Recruiters Dirty Tricks No. 1- Ghosting


So I’m now 6 months into my new role at Greenacre and things have been going really well. One of the real positives about working within a small business that is looking to grow and establish itself in a new market is that you have the chance to establish its identity. In a service industry, our differentiator isn’t necessarily the product (other than when you have exclusive candidates), but its very much about the “experience”…essentially its down to how we (or at the moment, I) transact with clients and candidates alike.
I’ve always been a little negative about the industry if truth be told. Not because I don’t like the job/career. I love it when you get a person that dream job (or even when its not the dream job, but you know they really needed the money/opportunity) but because of its wider perception. And why is that? Because of the many negative “experiences” out there- bad customer service, consultants not listening, being mislead, consultants not understanding requirements etc.

Recruitment has become very competitive, and because of that, consultants who are under pressure to perform start to use dirty tricks or tactics to swing things in their favour. But that often flies in the face of the reason for our existence- to find people jobs.

As I’m establishing myself in an increasingly saturated market, I wanted to distance myself from those underhand practices and base our service around transparency- an open, honest approach, backed by a comprehensive market knowledge and extensive candidate and client network.

With that in mind, I thought it worth helping people to identify those that have lost (or never had) their scruples. I may get kicked out of the “recruitment magic circle”, but I am going to publish a few blogs over the coming weeks revealing some of the mal-practice or dirty tricks out there, designed to pull the wool over the eyes of their clients and candidates, and try and give you an idea of some of the “tells” so you can avoid it in the future.

So where to start? How about the practice of “ghosting”?


You’ll be pleased to hear that “ghosting” isn’t placing Casper or the Blair Witch into your next Rent Arrears Officer role (although they may encourage more prompt payment???)  Ghosting is something that recruiters do when they don’t have a good enough network of available candidates.  They will “sell” the ideal candidate to the client after taking down the Job Order and book them in for an interview over the phone, without sending over a CV.  This is supposed to give the client “peace of mind”, will take up an interview slot or more (if you’ve been sold multiple ghosts (apparently the colective known is a Fraid or Fright of ghosts!!) and stop you going to other agencies.  Between that point and the interview slot, the consultant will then start searching for an actual real person who could take that slot.  If they find someone, you’ll receive a call from the consultant giving some story about why the “ghost” can’t make it, and provide you with a great alternative and slot them in instead.  If they don’t find someone, they’ll usually be withdrawn at the last minute or just not turn up (because they don’t exist!!)  This has not only wasted your time preparing for an interview, but it has lost you valuable time in getting someone for your vacancy.

In the last 3 weeks, I have worked on 3 different roles alongside other agencies, where 4 “candidates” have either not turned up or been withdrawn last minute, which makes me think this practice is being employed regularly by less scrupulous agencies.

“So why do you want this job?”

So, how can you spot a ghost?  You could ask Yvette Fielding and the “Most Haunted” crew for their opinion, or add Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis on to the interview panel ….or ask the following questions:

1. Have you received a CV? If not, then you may well be experiencing a supernatural recruitment experience- ask to see the CV, and references! It will be difficult to fabricate that!

2. Is the name pretty generic or outrageous? Dave Smith, Peter Jones, or Jason Argonaut etc.  Not always a “tell” but its always worth googling (other search engines are available) their name to see if they have an online presence.  You should do this as a matter of course anyway as it can give you a flavour of the person you’ll be meeting, but will also give you an indication of whether they exist.  Also, make sure you ask detailed questions about them- what companies have they worked for, who have they reported to, what specific achievements etc- if they stumble over that they either don’t know their candidate very well (fail), or they don’t exist (double fail).

3. Have they been withdrawn and you have been immediately presented with an alternative?  This is perhaps the biggest indicator that you are dealing with a ghost.  You may think that at least you now have someone, but this indicates that the candidate has just been found and they may not have been fully referenced or skills verified, so you could be exposed to more risk.  In this situation, definitely again ask for references before agreeing to the interview to save wasting your time later on down the line- if a consultant is “ghosting” they are desperate, and their sense of judgement is often impaired!

4. Have they just not turned up?  This is again not a fool-proof tell as unfortunately our products are people and they are sometimes unpredictable by their very nature, but if this is combined with any of the above, then there is a reasonable chance you have been sold a “ghoul”.

The problem is that the indicators are often after the event, so it is very difficult to prevent being “ghosted”, but hopefully by showing you the “tells” then you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you a second time.  Its a huge waste of your time (and the consultants to be honest which is why I find it such a ridiculous practice!!), but also encourages future use of that practice.  If people are called out on it, recruiters will get scared of trying it next time!