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“Trust Me, I’m A Candidate”

By September 24, 20152 Comments

I should warn you now. Today’s Whiteboard covers familiar territory. Now either I’m running out of ideas, or the same issue keeps gouging at our collective industry eyes’ like an Argentinian Lock. Over the weekend, the Herald ran a story regarding Anthony Kiro, a former professional League player, who through the use of forged documents, secured a job as a senior advisor at the Financial Markets Authority.

This is a story that could have been copied and pasted from any number of similar stories that have hit the headlines in recent years. Actually, knowing the Herald, it probably was. What I’ve noticed, is that the story usually follows the same format, detailed below.

  1. Brief outline of fraud
  2. Paint protagonist as ladies’ man/charmer/playboy. Highlight use of dating sites
  3. Comment from employer, usually “We take these things seriously and are reviewing all processes”
  4. Highlight that candidate was introduced by a recruitment agency
  5. Allusion that agency is to blame
  6. Comment from Private Investigator. Usually the handsome Danny Toresen

From the article, the agency in question appears to have done more than most, and all credit to Jane Kennelly for what looks like a sound recruitment process. However, it does re-raise (re-re-raise?) the question of what our actual job as agency recruiters is. Are we, as I’m sure the FMA are currently wishing, responsible for the full vetting service? Sourcing, selection, competency based interviewing, criminal history and academic record checks, plus the standard references? My personal view is that we’re simply not paid enough to do this. And given the number of candidates who get to the final hurdle only to never work for our client, the sheer volumes would make it unworkable.

The story is particularly pertinent to us here at Rice Consulting. We recently had an enquiry from an experienced recruiter, who strangely didn’t have a CV, as it was being written for him by a “professional” CV writer. An interesting start. He arrived for interview in a 3 piece suit, including bow tie. Not a “I’m cool and work in Britomart” bow tie. More like a “I have a man servant who irons my Financial Times each morning” bow time. The candidate had impressive academics, having studied at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. Alarm bells ringing yet? Oh, and his Godparents? Sir Edmund and Lady Hillary of course. His father was also a Director of an English bank. Well, not just a bank, the bank. Of England. Suffice to say, he went no further than first interview. A week later, the same “candidate” hit the headlines. Have a read of the article…

My personal view, and being a director, one that is shared by at least one  third of my employer, is that we’re more like a dating agency. If you and I (yes you, the attractive female recruiter who has a soft spot for opinionated Englishman) were introduced via a dating agency, went on to be married, and after a few years, you realised that I was a sociopath, would you blame the agency? We as recruiters are briefed by our clients to find someone who demonstrates the ability to perform specific tasks. We do all in our power to assess cultural and technical fit. We go one step further than a dating agency and take references. When it comes to permanent employment, it is our clients that extend a job offer. To my mind, they must take some accountability for the hire – good and bad. I’m sure as an industry, we’d be more than delighted to offer complimentary vetting services. However, this should come at a cost to our clients. Only then can we be made legitimate scapegoats.

And so to the future. It’s clear that we need to become better at explaining what we actually do. If we decide that the full vetting service is the responsibility of the recruitment agency, then so be it. We just need to be paid for it.

The other more likely option, is that we carry on in the no-man’s-land of vague accountabilities. Hey, at least it’ll give me another blog topic in six months’ time.

Happy Friday one and all.


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.


  • Mason says:

    Hi Sean, appreciate the quality posts from you and Jonathon – read them each time.

    I agree and understand with today’s post, but feel clients also “buying” my recruiters intuition and robust checking nous.
    While we sign T’s and C’s confirming what we will do for clients, as I also bank my personal reputation on people I do extra – all clients and jobseekers get googled, social media checked, and I always check the validity of “relevant qualifications” of shortlisted applicants. I sight originals where possible.
    I will not check irrelevant qualifications (unless I smell something fishy) – so far have found fraudsters,worse criminals, uncertified tradesmen, foreign gangsters and was really glad to verify we dealt a genuine astronaut!

    What I’d like to see as a NZ standard is for all tertiary institutions to publish (and make searchable) all tertiary qualifications granted. Massey University does this, Gasfitters, plumber, electricians etc have their licenses online – but other tertiary insitutions/bodies don’t and hide behind standard Privacy Act statements/responses.
    I don’t understand why any graduate would/should feel privacy is breached when a prospective employer/recruiter verifies their professional or academic qualifications as true.

  • Eloise says:

    Happy Friday! And I totally agree. I have never worked for a recruitment agency but having worked in HR for a number of years, I have worked closely with external recruitment agencies and it is sufficed to say that as much as they may get on your nerves at times, or pester you for feedback beyond belief when the hiring Director refuses to take your calls and ignores you for weeks on end; the hiring decision lies solely with the hiring company. End of. Do businesses really expect recruitment agencies to know someone inside out and carry out even more checks? If they do, then they should be abiding by the same standards for internal recruitment too. There can’t be one rule for one… It annoys me that just because an agency is an outside source that receives payment for their troubles, they therefore should be liable if things don’t work out. No way. Things don’t work out for so many reasons, many of which can’t be predicted. You can’t see into the future! And finally, I think the day we need to know EVERYTHING about EVERYONE before hiring them because we no longer trust out judgement, will be a very sad one indeed.