What to Do When a Candidate Wants to be Recruited Out from a Client

QUESTION: My question involves recruiting ethics and how to balance full disclosure to your client with full confidentiality to your candidate. Forced to choose between the two, where should your first obligation reside?

Now, here are a couple specifics. I placed a candidate with a client about 20 months ago. The candidate recently reached out to me to request my assistance on a potential job search. The candidate is reasonably satisfied in his current role but is not sure the future is with the employer as he does not see a promotion on the horizon. The employer has a flat organizational chart and grows with their people more through increasing responsibility rather than through promotions.

Another candidate I placed with the same employer in the same timeframe also recently resigned because the metro area was too small for his wife.

I have other opportunities for this candidate, but we never recruit talent out of our active clients so I have no plans to represent the candidate. That said, I am conflicted whether to contact the client and gently recommend that they take a more proactive steps to retain the employee. The candidate is not rushing to leave, however, he is receiving consistent pings from other recruiters about external opportunities and he appears to be listening. This employer is one of our best clients. – Cameron

ANSWER: This is the key for the advice for this question – this employer is one of our best clients with all searches on an exclusive basis.

I do not want to take a hit with this client on the second resignation of a candidate that I placed in less than 2 years. More importantly, I do not want to see my client lose a great employee either, but I do not want to violate a candidate’s trust with the information.

So, am I going to coach the client on retention when there is one of my key guys there? I think that raises a yellow, if not a red flag. Why are you telling me that? Is Joe unhappy?

In this situation, you have to coach the candidate to take some ownership of his or her career with the existing employer. You have been there less than 2 years. Millennials are a little aggressive in moving, maybe even GenX. Even if it was a Baby Boomer, I would say to the candidate:

Okay, things are less than perfect, and you are worried about your career. Have you talked to your manager, director, VP, C-level executive about what their vision for you in your career is?

No.

Here is what happens, Mr. Candidate, if I went out, which I will not do because XYZ Company is one of my better clients and it is not even in writing, but ethically we do not recruit out of our clients.

By the way, there were no exceptions with an active client.

Here is one way you can approach your manager. “Joe, you know, I have been here for 20 months.  These are the things I truly, truly love about the organization and Joe I just wanted to see, what is your vision for me over the next 12 or 24 months and what evolution do you see for me in this company?”

Now, they can react one of a few different ways. They can say, look, I do not have time for you. Get out of here. Go back to work. Or they can say, you know what, I had no idea you had a concern. Let’s talk about this now or have lunch together.

You would be surprised though how many times you can actually have a great conversation with somebody, give them this coaching, and then they go off, they have the meeting with their hiring manager and they have called me back and they say, I had no idea that they are coming out with a whole new product line and they want me to sell and be the overlay expert for it.

Either way, they are going to kind of show their hand. I am not going to go back to the employer and them that they need to do more to retain because it is a delicate situation. But here is what is going to happen. Hopefully your candidate has that meeting. If that meeting does not go along the lines that your candidate sees that it should based on his or her perception and they leave in the next few months, and the employer calls you and says, did you know so and so left?

Yes, he called me after he left, which is probably going to be true. They are probably going to let you know that he left. You do not have to give them all the facts, meaning he also called me before he left.

He told me he had a meeting with you, and you kind of blew it off. Now I can coach them on retention, and if there is anything else you know about that other situation where the person’s wife in the major metro area left, and say, this is a theme I have heard from two of the people I have placed. Obviously I do not recruit out of you guys, so I do not know if this is a common thing, but these are some things you may want to address, A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

Secondly is if you get into a situation where it is 20 months and it is not an active client,  they paid one fee and they really do not work with you, then unapologetically represent the candidate. What I felt was ethical was 12 months. Not up to the last job order, because if I am a non exclusive and they are treating me like a herd, if I made a placement with you in January, it was pretty much hands off through December and granted hopefully you have a followup system where you are trying to nurture that client to get more openings out of them because if that relationship solidifies, then I am going to have a hands off policy if the company calls me.