When Clients Do the Dirty on You – A tale of Robert Check

I read a discussion on Linkedin recently in the Institute of Recruiters Group that was about clients who recruit candidates without informing the agency i.e. what amounts to ‘theft’ based upon introduction, terms and conditions etc. Clearly there was a lot of “pass it to your solicitor” and “leave contact to your legal counsel” and “see them in court, you will win”. There were some whom had had recent experience of this and others who had much opinion though no direct experience of being on the receiving end of such practice.

I have, as a recruiter, been in this very situation. I have also been a manager of recruiters who have also had this done to them. I have also represented my employer (a major PLC at the time) in court to defend terms of business where clients have recruited a candidate and not paid a fee. I also am pleased to say I always won. Despite all of this I decided not to comment on the discussion.

Why? Because most comments were too orientated around the poor business practice of the client and the need to sue them and too many people wishing to go legal because they were ‘right” and the client ‘wrong’.

To increase the chances of succeeding in this case you need the following:

  1. A robust record on your CRM system of the event history because a client will not normally have an equal/similar quality of record keeping through the recruitment process. Judges in these cases do like evidence that is factual.
  2. A reasonable email trail to support the introduction and sending of terms, although an in house CRM is stronger.
  3. Documented proof of the candidate starting and the terms under which they have been engaged. This could be a telephone conversation recorded on your database, although an offer letter really helps.

This does not mean you will not win without the above. The probability of success does start to slide dramatically without it. The end game is to have a case that is stronger than 50/50!! Early resolution without legal involvement will often yield a better result than a “see you in court” attitude from the outset.

A tale of Robert CheckIt then refreshed memories of Robert Check. Robert Check was an ‘alter ego’ used successfully in the major PLC I mentioned to reduce revenue loss through clients directly engaging candidates without paying a fee. Robert was shortened down to Bob. Bob was an acronym for Behind Our Backs. In essence a Bob Check was identifying lost revenues. Bob check was the equivalent of a retail security guard.

As a standard practice within our region, every quarter, we did the following:

Create a list of every candidate who had attended an interview with a client in the previous 6 months and every temp who had finished an assignment.

Phoned the switchboard of the companies where they had interviewed/temped and asked to be put through to them.

If they now worked there, we spoke to them and congratulated them on getting the job. Ascertained the salary and updated our records. Clearly our client had, in their excitement, forgotten to tell us.

Having gathered and logged the necessary detail we then would phone the client contact and have a chat about an invoice they could expect to receive. More often than not the client would claim ignorance and agree that a fee was due – no legal action required. No threat of legal action required.

The normal attitude of the team was “My clients wouldn’t do that to me” and “I would know so why do the checks” Whom ever discovered the BOB (Behind Our Back) was the person who could chalk up the fee.

Don’t believe the client would do that to you? Don’t phone, but if someone else finds it then don’t expect any revenue. I witnessed £1000s in revenue come into the business without the need for legal action every quarter. If you don’t think it happening to you and that is based upon gut feel then perhaps you may want to get Robert Check on the case?

As final evidence, one client who ran a Chartered Accountancy practice told me it was their chosen recruitment practice. When he was caught, he paid the fee without any issue. Some suppliers he said never even followed up on interviews and provided him with free candidates on more than one occasion. Food for thought. Although the initial reaction is likely to be one of disgust and “not on my watch” the more astute among you may be able to see a bit more clarity as to what is happening out there. The court cases may just be the tip of the iceberg.