Reining in ‘cowboy’ recruiters

Would licensing recruiters curb the instances of unscrupulous behaviour?

Reining in ‘cowboy’ recruiters

Earlier this month, an Australian recruiter issued a plea to license recruiters in a blog post. “When the vast majority of us are doing things the right way, why should those that don’t be allowed to continue to operate and get away with it?,” Luke Collard, director at Scott Recruitment Services, wrote. But it sparked some fiery debate on Twitter.

Instances of rogue recruiters unscrupulously assuming the right to represent a candidate occur in New Zealand, but are difficult to quantify, according to Jonathan Rice, managing director at Rice Consulting. However it’s not always a recruiter’s fault – sometimes clients can put a foot wrong. “It can be a very convoluted and long-winded process, recruitment; there’s plenty of opportunity for there to be an overlap,” Rice said.

If recruiters were licensed, Rice agrees with Collard that these instances would decline. “It would, on one hand, make recruiters think twice about doing things in an underhand or unscrupulous way,” he said. And, secondly, those that persisted could invoke penalties – such as the loss of their licence.

The difficulty, for Rice, lies in the ‘how’ of creating a licence. As he points out, the recruitment process is fluid and complex and it would be difficult to define what should happen at each stage. In addition, recruiters would balk at the extra bureaucracy. “You’re not dealing with a product that’s got widgets that can go wrong and can be fixed,” he said.

There is already recourse to complaints with the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), Rice observed. However, although he has encountered the ‘odd occasion’ of unscrupulous recruiting, he isn’t tempted to join them. “It’s been frustrating, but not to the extent that I regard the RCSA as an industry body with enough power to warrant me paying an annual subscription.”

Most recruiters don’t credit the RCSA with the ‘teeth’ to resolve such issues, Rice added; they only have a mandate to mediate disputes where both parties are members. “I think the starting point is for the RCSA to toughen up and get a bit stronger around dispute resolution and thereby attract more recruitment companies to be registered,” Rice suggested.

Finally, the idea might be more popular if these episodes were more prevalent, but the recession has reduced incidence of ‘cowboy’ recruiting. This is because companies are not hiring as much and because many have adopted internal recruitment processes.

“So the people remaining in recruitment are, more often than not, more long-term, career recruiters that are generally a bit more ethical and proper in the way they go about things – or they try to be,” Rice said.


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