When recruiters become slaveowners

Your resume may have been thrown away because the wrong person submitted it.  You may have become a victim of recruiter ownership. (No, it is not slavery, it just feels like it.)

Paul recounted to me that he was presented by a recruiter to a company for a job.  The recruiter said, “I have great contacts there!”  Nothing happened. So Paul networked his way in and set up his own interview without the recruiter.  When the hiring manager found out that a recruiter had previously presented Paul, Paul was told that it would be impossible to hire him.  The manager would have to pay a fee to the recruiter even though the recruiter did not cause the interview to happen.  The manager didn’t want to pay the fee.

Did the recruiter lie?  I don’t know.  There may have been 4 other managers that would pay a fee that turned down Paul’s resume when the recruiter presented him. The problem is that the recruiter didn’t get Paul an interview.

Did the manager lie?  I don’t know that either. If the manager has no recruiting budget, Paul is out of luck.  If the manager has a recruiting budget and someone else who is free is almost as good, Paul is out of luck.  The manager may be hiring someone who is better and paying a fee, but is still using the recruiting fee as an easy excuse to get rid of Paul.

In the end, Paul doesn’t get the job.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. (Abraham Lincoln)

Recruiters have to get paid by the company when they find someone a job. They can prove they submitted your resume and a company accepted it.  In many cases that is all they can prove. So the contracts often say that is all they have to prove to get paid.  A company always has an incentive to hire someone NOT submitted by a recruiter–the recruiter’s fee.     But they will hire the best person despite the fee for critical positions.

Just as it can be a mistake to have a recruiter submit you, you can make a big mistake by submitting your resume yourself. If you submit yourself first, the recruiter can’t get paid.  Even if he can get you an interview because he knows the hiring manager, he won’t even try. You submitted through the website and got turned down by an HR receptionist, so the recruiter will not resubmit you. Your unpaid resume could knock one of his paying resumes out of submission.  He won’t submit you because he doesn’t “own” you.

So why use a recruiter?  Because the recruiter may know about a job opening you don’t know exists. Because in many cases he really can get you past the HR department.  He may be able to get you an interview that you can’t get without him.

So, what do you do? Hand your resume to the hiring manager personally if you can.  Use a recruiter if the recruiter will be more effective.  Submit yourself if you found the job yourself and a recruiter will be no more effective than you will.

Then wait patiently.  It may feel like you are being sold into slavery if you are told you are not being hired because the recruiter “owns” you.  But that is a risk you and the company take because in many cases the recruiter can get you a job you can’t get on your own.

Something To Do Today

If a recruiter tells you about a job you didn’t know exists, you need to be fair and let him submit you.

If you know about a job you have to decide whether you can network your way to the hiring manager (best), if a recruiter can get you an edge in hiring (next best), or if you should submit yourself to the HR department (still okay).


Later:              Non-competes

Coyote traps – when to gnaw off your arm

Glass ceilings

The hours game

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