Recruitment Views

Recruiters Code of Conduct!

Yesterday I received a comment on my site, by an obviously disgruntled candidate. Of course not all agencies operate the way he suggested and if only I could earn 200% of the basic salary, I could have retired years ago!

None the less I felt Michael raised some very good points, that I believe in and new recruiters should take note of. Saying that in defence of some recruiters, what Michael may not realise is often we will champion his case, only to find that HR will knock back our candidate just because he doesn’t tick all the boxes!!!

Michael’s comments are below:

Is it not time that additional statutory rules were introduced into a Recruiters’ ‘Code of Conduct’? Any rules or standards that do exist frequently do not work and/or they are demonstrably unenforced.

The main reason Recruiters are employed by employers is to reduce the administrative burden of recruitment on Employers. However, the services that many Recruiters provide are highly questionable and/or lacking in any real ethics.

Most Recruiter staff have little more than an ability to design highly misleading web pages about their ‘care’ and ‘service’, talk fast and/or to blatantly lie. Many are on a ego trip while providing little real value to employers or candidates. The result is that Employers often do not even get to consider candidates who may be best suited to the position being ‘managed’ by external Recruitment agencies. That ‘management’ frequently appears to be limited to promoting the lowest cost (lowest salary) candidates to Employers i.e. Recruiters gain higher staff placements by immediately eliminating higher VALUE candidates from the selection process. Employers are often short changed because REAL and qualitative evaluation does not exist in many Recruitment agencies.

1. Many so-called recruiters are unqualified to judge the qualifications, experience or quality of candidates they attract.

2. Many Recruiters simply process people as numbers, seeking to minimise their own costs to maximise their own often exorbitant fees.

3. All Recruiters should be obliged by statutory regulation to:

a) Confirm that the person who is processing the vacancies and applications holds qualifications in the field for which they are recruiting…this gives some degree of assurance that they actually have significant and relevant professional knowledge of the essential qualities of position advertised and the candidate’s qualifications.

b) Respond ‘IMMEDIATELY’ (24 hours say) to all candidates, confirming receipt of their applications AND when the client will confirm the selection of shortlisted personnel.

c) Provide a detailed weekly update to candidates on the progress of their applications and/or of candidates’ failures to meet the employers’ requirements AND why.

Given that Recruiters purport to be ‘professional’ and that their fees vary between 20% and 200% (say) of the candidates’ salaries, MANY (not all) Recruiters demonstrate that they:

i) are highly Unprofessional

ii) lack any understanding of ethics or even basic courtesy

iii) are opportunistic liars

iv) care little or not at all about applicants, despite their ‘oily’ claims.

The lack of the above requirements in an enforceable Code of Conduct damages the reputation of good, ethical and truly professional Recruiters.

Unfortunately, candidates have no way of distinguishing between the good and the bad simply because of the facts that Recruiters get away with claiming almost anything in their websites and other marketing media; there is little evidence that the Recruitment industry is ethically and effectively controlled. It therefore attracts may rogues posing as professionals.

The practice of asking candidates to state their previous salaries and/or requirements is highly unethical. Most positions have a value that cannot be defined other than by the employer. Candidates previous salaries were particular to their previous roles that often were not reflected in their job titles. This practice is highly unethical and Recruitment Agencies and Employers who support it demonstrate simply that they care nothing about candidates and everything about taking unfair advantage of their candidates and employees.

Will the good agencies out there take steps to eliminate the bad from their own profession? Or is the industry so weak it cannot control itself? I and many thousands of others would like to see and experience some true professionalism in the Recruitment industry. Those who resist are surely those who should not exist.


  1. Hi Stephan,

    Interesting points and points that are well argued in the Netherlands for some time. But still we don’t seem to be able to enforce them.

    I just finished Digitaal-Werven (Digital Reruiting), a yearly research I do into the digital application process of the top 350 employers here. Some figures…

    25% never responded to our application. I mean, they didn’t even care to say: sorry, we you’re not qualified. We had resume’s that weren’t suppose to qualify, since we didn’t want to take up too much of the recruiters time.

    28% didn’t give notice of receiving the application.

    50% did respons within a week (and I mean with the rejection) and another 12% took between one and two weeks. However, 46% didn’t give any contact information in the rejection….

    A code of conduct is nice, but since there’s no ‘bar’ for recruiters, I fear useless. The thing I think would work is to actually weed out the bad seeds. Just don’t hire them anymore, however, in the Netherlands even the borderline criminal recruiters don’t get blacklisted, since ‘everybody has a morgate to pay’

  2. Hello Stephen,

    Thank you for posting my comments. I doubt if it will do any more than raise the hackles of unscrupulous agents but surely someone should try to eliminate the bad and promote the good, shouldn’t they?

    Less than pragmatically, I have previously found that it was not so much the possible rejections (unverified) that were disappointing as the too frequent lack of basic courtesy i.e. no follow up contact whatsoever from agents. I should add that I have found a few, very few, who act in a way that can be considered to be professional. Perhaps “ethical” and “integrity” are all but impossible terms to define to those who lack the necessary education or background.

    I empathise with the IRP and REC and their better members’ positions. Simultaneously I cannot agree with the lack of definitions for the terms used in their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. What are such codes worth if such codes are not clearly defined and enforced?

    There is a point of law that I and possibly many others would like to have explicitly clarified. Precisely which party does a Recruitment Agent represent in such transactions? Undoubtedly there is a contract, either express or implied, between an agent and an employer at some point but precisely when do such contracts become operational during the whole process? . Even further, isn’t an implied contract created between the agent and any candidates at the moment the agent agrees to act on behalf of such candidates, a point which some agents ‘cleverly'(?) imply in their advertising?

    In implying or stating that they act on behalf of an employer (as many agents do, some speculatively) and simultaneously implying that they seek to act in the best interests of candidates, are not such agencies acting with a ‘conflict of interests’, whether knowingly or unknowingly? Surely that amorphous gap is what needs clearer definition both in regulations and in any Code of Conduct. In my view such matters shoud be confirmed in clear, written terms by the agent to their candidates immediately that any candidate authorises the agent to use their CV/Resume or other details.

    You and Bas Van de Haterd and make some good points that indicate support for some of my previous points. From an outsider’s point of view the Recruitement industry is in need of urgent reform and regulation. The good and ethical agents would then gain greater respect and probably more business. Sadly though, I detect little appetite for reform in the industry.

    Ethical agents will need no reminder that they are trading with other people’s lives and that those people are not mere numbers to be traded for profit.

  3. On this point I believe that candidates and client these days can find quality recruiters. I have said this before, that LinkedIn gives you the ability to pick who you want to represent your interests, because their background is there to be seen on their LinkedIn profile.
    Why not contact a consultant with experience in your industry, rather than just chase an advert!!

  4. Hi Stephen,

    I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog. I think I should preface this comment by saying that these are my views and do not represent the views of my employer.

    Unfortunately, increased regulation is not what the industry needs; it is better regulation. The current 2003 Regulations governing the industry do not focus on what really matters and instead force agencies to comply with administrative minutiae that are all but ignored by less reputable agencies on the basis that the EASI are not in a position to enforce or deal with anything other than the more serious breaches. The GLA has gone some way to improve the situation in the limited sectors it covers.

    Whilst I understand your previous commenter’s frustration, the proposals set out are completely unworkable and appear to be the result of a bad experience whereby an agency did not respond in a timely fashion or at all. For example, how can an agency be responsible (in law) for providing feedback within 24 hours when the feedback necessarily comes from a third party? Furthermore, what qualifications would your commenter deem appropriate for somebody recruiting general administrative/clerical staff? Or industrial staff to work in a warehouse?

    I also do not agree with the commenter’s suggestion that agencies necessarily promote the lowest value/cheapest candidate. Although fixed fees are becoming more common, a significant proportion of agencies’ standard terms of business still use a percentage fee on salary and it is thus in the agencies’ best interests to secure the highest possible salary for a candidate or place candidates that can offer higher value.

    Finally, to address the most recent question of an agency’s legal relationship with clients and candidates. A recruitment agency is in no different position than that of an estate agent. The estate agent wishes to secure the sale at the best price for both the buyer and seller (where a clear conflict exists) and similarly, the recruiter wants to fill the job with the right candidate at a salary acceptable to all parties. Without wishing to dwell on the legal position, the agency owes duties to both parties and by virtue of the 2003 Regulations (see ss. 16 – 17) is obliged to agree with both parties the extent of its right to act as a legal agent of the client/candidate.

  5. I have more of a question then comment. I was aproached by an individual to secure an interview with a person that another recruiter they hired could not secure an interviewand said they try to get the person in for an interview in late March. The company asked me if I could get this person I would get the fee. I was able to get the interview in two days. Now the other recruiter is trying claim that its their placement because they talked to them first. In your opinion should get the fee, if he is hired.

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