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Cheating Olympians; Cheating Recruiters

By August 16, 20126 Comments

This week got off to a pretty eventful start for New Zealand’s shot put silver medallist Valerie Adams when she was informed that the woman person she had lost her Olympic crown to, Nadzeya Ostapchuk, had tested positive for anabolic steroid metenolone.  Joy and relief all round, as the news delivered New Zealand another Olympic gold medal and meant Valerie retained her place at the pinnacle of her sport.

But it’s impossible not to feel a bit flat and deflated by it really.  Val may well be the Olympic champion once again, but the essence of sport goes far beyond the stats and history books.  It is about the contest, the passion and the eventual glory.  It is about standing victorious, straight from the heat of battle, adrenalin still pumping as the national anthem blares.

Regardless of whatever ceremony we hold for her when she arrives back in Auckland, Val has been forever denied that moment of glory by the mindless cheating of her greatest rival.

But of course, cheating isn’t confined solely to the realms of sport.  It rears its ugly head in the world of recruitment from time to time as well.  When I first moved into the New Zealand recruitment market, my arrival came just after the departure of another recruiter from the central Auckland team.  My company paid commission on a 4-weekly basis and based purely on billings achieved, not reliant on whether or not the invoice had been paid.  This particular recruiter was unable to resist the temptation this set up presents, and falsified a number of placements and billings over the months immediately preceding his departure.  This resulted in artificially inflated commission cheques and even a promotion (!) before the accounts receivable queries started to mount and he scarpered.

Fast forward five years and this week got off to an eventful start for someone else involved in cheating too.  A Wellington recruiter took the stand in court on Monday after pleading guilty to defrauding his employer.  This particular recruiter took things even further than the last guy, setting up his own company on the side to syphon off fees from his regular desk and into his own bank account.  Not content with merely inflating the commission cheque, he decided he wanted the whole of the fee to himself, and spent a full year defrauding his employer who in these tough economic times has barely drawn anything from the business for themselves.

Recruitment is a high pressure game.  There are many recruiters out there whose inherent levels of competitiveness can drive them to making poor errors of judgement to appear successful.  Likewise, things are not as they were, and some recruiters used to the glory and trappings of successful, high-billing desks, are struggling with the battle to get deals across the line and new thriftiness of clients.

But none of this is any excuse for cheating.  If you are a recruiter struggling to cope with the fact your $500k per year desk is now delivering a patchy $15k per month then you simply have to find a way to be successful again.  Roll with the punches, adjust your impression of what a successful recruiter’s lifestyle should look like, swallow your mammoth recruiter ego, and find a way to deliver a service and solution so brilliant that your clients are unable to say no.  You may still fall short of the $500k levels, certainly for the next couple of years, but when you exceed budget, when you collect a genuine commission cheque, and when your client thanks you for a job well done, those tiny shards of victory will taste so much sweeter than the bitter, empty feeling of winning by cheating.

As it turned out, the recruiter’s lawyer failed to turn up at court, so sentencing has been delayed until November.  Probably about the same time that Val Adams’ gold medal will arrive.  Hopefully the award won’t be too tarnished by then, unlike the career of this particular ex-recruiter.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Adam Napper says:

    Very topical Jon as always. As in sport, there is no substitute for the basics in recruitment – passion, damn hard work, a smart head on your shoulders and tenacity to ride things out when the going gets tough .. and it has been a particularly bumpy ride for most over the last 3-4 years in our industry. 

  • Davidharveysmtih says:

    I hope the
    cheating recruiter gets what he deserves. I had the same things happen to me
    when I ran my own company! Caught the guy in the end, but why do people think
    they have the right to cheat the system. All it does is bring the recruitment
    market in to disrespect again.

    I suppose it
    is as you say that the ego’s of the recruiters just get greedy and they want
    the trappings of success without wanting to work hard for them. I often wish
    that some recruiters would try and go it alone as it puts a totally different perspective
    on billings, commission and your earnings. It also shows if they have any
    ethics. I have a lot more time for a recruiter who will try if for themselves
    rather than happily sit in a big corporate just to take the money.

    Yes as
    recruiters we can earn a great deal of money, and yes that is fine but rather
    than think about the money think about the work you are doing. Think about the
    service that you offer and the potential advantages that you can give your
    candidates and clients. Then when as a result of doing the normal things that
    you do you will still get your money but you will also get satisfaction, better
    referrals and a greater client relationship.

    I know that some
    will not agree with this ethos, my company was not huge, I did not become a Hayes,
    Ranstad or AWF, but I did it myself, with my own backing and I can tell you now
    that it was my best time in recruitment, doing the job the right way and still
    making a bloody good living out of it.

  • Charlotte says:

    Ostapchuk’s cheating is reprehensible but it’s getting a little embarrassing that NZers think this gives them free reign to make vile comments about how she looks like a man, eeew gross lol! And no, the fact that she took steroids still doesn’t make it okay to ridicule her appearance. Good on Valerie Adams who has never stooped to personal attacks.

  • noaddedfluff says:

    Valerie – Big Thumbs Up! 
    AND Thumbs Up to all the ethical recruiters who still follow ethical process, and consult with clients and jobseekers. The others will come and go – but the truly professional recruiters will endure!

  • Jessie says:

    I had an interesting experience this week. A client of mine was taken to court by an agency that floated a CV to their overseas offices last year for a role that was advertised on SEEK. They have no idea who this agency is and have never met with them nor engaged them to recruit for any role. This client was then taken to court by that agency for employing that candidate through another agency that was contractually engaged to recruit for a totally different role this year. The client flew down from Australia and went to court along with their NZ Managers and were kept waiting…… The agency that had taken them to court did not even turn up…….. I wonder why?!

  • Pauline Brown says:

    Great article Jon and yes have certainly experienced my share (well only at one company) of dodgy, cheating recruiters. Some consultants get caught up in the $ and forget the vital role they should play when engaged by a client to deliver an outcome. As an internal recruiter for the last couple years I work with some fantastic consultants who I would always recommend in a heartbeat and certainly voice my opinions extremely loud to my colleagues and connections of who to avoid!