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The Recruiter's Digest
 Recruiting News, Training & Commentary by Bill Radin

May, 2005

Identity Theft in Recruiting: How to Protect Your Assets

The other day, I got careless -- and it cost me dearly.

I was in the process of marketing a candidate, and as I worked my way through the chain of command at a prospective client company, I accidentally let the candidate's name slip.

Before I had the chance to present the candidate to the proper hiring authority, the company contacted my candidate directly, freezing me out of a referral fee.

Was I angry at the company for their end-run around me? Sure. But in fairness, I had only myself to blame for needlessly giving away my hard-earned inventory.

Loose Lips Sink Placements
To me, the secrecy game is one of the least appealing aspects of recruiting. I hate the feeling of paranoia that comes from the realization that at any time, somebody could be stealing my livelihood. While it's true that my services involve much more than simply supplying a candidate's name, it's the recruiter's referral that generally supports the payment of a fee.

When you think about it, the potential for losing your "I.D." on a candidate is omnipresent. For example, every time you refer a candidate, you have to worry about whether that person is already on file in your client company's resume vault. If it is, then you may need to fight for your referral rights. Even if your candidate is "fresh," his resume is certain to exchange hands once it's in the company's possession, and six months later, you may be surprised to learn that your candidate is now on the company payroll -- in a completely different department.

Another type of identity theft occurs whenever a loose-lipped candidate tells his friends about a company with whom you've arranged an interview. Before you can say "sendout," five mystery candidates are suddenly in the interviewing loop, none of them to your credit.

Cover Your Assets
So how closely should you hold your cards? Here are some general guidelines:

1. Never reveal a candidate's name or contact information -- verbally or on a resume -- unless you have a written referral agreement with your client company.

2. Make sure your signed referral agreement gives you credit for referred candidates for a period of at least a year, and that your I.D. on the candidate extends to the company's various divisions and departments.

3. Never disclose your client company's name to a candidate until there's a mutual level of interest sufficient to arrange an interview.

4. Utilize verbal firewall strategies to protect the identity of your candidates and clients. For example, if the company asks for the candidate's name, you can say, "I've been asked to keep the person's name confidential." If they ask, "This wouldn't be John Smith, would it?" you can play dumb and say, "John Smith? Who's he?" Or, if the candidate wants to know the name of your client company, you can simply describe the company, in terms of its size or general characteristics.

5. Always use the "you go first" technique when playing the identity game. If the hiring manager says, "I think I know who your candidate is," you can respond, "Really, who is it?" rather than offering to reveal his name.

There are exceptions to the disclosure game, of course. If a candidate has been actively interviewing, it makes no sense to cause confusion or duplication of efforts if the person has already interviewed with your client company. But by in large, the best way to protect your inventory -- and your income -- is to play it close to vest.



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