Bogus Candidates in Recruitment?
SummaryA difficult economic climate breeds desperation. This is perhaps one of the most plausible explanations for the apparent behaviour of several unethical recruiters in the marketplace.
As one of the largest Pharmaceutical job boards in Europe, we know a thing or two about healthcare recruitment as we handle literally hundreds of vacancies a month. Typically, the ethics of the trade work wonderfully. Companies and recruiters upload their jobs to PharmiWeb.com and instantly reach a target audience that no one recruiter could achieve on their own. Our ‘CV Database’ facility grants candidates the opportunity to record their vital stats in our database; we can then send them information on the most relevant vacancies on a daily and weekly basis.
Unfortunately, such a system is also open to exploitation by those recruiters most determined to break all the rules in the book and engage in wholly unlawful and unprofessional practices. Over the past year or so, bogus candidates – along with bogus CVs – have become borderline commonplace in the UK recruitment industry, wasting recruiters’ time, damaging revenues and causing a substantial trust vacuum in the sector. Increasingly, a number of our clients are becoming frustrated by the experience. We too, are determined to bring the practice to the public domain.
Over the past year or so, a number of our clients have reported an upsurge of the problem. Typically, a fake CV is submitted for a job – or uploaded to our CV Database – and more information is requested on the position. When the recruiter, or company HR department, contacts the alleged candidate, it becomes quite clear that they are a fraud. What are the potential benefits of such an unethical scheme, you might ask? The gains are two-fold. First, the recruiter hopes to gain general information on the firm in question: what's their salary range; a general list of vacancies and a foot in the door. Second, the recruiter may ultimately hope to use this opportunity to forward some of their own candidates for the position. Not only are such practices clearly and unequivocally against REC guidelines, but they are also both unprofessional and morally bankrupt by any standards of business. For the agencies out there that have built their reputations on decades of honesty and integrity, there is rightful resentment of the kinds of racketeers that engage in these procedures. One recruiter, whose agency has been at the forefront of the industry for decades told us: ‘We have been around for over 20 years now, and have worked hard to maintain a reputation for absolute honesty and long term relationships, even if it may lose us an opportunity in the short term. Companies working in the pharmaceutical sector that act unscrupulously has a detrimental effect to all consultancies who focus upon excellence of service”.
Unfortunately, while we continue to have a great faith in those agencies that hold unfettered records of excellence and honestly, one is forced to consider the possibility that, if left unresolved, more and more firms may feel the pressure to follow suit. For this reason alone, it’s imperative that something is done now. Moreover, it is even more crucial that those recruiters that are currently abiding by the correct laws and standards are praised for their efforts.
As the global economy has learnt over the course of the recent economic crisis, free markets can only function on a level playing field. Sometimes, regulation is needed to enforce such a sense of fairness. When said guidelines are broken, something must be done or else the whole system comes tumbling down before our eyes. Certainly, this particular issue is not damaging to a comparative extent. Yet left unchecked, it could cause considerable damage to the recruitment industry over time. Regulatory bodies such as the REC must step in where necessary. Even from recent news, it is clear that the recruitment sector is not immune from cartel-like operations.
The statistics, too, paint a picture of relatively widespread deception and subterfuge. In response to a recent PharmiWeb.com survey, 58.6% of respondents said they had experienced a bogus candidate. In addition, 47.2% of respondents said that they have been the victim of bogus candidates in the last 12 months – encountering an average of 9 fake candidates during that period alone. The number of people who encountered the problem through our own service was substantially less than the average figure, yet we are still suitably concerned and determined to resolve the issue in the long-term.
‘Sometimes we have realised what has been happening immediately’, said one recruiter. ‘Other times it has only come to light after we have spent time and shared information with the supposed candidate. This had led to further time being wasted in investigating and obtaining an admission and apology from the company's senior management’.
Doubtless, big problems call for big solutions. Unfortunately, in this case at least, no clear or obvious resolution exists. Certainly, direct legal avenues are hard to pursue - due to the level of proof that would be required - and it would be hard to exclude candidates based on the fact that some may be falsifying their attributes. There are however, a number of useful steps that could be taken. In conducting our survey on the issue, we asked our clients if they could propose any functional means of resolving the issue. Several suggestions were put forward.
First, some recruiters have suggested setting up some kind of a screening process. Indeed, some it appears, do this already. For instance, when a candidate submits their CV for a vacancy, a quick screening call will usually determine whether they are genuine or a fraud. This is one simple way of screening all candidates and eliminating any fake entries at the very start of the process.
‘The way to deal with these under hand and slippery operators is simple: don't give them the time of day and work instead with those agencies that you can trust’.
Equally, mediation is, at least in some cases, preferable to accusation. If a particular party or recruiter is suspected, it may be worth contacting their upper-management, gently putting forward your findings and asking for a sufficient explanation. While this could be seen as too gentle to have any meaningful affect, such soft-power tactics may deter a culprit from engaging in such conduct in the future. Other, more strongly worded legal accusations may result in costly law suits and an inability to provide sufficient evidence. Where a necessary level of proof has been acquired, it may be necessary to consider a site-wide ban against them and their business. It would of course be preferable to avoid such an eventuality, but all cards must be kept on the table.
Finally, all recruiters in the industry are committed to adhering to REC laws and regulations. Under such conditions, it may be necessary to report more of these instances of bogus candidates to the relevant regulatory bodies. Here, you are not required to prove a case, but rather to pass on all the required information to the regulators; simply allowing them to do their job. This is, after all, what they are there for. They could perhaps be better informed on these kinds of goings on. Some recruiters, it appears, are already doing this and they should be commended for their efforts.
As several respondents quite rightly noted, there are perhaps, no easy ways to resolve the issue. Yet, if every recruiter comes together to play their part – by reporting the culprits and screening their candidates – we may eventually erode the very incentive that encouraged the fraudsters in the first place. If we can erode the benefits, at the same time as making it a much riskier and more regulated practice, we may eventually see an end to this kind of vulgar and entirely dishonourable practice. For the far majority of ethical, honest and upstanding recruiters out there in the industry, it is unfortunate that there are always a few indecorous sharks to spoil the party. Let this be the first step on the road to redemption.