Recruitment News

A Slap In The Face From The Guardian to Recruiters!

Doesn’t it just P*** you off when corporate companies have a complete disregard to their clients. Here we have the perfect example of “biting off the hand that feeds you”, except in this case the Guardian are trying to keep it quiet, because they are placing our candidates to our competitors.

Fortunately John Reilly the MD of Reilly People spotted this and has brought it to my attention, and rightly so he is very annoyed!
For some reason the Guardian thinks it is ethical to set up their own recruitment company, using all the candidates that where generated from the revenues, artwork and creativity supplied by us the recruiter.

Obviously as John is a customer of the Guardian it makes more sense to get his take on the situation, which is below:

The Guardian job board competing with recruiters with the help of our money

It has emerged that five months ago The Guardian set up an ‘Emerging Revenues’ group, which pitches out candidates from its database, the database that we pay to attract candidates to, and arranges interviews for a fee, effectively acting as a recruitment agency and thereby competing against its clients.

When I, as a recruitment agent, pay to advertise a job on and a candidate responds, they are invited to post their CV on the Guardian database as well as send it to me, the advertiser. Since approx five months ago, these CVs have been used as a basis for The Guardian’s own recruitment ‘agency’ unbeknownst to many of their advertisers. So although I’ve paid to attract the candidate, they are now not only replying to me but also to a competitor. I have been paying to load a competitor’s database and the CVs my ads have attracted can be potentially pitched to my clients and potential clients.

This has implications for direct advertisers also. They may get a response from an ideal candidate only to find he or she may have alternative job opportunities presented to them also.

I am very disappointed by this and feel that a moral line has been crossed. The Guardian has continued to take my money without letting me know that their business model had changed and they would use the CVs I paid to attract to compete against me.

I agreed to pay The Guardian on the basis it is a job board and not a recruitment agency. has always done this of course but we all know they are recruiters and their site has been free of charge. The Guardian is charging us and then competing against us, so the terms ‘cake’ and ‘eat it’ come to mind. Recruiters like me have paid very significant sums to help john-compr-2launch and support the Guardian internet job board and to get it to this point. To have that board now bite, rather than support the recruitment industry in very tough times smacks of sharp practice to me and is capitalism of the most ruthless sort. How exactly does that chime with the Guardian’s editorial stance and brand image?

All Guardian advertisers, agency and direct, need to raise concerns about this. Response to ads we pay for ought to be private.

I am sure there are a few who will agree with John´s sentiments and if so feel free to comment.


  1. John is absolutely right on this subject. It is a disgraceful and deceitful way to treat paying clients. We have instructed The Guardian to provide details on every candidate logged on their system through adverts placed by our companies. Once we have a sense of scale we will be looking to recover costs.
    A priority is that they are forced to stop this practice immediately.

    Steve Hyde

  2. The move is not really to become popular with their clients. But could it be the case their just had to do it, since the revenue they have been generating from their clients simply wasn’t enough to cover their costs?

    So a kind of – no other choice – situation?

    … Just wondering…

  3. Building Magazine have done the same thing to construction recruiters on their jobs site and now effectively have their own recruitment agency. I believe (though I may be mistaken) that it’s the same company that’s ultimately heading up the Guardian’s new offering too.

    Building claimed that they had to do it in order to stay ahead of the game but, as long-term customers we have been pretty unimpressed.

  4. Ivan, there’s always a choice.

    Putting moral considerations aside (competing with your clients without informing them; presenting yourself as an advertising platform while being more than that; trading on the back of being a liberal title with a tradition of campaigning against the worst excesses of capitalism while adopting commercial strategies that would stick in the craw of many of their readers and so on), it is good business practice to ensure that any growth strategy does not endanger existing revenue. If enough of The Guardian’s existing clients are aware of how it’s attempting growth, it stands a strong chance of losing core revenue and coming out worse, rather than better off from this initiative. The fact it has not been candid about this suggests management are aware of that danger. Our role is to shed some light on what’s happening and let the market decide. The least The Guardian’s recruitment advertsers need is to know what’s happening with the CVs their (paid) ads are generating. Effectively, their mail is being opened and used against their interests. Just as has been said about MPs expenses, there is no disinfectant as effective as daylight.

  5. I agree with John. If they were going to adopt this stance, then surely they should have publicised this.

    Have they been going to the Gordan Brown school of underhand and deceiptful tactics by any chance?

  6. I totally agree with you John, it came to our attention the other day and we intend to recover costs immediately. The Guardian are demonstrating totally disregard to their clients and very abtle put “biting off the hand that feeds them”. Well no longer!

  7. I have followed this up with the Guardian and they have confirmed that they are charging companies a fee, as John mentioned. This makes them a recruitment consultancy and subject to the Employment Agencies Act. I doubt very much that they are compliant – for example are they meeting applicants and checking right to work etc? I have had this referred to BERR for investigation.

  8. I think this situation should be investigated by REC. This matter is a conflict of interest and they are using consultancies advertising costs as well as other direct clients who advertise on their site to find this operation. They have the affront on their ad file to say “Recruitment agencies can be very expensive..” We we have to pay for ads in the Guardian they obviously do not! Its no coincidence that they kept this as a “Soft” launch I am sure we know why!

  9. The service the Guardian is offering is not exactly search and select, they are not going out into a market and trying to find the best person for a role. This is speculating off the back of our paid-for response, and in addition they are not restricting this to one industry sector. The net result, I hope, will be that they will simply annoy a lot of our clients by pestering them with candidates regardless of whether there is a role to fill and or any exiting PSL agreements. Any idiot can simply pitch out candidates to random companies but because headhunting is an integral part of a quality recruitment service, this will probably fail. In the mean-time I am considering taking my business elsewhere, if we as an industry collectively use other advertising resources then the volume of vacancies will move response away from the Guardian.

  10. I have just spoken to Simon Cresswell at the Guardian who assured me that his resourcing division team only approaches companies that are not advertising in the Guardian and proffering the CV’s they have from paying ads which must be as much a concern for direct advertisers as it is for us in consultancies. In any case as I said to him we go to great lengths to not disclose our clients in Guardian advertisements so how do they know they the companies they approach are not being advertised in the Guardian? No answer!

  11. I cannot believe you are complaining about this. Agencies scavange amongst the CV databases that are filled by people who are attracted to many adverts that are placed by the employers who pay a damn site more for adverts than the agencies do. And then charge employers for CV’s.

    I don’t see the alleged Guardian approach to be unethical but they may have to review their position as they are possibly acting as an agent. But rather than moan why not get off your box and do something about it. Re-model your business so employers use you because you still provide value. Job boards are running scared so what can you expect. They were supposed to kill of agencies yet they never will so adapt and survive as the job boards are the ones that will struggle to survive; hence the changes they are making.

  12. Peter, I do not know what kind of employment agencies you deal with but as far as I know no agencies charge their client for CV’s, they charge for finding the right person for the job, and those agencies who do use CV databases have to PAY for them not like the Guardian who has us (Their Advertisers) pay for the CV generation. You are right about re- modelling our busienss perhaps we should not use jobs boards that compete with their advertisers! and do not tell them they are doing it

  13. Michael

    You know what I mean by charging for CV’s so let’s not kid ourselves that agencies are all that great. Of course there are some great agencies, I have worked in the industry for over 20 years, cut my teeth at the sharp end and was both good and successful.

    I agree that you should avoid job boards if they do not provide any value but really can’t see why anyone is so shocked by this latest situation. Adapt or die. Agencies will survive albeit fewer and smart new business models will arise. I know what I’d be doing if I were an agency – but I’m not. Good luck.


  14. This is most certainly the wrong thing for the Guardian to be doing. However, for clients to accept and purchase this service it implies they are not enamored with the service of their current recruitment partner.

    Recruitment agencies that have merely been placing ads, trawling job boards and then sending CVs over to their clients with no face to face meeting are likely to be in competition with the Guardian’s service. And to be honest fairly so, they are adding little more value and so should be paid accordingly.

    Recruitment agencies who not only source candidate but use their expertise and specialist tools to select the right candidates are likely to be unaffected as they are providing a service far and above that which can be offered by a job board sending CVs. This is a recruitment consultants chance to add value and differentiate themselves from services such as the Guardian’s. Anyone can read a CV and see who has worked for their competitors, this is not why companies engage with recruitment agencies. They want first of all to attract candidates they would not generally be able to reach and secondly for an expert to select which of these candidates will perform the best in their business using tools or expertise they do not have.

  15. John

    Sorry, but your argument seems flawed to me.

    The premise of your displeasure seems to be that “the database that we pay to attract candidates to” is being taken advantage of by the Guardian. You further assert this by stating that you have “paid to attract the candidate [to the site]”.

    Now corerct me if I’m wrong, but the Guardian make themselves different to other job boards by being, first and foremost, a news site. They then attract that audience from the site onto the site. To say then that you “pay to attract candidates” is somewhat misleading, as the Guardian attracts the candidates to the sitev ia its journalism, you just pay to attract them once they are on the job site, as does every other employer using the site.

    You go on to say that “This has implications for direct advertisers also. They may get a response from an ideal candidate only to find he or she may have alternative job opportunities presented to them also.”
    Well yes, but of course that is the nature of a job board surely? There is always more than one job being presented to a candidate, there is always competition.

  16. There are clearly some moral implications, and they’re important. However, the most immediate response to this should surely be commercial.

    The Guardian’s activity is reprehensible because it’s unexpected and hidden, not because it’s fundamentally a terrible idea. They didn’t give agencies a chance to decide whether to use their unusually parasitic jobboard, or have its service reflected in the ad price, as the information was unavailable and unusual.

    Having paid a fair price in good faith for a jobboard service that does NOT send CVs anywhere, agencies’ commercial interests are harmed if that, in fact, happens. The Guardian should disclose this key fact at the price negotiation stage at least, and allow agencies to make their own choice. In some markets, as people have said above, the quality of service an agency offers means it makes little difference if the Guardian is punting a few CVs around. In others, they are damaging commercial interests behind their customers’ backs.

    As for whether it’s the the Guardian’s journalism or agency ads that attracts candidates, it’s clearly both. But I bet you the Guardian is charging a decent price on the basis of their site’s contribution to the database, they should offset that price to recognise the agencies’.

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