Client Question: A headhunter sent a CV to me 8 months ago but I wasn’t recruiting at the time and that’s what I told him when he called me to discuss ‘his candidate’. I didn’t even look at the CV.  A couple of months ago I had headcount approved and received a CV from another source which unbeknown to me happened to be the same CV submitted by the headhunter a few months earlier.  We ended up making the candidate an offer and although the candidate does acknowledge that he had some dealings with the headhunter he does not recall expressly giving permission for his CV to be submitted to us.  This has become a mess because there are now two agencies claiming a fee.  Is the headhunter for real? Surely this has no legal substance?

My Answer: Unfortunately this is an all too common scenario and regrettably I cannot provide the reassurance you seek about the legal position.  I have written about a similar case in a previous blog which involved Barclays in Singapore who were being sued by a recruitment firm for $266,000.

Barclays ended up settling out of court so they obviously thought that the claim had some substance.  The case provides a valuable lesson for hiring managers never to accept unsolicited CVs from a headhunter, recruitment agency or any other non-approved source.  If any CVs are received, you should immediately respond stating that you have not accepted the CV and do not agree to the terms and conditions of the agency (whether submitted with the CV or not).  You should further state that your company only deals with a select number of preferred suppliers who must show evidence from the candidate that they have agreed for the agency to represent them for a specific position.  You should further state that you do not accept the agency’s representation of this or any other candidate and reserve the right to consider the candidate for opportunities in the future and their representation by other agencies.

You will note that I refer to agencies because true headhunters just don’t work in this way.  They are engaged by clients on specific assignments and don’t work in this speculative manner.

Whether this particular case would stand up to legal scrutiny is hard to judge, as I’ve stated previously, I’m not a lawyer but there is potentially a case to be answered.  The key probably lies in whether the agency can provide evidence that the candidate agreed to be represented by them.  If the agency persists with their claim for a fee it may be worth seeking legal advice. 

Have you had a similar experience?  What was the outcome?

 Do you have any other headhunters or recruitment agency horror stories?

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