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Ethics in the Staffing Industry - Candidate Permission

Every now and then I will broach this subject, typically prompted by a particular situation. I have written blog entries about contractor ethics and the importance to the individual of their reputation. I have also written about staffing industry ethics related to some of the tactics employed by companies that clearly devalue our industry.

Today I want to talk about one particular "foundation practice" of the staffing industry ... candidate permission. This is a cornerstone of our industry and when companies circumvent this process they (a) put candidates in a bad position; (b) put clients in an awkward position and (c) put reputable agencies into a poor situation!

The way our industry works is that if we want to present a candidate to a client's opportunity then we get specific permission to present the candidate to that opportunity before we present their resume. When the next agency calls the same candidate for the same job then that agency should confirm with the candidate that they have not been presented to the same opportunity already. The candidate should only give permission to one agency so that a client does not receive multiple submissions of the same candidate.

The reality is that multiple submissions occur anyway because (a) the candidate "forgot" they had already talked to someone; (b) agencies make administrative errors and submit thinking they had permission; or (c) some agencies employ the unethical practice of submitting candidates without permission.

The right answer is that the first agency to receive explicit permission should represent the candidate. Other agencies should bow out gracefully, if given the chance. Many clients will actually actively dismiss any candidate who is presented more than once, from the running. This forces the industry to pay attention and employ good business practices, but can be hard on the candidates where they did nothing wrong.

Candidates can request of any agency that they withdraw their submission, and the agency should be bound by the request of the candidate. Sometimes an over eager recruiter will try to put pressure on the candidate, and if that is the prevailing culture of the agency then the industry association will try to educate them about good industry practices.

The bottom line is that the staffing industry uses standard practices that when applied ethically ensure that the industry operates effectively. When rogue agencies play games they bring us all into disrepute and the industry suffers. This is really unnecessary at a time when our industry is on the brink of unprecedented skills shortages that should see our value to our clients increase substantially.

Staffing companies that belong to an industry association like ACSESS in Canada sign off on a Code of Conduct that ensures our clients don't have to deal with unpleasant situations like this, where agencies can end up "bickering" about who had the right to present a candidate.

I believe that ALL agencies should be forced to belong to the industry association and that the association should have the right to force good behaviors on those agencies who bring the industry into disrepute.