Why the cost of landing a job should never be on the candidate

15 February 2019

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No-one thinks jobseekers have it easy. You spend an age fine-tuning your CV and drafting the perfect covering letter that includes the right combination of self-promotion and humility; you give up your week-ends to research the company before enduring tortuous hours of grilling before a panel of stone-faced executives.

 And, more often than not, you don’t get the job.

But spare a thought for the poor recruitment agents.They spend their working lives prepping unprepared candidates; smoothing out their rough edges; helping them bone-up on the company interviewing them; and advising them on everything from posture to personal hygiene.

Only to find that when they’re offered the job, they turn it down.

One American recruitment agency has taken matters into its own hands by asking candidates to sign a contract in which they agree to pay the recruiter $10,000 (£7,781) if they refuse an offer of employment, for the inconvenience of assisting them throughout the process.

The clause states: “In the event that if I breach the provisions of this agreement, I agree to pay the company as liquidated damages and not as a penalty a further sum of US Dollars Ten Thousand.”

The contract also obliges candidates to remain “exclusively available” to the company for three working days, from the date of the interview.

While this is clearly excessive, it has prompted discussion about when it might be appropriate for recruitment agencies to claim back money from candidates.

One social media poster was interviewed for two roles, through different agencies, and landed both jobs. After considering both offers and negotiating terms, the candidate emailed one of the agencies to say they wouldn’t be taking the job.

“A month later, I received an invoice from the accounting team of the recruitment agency – no other communication – just an invoice made out to me for £38 for a background check they had completed.

"I responded to the accounts team saying that I believed this cost was for their client, and as I had no relationship with them, it wasn’t an invoice for me personally (assuming it had been mistakenly sent to me as the subject of the background check)."

Are there any circumstances in which recruiters are justified in charging candidates? What about if the candidate has included false information on their CV and it only comes to light after they have been offered a job?

While the recruiter will have wasted their time, it’s also the case that they owe a duty of care to both clients and candidates.

Recruiters don’t charge candidates for representation for ethical reasons. For example, would they charge the same rate to a senior level candidate as they would to a junior or mid-level candidate?

As a matter of equality, it wouldn’t be fair to charge candidates for representation as those with the most money would typically be hired, and the system would be less meritocratic.

It might not be a perfect system - few systems are - but going down the road of charging caindidates for whatever reason is a can of worms better left sealed.

 

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