Etiquette for recruitment consultants

By Kate Southam

Try this quick quiz. What creature has a longer memory than an elephant?

The answer is a job candidate who feels they have been wronged by a recruitment consultant.

Anyone who doubts that should have been at the business breakfast I attended where I sat between a CEO and a GM. Both happily recounted tales of revenge visited upon consultants they claimed had reeled them in just to throw them back into the candidate pool without a word as to why.

The CEO accepted a sales call from the hapless consultant whose memory was not as clear as his. After making the consultant wait for an uncomfortable period the CEO then ushered her into his office and let her go through her entire sales spiel. He then asked in an icy tone: “You don’t remember me, do you?”

The GM also made his unsuspecting victim wait. Finally, the GM exited his office, spoke to his PA and then sailed right past the consultant as if he was not there and disappeared down a corridor.

You might think that petty if not crazy behaviour. I know I did.

However, it clearly demonstrates the depth of emotion involved when a candidate feels wronged after putting themselves out there to be judged.

We all know that some candidates put little effort into their applications and others have unrealistic expectations. However, many candidates put in enormous effort and they deserve to be treated with respect.

The silent treatment is one thing and I have heard all about harried consultants who can’t contact everyone. Let’s agree to disagree on that one. However, there is no excuse for consultants using fake job ads. It is particularly cruel in the tight employment market of the past year.

Candidates know something is up when after applying for a job they are called in for interview only to be told the job has somehow been miraculously filled in that short space of time.

Job ads that “discriminate” also make candidates’ blood boil.

I had a recent email pointing out an ad that I then verified to be real. It was posted by an employer who wrote: “No 4th generation racists. Candidates with foreign schooling preferred.” Go figure.

Another example was an advertisement aimed at young candidates and written to be funny. The first line was a shocker: Were you born between 1979 and 1997?  It went down hill from there.

CareerOne has removed more than one white collar ad posted by recruiters looking for a candidate to be a “right hand man”. Perhaps the recruiter was looking for a man who was right handed. Either way, it’s out. Other ads kyboshed included those specifying age or gender.

According to official definition, your ad cannot discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, age, physical or mental disability, gender, marital status, religion, political opinion or carer’s responsibility.

Even specifying years of experience can get you in hot water.

In addition to any legal penalty you or your employer might attract, you could also be responsible for having your employer named on a website such as Whirlpool or Even it Up.

I don’t name and shame but when an Ask Kate reader emails me with suspicions about fake job ad or an ad that discriminates, I do urge them to report it to both the RCSA and the appropriate government agency.

Candidates do talk – to me, via Twitter, Facebook and on blogs.

Kate Southam is the Editor of and the author of the syndicated Ask Kate newspaper column and Cube Farmer blog on

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