Rusing: The Unnecessary Evil of Recruiting

Rusing refers to the most commonly used candidate-sourcing technique in the realm of unethical recruitment. This is a method (you’ll never find listed under best practices) in which recruiters “assume an alias when making a call to a potential recruit, most often to convince a gatekeeper that their call to a senior corporate leader is personal, confidential, and/or urgent in nature”. Rusing is also regularly used as a tool to generate names and leads that might not be easily found through a simple search on Linkedin.

Although it’s generally frowned upon and forbidden by many organizations, the sad truth is rusing isn’t illegal. However, we should note that just because a practice is technically legal does not make it ethical. Here is an example of how a ruse might go:

Operator: Good morning, Zoom Pharmaceuticals. This is Tasha. How can I help you?
Ruser: Hi, my name is Elizabeth Brady and I’m a Junior at Ithaca University. I have a HUGE project due tomorrow and I need to speak to someone who can help me!
O: Oh dear! My son’s in school too and I know he’s swamped these days! What’s your project on?
R: I don’t even know! Maybe Quality Assurance? Clinical Safety? I’ll take anyone at this point! It’s so hard when nobody picks up their phone. Oh, I’m going to fail – I know it!
O: Calm down. You’re not going to fail! OK, so in Quality Assurance, Brad Gold is the Director and in case you can’t get him, Alison White is the Associate Director. In Clinical Safety, we actually have three managers. Their names are…
And so it goes. Before you know it, you have 5 names and a few of those are ghosts on Linkedin. Some recruitment agencies have even hired actors to assume false identities in a desperate attempt to bolster their Rolodex.

At the end of the day though, how many people do you think will respond positively to your underhanded tactics? You’ve clearly deceived someone to get the prospective candidate on the phone. So why should this person trust you, a complete stranger and a liar? As a recruiter, it’s up to you to determine whether it’s worth risking your reputation over a quick buck. All it takes is one unimpressed party to run your name (and your organization’s) through the mud.

Rusing is not a good idea, especially if you’re a recruiter for the long haul. It’s an even worse idea when you’re involved in startup recruitment. Imagine a company has invested so much time and managed to score some fabulous venture funding. The last thing it needs is just one person tarnishing its reputation before it’s even fully evolved. If your startup is looking to hire, there are several effective and ethical sourcing techniques to explore without resorting to rusing.


Victor Mahillon
Victor Mahillon
Director of Recruiting

Victor Mahillon is the Director of Recruiting at Kamcord. Previously he was a Talent manager at OpenView.
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