I came across a post on LinkedIn this week that has clearly done the rounds with 750+ “likes” and more than 200 comments to date. This interested me for various reasons which I’ll highlight below. I’ve removed the names of the companies and people involved as they’re not important.

The original message – quoted below – was from a freelancer who’d clearly just had a recent run-in with a recruitment agency.

“To the nice folks at [Company name removed] who just told me they would not put me forward for a role unless I gave the name of the company I interviewed with yesterday, I prefer to keep the trust that other people have put in me to keep clients confidential. Thank you.”

This consultant is right to have a moan about an unscrupulous practice used by a recruiter. For me, the worst thing is not even the fact the agency has asked him about who else he’s interviewed with – an agency will try their luck to gain lead information, we’re always looking for new prospective customers after all. The worst thing about this situation is the intimation that the agency is essentially holding the freelancer to ransom; “Give me information or I won’t put you forward to me customer”.

This is wrong on so many levels. As previously mentioned, recruiters are within their rights to ask where you’ve previously interviewed. You are well within your rights to refuse to give this information. Any recruiter who values integrity and trust won’t press any further than this. If you do choose to give up this information, it would be hypocrisy of the highest order for the agent to then turn around and ask you to keep details of his/her customer confidential.

The response on the LinkedIn comment by a director of the aforementioned agency (and the catalyst for this going as viral as something can on LinkedIn) came shortly thereafter.

“Hi [Name removed], As part of our professional service we provide to our clients we always give the client with as much information about our candidates as possible, this includes other interviews or pending offers the candidates have so the client has all the information in order to make an informed decision on suitability. Further to your comment on Linked In [Name removed] will be calling you to discuss this and the experience you have had with [Company name removed]. Should this still not be satisfactory then please contact me directly. Thanks [Name removed]

As the director of a recruitment organisation myself, this is not the tact I would have taken. It should have been a phone call (rather than a public response) and it should have been an apology, rather than a defence of the practice used.

At Climb Associates we have many years recruitment experience between us and never has a customer asked us to give specific information about where else candidates are interviewing. It’s good to be able to advise a customer if a candidate has other interviews or other offers in the pipeline as this often dictates the speed of response from the customer but there is absolutely no need to know who these interviews are with.

So far, so inept.

Another aspect of this which interests me is the professional/social media angle. This thing has blown up exceptionally quickly. Once information is out there in the public domain it’s virtually impossible to stop and things take on a life of their own.

I don’t believe the director of the agency in question will be taking comfort from the old adage that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

For this reason alone it’s imperative for recruiters to serve their customers (both clients and candidates) well and look to forging long-term relationships based on trust and integrity rather than tricky schemes and short-term wins.

My final thought on this is that I do not believe the recruiter was interested in this candidate for the role in the first place (if indeed there was a role at all). The interest was in lead generation.
If the candidate is a strong fit for a position both technically and culturally there is absolutely no way that I would not be sending that candidate’s profile to my customer. I have an obligation to my customer to find the best available people on the market for any given position.

Why would I jeopardise my customer getting the person they need to solve a crucial business problem and myself earning a living on a piece of information that has no bearing whatsoever on the candidate’s ability to do the work?

I wouldn’t – and I don’t believe anyone else would either, if there was actually a role there to be filled and you were the right person for it.