What is the best way to do deal with out-of-control tech recruiters?
February 2, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I am searching for a new job in software and one particular recruiting agency is contacting me by phone to a degree that I consider harassment. I am interested in one of the jobs they're pitching, though. What's the best way to handle it?

The level of harassment is unbelievable- I think they called me literally ten times on Friday, after I had asked them to contact me by email. I received two more calls this morning (Sunday) at 10am. Their tactics seem to be akin to those of telemarketers or debt collectors, and despite the fact that we both want the same thing (me getting a job), they refuse to listen to reason.

I am ready to inform that any further contact will be considered harassment and subject to legal action. However, I am interested in the job they initially contacted me about. I've looked at the employer's website, and I could just contact them directly.

My question is about the legal ramifications of this. I know that typically recruiters ask employers to sign papers saying they "own" the candidates they present, and forbidding the employer from contacting the person directly- otherwise employers would just cut out the middleman and recruiters would never get paid.

My question is, a) is this enforceable? and b) Will the employer's HR refuse to interview me because of this, if I contact them directly? Will they even notice? If I formally "renounce" the agency and tell them I don't want them representing me, does that make a difference?

A few relevant facts:
- I believe the agency has already sent them my resume, but I have not talked to anyone from the company yet.
- I have not signed any papers with this agency, it is all via phone and (when I can force them) email.
- In case you're unfamiliar with the tech industry, there is nothing like the exclusive representation like in Hollywood. Job-seekers work with any and all recruiters at once, it's just whoever can get you the interview.

I have considered issuing an ultimatum to the agency saying if they call me on the phone again, our relationship is over. But I'd rather skip the drama and cut them out all together. If that means I lose out on this particular job I am fine with that.

Not interested in:
- "Ethical" aspects. I am 100% fine with the recruiter getting screwed over; in fact that would make me happy.
- Consulting a lawyer. This just doesn't mean that much to me one way or another.

This is in California. Thanks!
posted by drjimmy11 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you ignore them for about a week the recruiter will just stop calling you.
The employer's HR will not refuse to interview you if you contact them directly.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 12:46 PM on February 2


Why are they calling you? Is it to present more jobs? Or to demand you sign paperwork or something?

Anyway, If the recruiter is with an agency with a website, you can probably ask to speak to his manager, and tell his manager the guy is terrible and a liability.

If he's on his own, you can stop picking up the phone when he calls? Are you picking up the phone because he could be calling to set up your interview? Some agencies do that, they take off the contact info so contact goes through them. But I have to say this guy sounds unhinged. If he's this way with you, he's probably putting the company off the same way.

The enforceable contract (if it exists) is between the recruiter and the company and isn't something you should need to worry about. If he's presented your resume and they hire you, he should get his fee, but it wouldn't involve you.

I don't think there's anything wrong with applying to the website, under the circumstances. Worst case, they don't hire you, and you're no worse off than you are now. Applying independently wouldn't be a reason for them not to hire you if they want you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:48 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


You will not get a job except through that recruiter if they have a relationship.
That said, I have called companies before to tell them what a crap job their recruiter is doing knowing that I won't get the job.

I have also taken calls fro candidates who said they were unhappy with recruiters we've used and used that to pick new recruiters.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:54 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Why are they calling you? Is it to present more jobs? Or to demand you sign paperwork or something?

Pardon my French but NO MOTHERFUCKING CLUE.

They consistently leave messages saying "When can we chat?" When I emailed them that it was not possible to speak on the phone and could they email me instead, the reply said, "Got it. So when's a good time to chat?"

I wish I was making this up but I promise I am not.

re: Contacting the manager, the person doing the most harassment is the manager, as far as I've been told.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:01 PM on February 2


Oh and

you can stop picking up the phone when he calls?

I do not! At first I sent it to VM, then I started pressing "answer" and immediately hanging up without saying anything. It didn't stop them; they called back five or six more times that day!
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:04 PM on February 2


you can probably ask to speak to his manager, and tell his manager the guy is terrible and a liability.

I wonder. The kind of behavior described here is so over aggressive and indicative of missing key interpersonal skills (particularly for this profession) that it smells more to me like there's institutional pressure involved.

The other thing you could threaten to do (and actually do if it gets worse) is report their behavior to their (apparent) client. It's unlikely the employer would be interested in continuing any agreement with a recruiting organization that's using these tactics.
posted by weston at 1:04 PM on February 2


I don't know what you should do about the job but I can help you reduce the annoyance of the phone calls.

You can install the Mr. Number app on your phone and have it automatically pick up / hang up on that number for you. Sometimes you'll hear a partial ring before the app does its thing so you may also want to give that number a custom ring tone of Silent.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:13 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


If you found out about the job through the recruiter and they submitted your resume, a company could be on the hook for paying them a commission.

How the company will take the information if they find out you are now applying directly is company specific. You don't know how the company feels about this particular, I'm assuming contingent and not retained, recruiting agency. They may have a relationship. They may not. Companies probably don't want bad reputations as places that won't give recruiters their due..

But it is clear you don't like this agency, so next time they call, tell them you're ending and ask them where they have submitted your materials, so there will be no conflict of interest when you apply in the future. Or email , if you don't feel like dealing with their always be closing attitude. Or tell them not to submit your materials for any other position and only call you if they are calling to tell you you got an interview for that specific job.

But would I apply directly to a job I learned about through a recruiter who already submitted my materials? No. But that's just me.
posted by anitanita at 1:14 PM on February 2


Oh and by the way, that recruiter sounds incredibly unprofessional and bad at his job. He's supposed to be offering attractive opportunities and he's repelling you. I'd end the relationship now just on that alone. You probably don't want this guy representing you.
posted by anitanita at 1:21 PM on February 2


So you didn't actually contact the agency? They're just cold-calling you and saying "APPLY FOR THIS JOB NOW", and you're kind of interested in one of the jobs, but you don't like the way to agency is going about it?

I would ignore the agency and go straight to the company you're interested in. I see no reason there could possibly be any legal ramifications for you if you go around an abusive recruiter. In any case, I would definitely mention this to the company that you're interested in. If they are paying this agency to do recruitment for them, then they are getting scammed. If they think there's nothing wrong with what the recruiter is doing, then maybe this job isn't what you think it is.
posted by deathpanels at 1:21 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Software recruiters are often terribly aggressive, they work on commission. They are also almost always useless to the candidates, offering you no value. Unless you entered into some contract you have no responsibility to the recruiter, either legal or ethical. If they're obnoxious then answer the phone once, tell them to never contact you again, and then ignore them.

Meantime contact the company that's hiring and say nothing about the recruiter. It shouldn't be your problem. If it comes up during hiring explain they were harassing you but you liked the company so you contacted them directly. Later, if you get hired, work with HR to get that recruiter terminated.
posted by Nelson at 1:31 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


If the job is listed on the company's website, these people are simply inserting themselves in the middle in order to try to get the company to pay them a finders fee. This will make you more expensive (and way more annoying) to the hiring company, who wouldn't post the job on their website if they actually wanted to hire through a third party.

Most of these people are living entirely off these finders fees, and rent is due this week. It's like someone trying to sell you the newspapers that got left behind in Starbucks, except they want to be paid for reading them to you and 50 other people they found on CareerBuilder.

Tell the recruiter to cease contact forthwith, apply directly.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:36 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Cut bait with these people ASAP. Their unprofessional behavior towards you is the same type of behavior that they'll use when trying to secure you jobs. They're going to piss off potential employers, who won't want to deal with them or you. This very likely includes the employer they're talking to now on your behalf. These people are going to cost you work, not get it for you. Dump them.
posted by cnc at 1:44 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


ok, so I have been an agency recruiter and I am now an in house recruiter for a company that both posts our jobs and uses agencies to find candidates.

It is NOT true that if a job is posted, a recruiter couldn't have been asked to source candidates. Jobs for many companies need to be posted as part of certain compliance requirements REGARDLESS of how they actually get their candidates. Any of the following could be true:

1. The company routinely hires people though this guy and maybe others, paying him a commission when they hire someone that he presented ("presented" means "sent them a resume before they saw it any other way"); this saves them time so they would rather do this than run their own screening process;

2. The company has no history of getting candidates through this guy, but he correctly believes that they are open to agency submissions and that by sending them your resume, he will establish a relationship, and get a commission if they want you;

3. The company has no intention of paying recruiters for candidates in any case, and this guy is nuts/ignorant (but if this is true, there will usually be language saying so on the job site, something like "we do not accept agency submissions, if you are a recruiter do not send us resumes"

Now. With regard to the "got it" business. (Ugh, how I hate that phrase.) It's ok with me if you are just done with him and want to try applying on your own, but if you want to see what he has to say, email him the following:

"Bob, you absolutely need to stop calling me. I do not have time to talk on the phone and I will not be making time. If you want to continue representing me you must communicate via e-mail [or text if you are ok with text.] I promise I will respond promptly to e-mail [or text.] What did you need to ask me?"

This is of course only useful if (1), above, is true. Otherwise, if (2) or (3) are true, you are probably better off just applying on your own, because he has no value to add to you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:06 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Co-signing with fingersandtoes, and adding this:

My experience in recruiting (not in your field) has been that while companies and recruiting firms often have these types of "do not recruit" agreements (on both sides), the candidate can usually contact either the recruiter or the company directly on their own, without penalty to their candidacy (or current employment).

Usually, of course, means all of those varying mileages. But my experience is that what often happens in this case is that the internal hiring team simply takes over and, if the candidate is hired, the recruiter gets a reduced fee, if any.

- I believe the agency has already sent them my resume, but I have not talked to anyone from the company yet.

Did you send them your resume (or did they mock it up from say, LinkedIn? Did you give them permission to present your resume?
posted by sm1tten at 4:02 PM on February 2


However, I am interested in the job they initially contacted me about. I've looked at the employer's website, and I could just contact them directly.

My question is about the legal ramifications of this. I know that typically recruiters ask employers to sign papers saying they "own" the candidates they present, and forbidding the employer from contacting the person directly- otherwise employers would just cut out the middleman and recruiters would never get paid.

My question is, a) is this enforceable? and b) Will the employer's HR refuse to interview me because of this, if I contact them directly? Will they even notice?


I once tried to cut out the middleman (who I found out was charging an *insane* markup which was making the hiring decision harder), and the hiring manager explained to me that there could be trouble if we did, and so they just paid the recruiters. He didn't explain what the specific trouble would be. I get the impression that brushing off recruiting contracts is not that simple for companies that want to be on the up-and-up.

I'm guessing your recruiter is just as aggressive with the company as he is with you. If he loses contact with you, I can easily see him "following up" with the company, and there could be drama if someone there tells him that they hired you.

If this isn't the job of your dreams, I'd consider just moving on.
posted by ignignokt at 8:51 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


You believe the agency has sent in your résumé - without permission? They 'can't' do that.

you asked the agency to send it in? And they did? You asked the agency to introduce you to the company and they must pay the agent a very large fee if they hire you in the future. For anything. Ever.

Agents 'can't' submit your resume without telling you what the company is, but of course they never do. I've applied for jobs directly on the personal recommendation of ex employees, gotten interviewed, and had the company discover that they had previously received my résumé from an agent I only dimly remembered and were therefore obligated to pay that agent a fee if they hired me. They were interviewing dozens of candidates that day and of course costing twice as much as the others killed my chances, why wouldn't it.

Having said all that, the agency introduced you to a job you want to apply for and other things being equal it would be unethical to apply without their involvement. But their unprofessionalism means they are guaranteed not to get you the job anyway. I don't think you have a *moral* obligation not to apply directly versus through recruiters who are guaranteed to prevent you from getting the job, though it may be impossible to escape their involvement.

Having said that, I've had recruiters tell me they submitted my résumé to a company and then months later applied directly. In one case they required declaration of previous applications so I listed the recruiter, who I remembered well because they had grilled me so much on the phone and put me through aptitude tests and on one occasion accused me of being shady and inconsistent and questioned whether I really wanted to work in software or was leading them on etc. Of course I knew how toxic that was and decided to disengage, but I was also unemployed with my back against the wall and couldn't afford to offend anyone remotely to do with the hiring process, so I didn't tell them to fuck directly off, just faded.

And the company interviewed me and told me they had never had any applications on my behalf before from anyone. They were bordering on OCD in there so if their records were wrong I'll be a monkey's uncle. I could however believe that the agent was lying to me the entire time - to what end, I cannot imagine.

Recruiters are difficult to avoid because most IT job ads are posted by them. However IME few of the recruiters have any relationship with the company that's hiring, if indeed the vacancy is even real.

I always try to answer only direct ads in the private sector because recruiters rarely do anything but get in the way. In your case, though it's unethical, I'd apply directly and be prepared for the possible consequence that the company will not only not hire you (always more likely than not for every application) but will think you're unethical for applying through a recruiter and then going round them. If it comes to having to explain that I'd just say you did apply through them but they came out with some disturbingly unprofessional behaviour that you knew would kill your prospects but you were so interested in that job in particular that you couldn't resist applying directly.

My guess though is that they don't really have any relationship to the company at all. In which case giving the company 'helpful feedback' about their terrible recruiter who is nothing to do with them, won't help and will make the situation worse. And if the agent was hired by the company, complaining about them also won't improve your chances. Maybe the company even likes their style.

Anyway, in future - apply directly, don't go through recruiters ever. The direct advertisements are few and far between but the hit rate is on the order of one in tens rather than one in hundreds.
posted by tel3path at 11:14 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


From a sometime hiring manager: There are headhunters that work the way you describe - and they are bad headhunters, bad for you & bad for the hiring companies. I think they continue to exist because the job market is so volatile, and they fill a niche like weeds after a forest fire. Find somebody else to work with: there are a few competent, ethical headhunters out there, who will respect your time, listen to your requirements, and get your approval before submitting your resume. Find one or two of these & stop talking to the jerks like the one you describe.

The job market is very hot right now & most employers are willing to pay fees to get talent, so coming in through an agency is seldom a blocker to the hiring process. The best route in to a job remains a (no-fee) referral through your personal network; but, failing that, a good headhunter will often get you noticed when a direct submission will be lost somewhere in a poorly run HR organization.
posted by mr vino at 12:49 AM on February 3


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