Ask Dem: how to avoid hiring unethical recruiters

Dear Dem,

I recently hired a recruiter who came from another agency that places in our niche but at a more senior level. When she started at my agency, she wanted to email all her CV’s from her agency to us and I said no. I told her she would have to acquire those CV’s again, but whatever she did, I did not want to know about it.

She arrived on her first day with piles of CV’s and I did NOT ask where they came from. She stayed one month and left suddenly, saying she was going back to her original agency into a management position. She came into the office early and took everything on her desk. All the CV’s that she brought with her and ones she acquired while here, job orders, fee agreements and Career Junction CV’s she printed off while she was here. The main thing is that she cleaned off ALL the emails from her computer. I have had people leave and I am sure they took what they brought with them, but NEVER have I had anyone take everything and clean out emails.

I have spoken with a lawyer and he is assisting me. I really don't know what I am looking for from you, but I am really hurt by this. I am so strong on ethics. I have a few questions: Do you just give trust to all recruiters, or is that something that is earned? Prior to her coming to me, she sent a CV to one of her clients and I do believe the interview took place before she started with me (not really sure yet), but the placement was made and the candidate started today. I spoke to the candidate, and she says the offer was made prior to the recruiter coming here, but I just found an email that indicates the offer came in when she was with me. Would the placement go to the first agency when the interview took place, or to us, when the offer was made? Any suggestions on how to avoid this happening in the future? She sent a Fee Agreement to a new client with her old company's name on it, not ours. Would you call the client and let them know what is going on? Any feedback you can give me to get to my lawyer would be greatly appreciated.

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Since you're already speaking to a lawyer, I will refrain from the legal ease that you're paying him/her to tell you. Any competent lawyer is going to want to know if you have a restraint, did she have one that she was violating when she came to you, and in your agreement is there any language about removing company property, intellectual and otherwise, when a person leaves. If there is, you have a case, if not, it's your word against theirs, a lot of subjective bickering, all costing money. In one month, there's not many damages. A good lawyer would tell you to chalk it up to experience and move on.

Now, the real value I can be to you.

Please take this in the spirit in which it is intended. I want you, and all my members to be successful, and I can only help by being dead honest. You take pride in running an ethical practice, and even you say you're not sure what you're looking for from me. Well, let me tell you what you're looking for. You want me to call you on a mistake you made. You want to be held accountable. So here goes.

You pulled the blanket up over your eyes because you thought it would make you money. You said you didn't want her to bring her original company's CV’s, but then when she did bring over CV’s, you played it cute and said you didn't want to know here they came from. But you DID know, and you were complicit in this unethical and expedient choice. And now you have paid a price for this opportunism, in the CV’s of yours she left with (what goes around comes around) and now your legal fees.

The lesson is that you should hire an experienced recruiter for who they are, not who they know or what they can bring from a competitor. This person sent you a warning when she suggested she could bring the CV’s. That's when her character was revealed, and you needed to act, and not hire her.

Did I give trust to all recruiters? Absolutely. Have I ever been burned? Repeatedly. But I heard Stephen Covey say something profound a few years back:

“Trust and you will eventually be burned. Don't trust, and your life will be sad and unlivable”.

Next time make some different choices. But make sure there is a next time. Don't close your heart.