I’ve made my living as an employer fee paid recruiter for most of my working life.  If my candidates are not hired, I don’t make money.  On face value and assuming self-interest is my prime motivator it seems inevitable that to be successful I would need to put my candidate’s best interest last in the equation.

Recruiters tend to be seen as a necessary evil by both candidates and clients alike.  I am fully aware that our reputation is only slightly above used-car sales people.  That reputation has been earned by recruiters who consistently put their own need to make money above what is best for candidate and client.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing recruiters.  In many cases, they are under intense pressure to make target sales figures and work in a highly competitive arena – it’s actually a miracle they are not more cut-throat.

I would argue, however, that self-interest and the ability to put the needs of others first need not be mutually exclusive.  It all depends on whether you take the long-term, big picture view or not.  Let me explain.  Long-term success in recruitment is based on the strong relationships a recruiter is able to build with his or her clients and candidates.  It can take up to 2 years to develop each new client relationship in this industry, so why would you jeopardize it by employing strong-arm sales techniques to shoe-horn a candidate into a poorly fitting job?  Frustrating as it is to let a client know that I don’t have the right candidate for their job, it is worse when that client calls me after a month to tell me the candidate I recommended is not working out.  Not only am I likely to have to refund my fee,  I may also lose the trust of the client and not have the opportunity to work on any more of their open jobs.  Better to forego the short-term gain in favor of the greater gain in the future.

If a candidate feels they have been poorly treated by a recruiter, they will not recommend them to anyone else.  In fact, they will probably actively discourage colleagues and friends from seeking work through that recruiter.  On the other hand, if the candidate feels well treated, even if they don’t find a job through that recruiter, they will be a great referral and recommendation resource in the future.

I’m going to get a bit spiritual here so bear with me.  We are all familiar with the concept of Karma.  I see Karma as a circular thing.  It’s not just that what we do reflects back to us in kind, but it generates a kind of energy of it’s own which can return manifold to the originator.  The circle keeps getting bigger, like a ripple effect.  It is certainly in my best interest to have those ripples be positive rather than negative.  Therefore, putting my candidates’ best interests first also serves my best interests and the best interests of my clients.

So no, an ethical recruitment service is not an oxymoron.  If it were, I would not still be in recruitment.  I may have to wait a little longer for results but, by putting my candidates needs above my own, I ultimately reap much greater rewards.  On top of that I still get to sleep peacefully at night knowing I have remained true to my own values.