April 7, 2011
Recruiter blacklisting: A cautionary tale
Although I'm not a headhunter or a placement agency, I try to help my clients by referring them to hiring managers or companies when I see there might be an opportunity. In one instance, an aerospace company was looking for a low-level C++ programmer. I happened to have someone in my program who was a perfect fit, so I decided to call the recruiter.
"I have a client in my program whose experience matches the job description you have listed perfectly. Are you still looking for candidates?" I asked.
"Of course! Send me his resume. What's his name, in case I've already looked at him?"
I told her his name.
"Oh no, not that guy!"
"What do you mean, not that guy?" I asked.
"Paul, let me tell you, first of all, yes, he's very qualified for the role technically speaking, but I can't hire him," she said.
"Why not?" I followed.
"Last year I had him in the final stages of the interview with another candidate. I was ready to make a job offer and told both applicants that they would have to go through a drug screen. (This candidate) said, 'give me six day's notice.'"
I was devastated. I went back to my client and asked whether the recruiter's statement was true. He said, "Vaguely speaking, I remember saying something like that once." Then he said, "Wait! I have never interviewed at this aerospace company before. She is probably mistaking me for someone else."
I went back to the recruiter all excited that she had the wrong person. She quickly lowered my excitement by saying, "Yes, of course he would not have remembered. I wasn't at this company last year. He did the interview at my former company."
That's when I noted the difference between a company blacklist and a recruiter's blacklist. Even though the aerospace company hadn't necessarily blacklisted my client, the recruiter had. If you get on the wrong side of recruiters, you'll be in a dangerous position. First of all, they can document your behavior in their current company's applicant tracking system. Second, they can mentally carry that blacklist with them to their future employers -- to which you might be interested in applying.
To try to help my client, I looked at other openings and contacted a different recruiter.
"Hi, I've got this great client. He's a great developer and I think he would be a great fit for some of your openings."
"Oh no, not that guy!" said recruiter No. 2.
Was I having déjà vu, I asked myself?
"Why not, do you know this guy?" I followed.
"I met this guy a few months back. I asked him, 'You have a six-month gap on your resume. I need you to tell me what you've been up to during this time so I can prepare a good statement as I market you to my hiring manager,' " she recounted to me.
He told her he had been developing websites. When she asked for more details, he said he had been developing adult websites and he wasn't shy in sharing all the details -- all of which made the recruiter very uncomfortable.
"So what did you do?" I asked.
"I made sure to tell every one of my recruiter colleagues about (him) and to watch out about him."
I know it's true, because I had a very difficult time finding him a position locally here in Seattle. We eventually looked out of state and found him a job in California.
The moral of this story is that you have to watch your footprint, not only with companies, but with individuals as well. I'll say it again: Seattle is a small town when it comes to employment.
Paul Anderson is presenting free Career Search Optimization seminars Saturday, April 16, and Thursday, April. 21. He'll share additional details on employer blacklisting and what to do if you find yourself on a blacklist.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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