Guest post: The downturn is bringing out the recruitment cowboys

Janet Blunden, who handles media agency recruitment for ICUR, warns that the downturn is also affecting ethical standards.

Yes, times are tough, but must everything go? You would expect a few things to be chopped – interest rates, advertising spend, fee structures. But has the economic downturn also claimed a new casualty: ethical standards of business?  

Sadly in recruitment land, we regularly see our fair share of shady dealings – candidates deceiving about their backgrounds or intentions; clients directly approaching candidates after introduction; cowboy recruiters tainting the reputation of the whole recruitment industry.

But in the last few months we have noticed a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of – (and there’s only one word for it) – DODGINESS!

Old-fashioned dodginess. It’s from all angles – from candidates, clients, competitors. Are tough times bringing out a latent unethical streak in the media industry? Was it so latent to begin with? And more importantly: is cutting corners for short-term gain ever worth it in the long term?

Here are a few true stories from within the last six months:

  • Client interviewed candidate three times, claimed there were ‘no jobs’ then hired them directly a month later;
  • Client offered candidate the role during interview then threatened to revoke offer unless rates were halved;
  • Candidate approached an agency three times through different recruiters, claiming to each that he hadn’t been represented yet;
  • Recruiters have posted ads for roles they are not working on to secure candidates, then withhold candidates from the original advertiser and ‘sell them in’. Poor candidate has no idea the recruiter was not officially working the role.

All of the above instances have dubious potential for short-term gain, but all have the certainty of destroying a relationship with a business partner and tarnishing a professional reputation – in a tiny media industry where reputation is everything. Although desperate times traditionally call for desperate measures, it’s surprising how many panic and throw proper business ethics out the window in pursuit of a short-term profit.

Recruitment is a service-based industry where those who play by the rules can often lose out to those who cut corners. However in the same way that America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, it’s worth considering a simple policy of refusing to work with unethical people and that includes clients, candidates, recruiters or business partners – regardless of how tremendously important any of these think they are.

Most recruiters are trying to make an honest living in an industry that has been one of the hardest hit by the GFC. Around 25% of all recruitment consultants have been retrenched over the past six months, with a further 25% predicted to go before the downturn is over.

One day soon the Australian media industry will emerge from the economic thunder storm. Then we will dry ourselves out, check who survived and start thinking about who we’d like to do business with in the sunny, glorious, profitable future.

Anyone who nicked anyone’s umbrella during the storm is unlikely to be contacted.



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