry King."

In highly competitive fields like information technology, science, and engineering, some recruiters are willing to do almost anything for the personal profits that come with reeling in great job candidates.

John Doffing, founder of StartUpAgent, Inc. in San Francisco, has been interviewing recruiters for six months, as possible additions to his firm, a management team developer for Internet startups.

One recruiter interviewing for a job told Doffing she was working with "a number of great candidates." When he asked if she had met with any of them she admitted she hadn't, although she had called a few. Their resumes were found through online job boards. "She kept referring to these people as her clients," he says, "yet most of them didn't even know they were candidates."

Doffing says some of the recruiters he's spoken with take great pride in being able to scam a mailroom clerk or receptionist into giving out personnel information.

The best way for companies to protect themselves from such intrusions is to establish practices that are communicated to all employees and recruiters, Kevin Wheeler says. "The bottom line is to think, respond slowly, and verify all calls and attempted contacts."

All employees should be trained never to give out information about employee reporting relationships or their contact information unless they are 100% certain of who the caller is and the reason the information is needed.

"Refer all calls of this nature to a single contact person within the organization," Wheeler says. "That person should be a senior level recruiter with experience questioning the caller as to intent and identity."

Dirty tactics aren't limited to deception. Several recruiters interviewed for this story said it isn't uncommon to pay employees thousands of dollars for copies of their companies' phone directories, or to offer a "bounty" to new hires if they bring along others from their former jobs.

An officer at a marketing company, who asked not to be identified, says that while working with another marketing company to service one account, that company recruited-and got-the number two person in her organization. She says they convinced him to break his contract with monetary incentives. "As far as recruiting goes, this was the most unethical thing I've seen in over 20 years. …

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