A Tale from the recruitment front line

Have you ever been lined up to do an interview and have the candidate not show up? It’s a normal occurrence: candidates get cold feet, they renegotiate with an existing employer or take new position elsewhere. While it’s frustrating that all the preparation you’ve done has gone to waste, in the end you can forgive someone for focussing on what’s right for them. You wouldn’t be so happy if you’d discovered an altogether more devious reason behind their no show.

About a month ago we received a promising looking CV via a recruiter for a PHP role we have going. Now before you roll your eyes and tell me using a recruiter was my first mistake allow me to defend our position. This recruiter is good. In fact he’s placed a few people with us in the past, has always sent good candidates, and unlike many “technical” recruiters, he knows his Python from his Javascript. Anyone who has run a small company will tell you that a good recruiter is worth their weight in gold. This CV ticked loads of boxes: good work experience, strong academic background, projects that were sizeable and complex. Naturally we told the recruiter to get him in.

About two days before the interview the recruiter calls me and says he’s having trouble securing references for the candidate, indeed the HR department of his last job can’t find any record of him. When confronted about this the candidate said he was using a different name on his CV (middle not surname) and that was probably why. Alarms bells ring. The day before the interview came and the recruiter hadn’t been able to get hold of the HR person again so we agreed to proceed with the interview nevertheless. Unsurprisingly, he never turned up. Some chancer trying to get an interview on the basis of a fake CV? It’s a classic right? Wrong.

Fast forward to the present day and we’ve taken on another recruiter to help us out. The market feels really tough, but usually picks up in the new year. Get fit, get a holiday, get a new job. People are pretty predictable. The same new recruiter sends over a CV that looks good and we line the interview up. Then the day before the interview we notice something is amiss. The new CV we’re looking at and the dodgy one we had a month back have some similarities. Similar work history and career objectives, in fact there was a whole chunk of it that was exactly the same. We call the recruiter and ask if he’s confirmed the references. He’s not, and as you’ve probably guessed, when he asks HR they’d never heard of him either.

We were stumped. Something dodgy was happening and we had no idea what. It couldn’t have been just the same guy trying to chance it with a slightly different CV as his ethnicity had changed from one CV to the next. This isn’t Face/Off, you can’t do that. There’s no reason the recruiter would be sending them to us, it’s wasted his time too.

Then it dawned on us. “They” was actually one person, a recruiter, and they had never planned on turning up for the interviews in the first place. This mystery recruiter sends bogus CVs to other recruiters in the hope that they’ll be accepted for interviews. If they do they get the name and address of the business looking to recruit and that means a new lead for their own business!

I can’t begin to imagine what sort of job satisfaction someone gets from pretending to be someone else. From making up an employment history, setting up fake email addresses and probably even going as far as to do fake telephone interviews. I feel sorry for them.

It is however a remarkably devious bit of lead generation that demonstrates perfectly how fucked up that industry is. And despite claims that the Internet has liberalised the recruitment market in reality it’s done nothing of the sort. The quicker someone develops that killer recruitment business the quicker all of us will stop wasting our time.

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.