Recruitment & Hiring

Unethical private recruiters are hurting employer brands

Malcolm King /

Employers are creating recruitment departments inside their organisations fearing that the unethical practices of some private recruiters are damaging their brands.

I run national online resume writing business and for the last two years, after being deluged by client horror stories of recruiter behaviour, we have been advising clients to go around private recruitment agencies and where possible, apply directly to the company.

Last year UK research suggested poor recruitment practices were turning candidates off brands. The report by employer branding agency Ph.Attraction revealed that one in four British jobseekers have either entirely stopped purchasing or purchased less from a brand, because of a bad candidate experience.

More than 7500 candidates cancelled their subscriptions at Virgin Media and switched to a competitor, resulting in millions of pounds in lost revenue. The brand has since brought its recruitment function in-house.

Australian businesses face the same risks. Lets cut to the chase. A lack of ethics, accountability and transparency has plagued some parts of the recruitment industry for 20 years. There are recruiters listing false job advertisements, harvesting resumes to sell training, and lying to candidates about their employment prospects.

When I worked as an associate director in the Department of Employment, we were flooded with age prejudice complaints from men and women, some as young as 45.

Some recruiters eliminate older applicants from the final cut of candidates to maximise their chances of a successful placement and commission. So much for equal opportunity. That’s not something employers want traducing their brands.

It’s a sad but common complaint in industry that many recruiters simply don’t know the training competencies and capabilities of the jobs they are trying to fill. Unless they are specialists (such as IT or construction), they have little idea what the job entails.

Reputational damage is compounded when recruiters fail to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates on the employment the process. That’s if applicants hear back at all.

Fairfax recently reported on a survey of more than 2000 Australian office workers about their experiences when applying for a job, which found 63% lost interest in a role if they did not hear back from a prospective employer within two weeks.

As a recruiter, it’s not easy to procure high-quality resumes and engage top-level talent unless you have something real and attractive to offer those candidates in return. So unethical recruiters list defunct or fake job descriptions to lure candidates in.

Once they get the people they want to apply for this ‘dream position,’ they claim to submit their resumes to the client. Then, the recruiter follows up with the candidates a week or two later to tell them that unfortunately, the company decided to fill the position internally. There’s nothing like being lied to, to kill off a brand.

An unprofessional recruitment experience can drive negative social media to a company’s Facebook page or on job review and community websites such as Whirlpool and it can backlash on the recruiting company too.

While social media can be a force for good, it can play havoc with organisational brand value if a company is portrayed as uncaring and dismissive of those applying to work there. Bad news travels fast.

How recruiters test potential candidates is problematic too.

Many recruiters implement expensive psychometric testing to avoid hiring people who would create a bad organisational culture. These are invariably individuals with new ideas, which might challenge the status quo, but these people are eliminated straight away.

Recruiters promise much with expensive tests that involve verbal reasoning, numerical skills, comprehension and grammar, spatial reasoning and more, yet they deliver very little.

Of the 5000 psychometric tests on record, only a handful have any internal validity. That is, the questions are framed so they elicit the right sort of information. Psychometric tests have no predictive capability. If they did, then perhaps we could eliminate the organisational psychopaths at the interview stage instead of making them in charge of personnel.

I believe many private recruiters have failed in their core mission to provide corporate Australia with the best candidates possible. They have become transfixed on the monetary pay off and in doing so, have resorted to humbugging job applicants and the client’s brand.

We live in a world where corporations are judged by their partnerships. We live in a time that cries out for authenticity, not deceptions; for truth, not lies. 

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Malcolm King

Malcolm King is the director of Republic Resumes in Adelaide.