The Unnecessary Evil of Recruiting

Have you ever heard of recruitment rusing? If you’ve ever been a headhunter or dealt with unscrupulous recruiters, I’m sure you’ve come across the practice.

Rusing refers to the most commonly used — and most unethical — method of candidate-sourcing. It will never be listed under best practices, yet it’s a common practice for recruiters.

So what is it? Rusing occurs when a recruiter assumes an alias during a phone call to a potential client or candidate, most often to convince a gatekeeper that their call to a senior corporate leader is personal, confidential, and/or urgent.

In other words, rusing is trickery and impersonation. It’s regularly used as a tool to add names to a recruiter’s contact sheet, generating leads that might not otherwise be easily found through a simple search on LinkedIn.

Although it’s generally frowned upon and forbidden by many organizations, rusing isn’t illegal.  It is, however, deceptive. Businessweek’s Joseph Daniel McCool describes it pretty well in an article for the magazine. The people that use rusing have been known to assume the identity of lawyers, journalists, or even family members to promote the importance of their call. When they get the corporate executive on the phone, they often ditch their adopted persona to offer their job pitch.

Here’s 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!

Operator: Oh dear! My son’s in school too and I know he’s swamped these days! What’s your project on?

Ruser: 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!

Operator: 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 there you have it. Before the operator knows any better, the recruiter has five senior managers’ names that they couldn’t find on their own. Some recruitment agencies have even been know to hire 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 those underhanded tactics? Rusers have clearly deceived someone to get the prospective candidate on the phone, so why should that person trust a complete stranger and a liar? It’s up to recruiters to determine whether it’s worth risking their reputation for a quick buck. All it takes is one unimpressed candidate to drag your organization though the mud and ultimately ruin your previously good name.

If your startup or expansion stage company is looking to hire some outstanding talent, there are far more effective and ethical sourcing techniques to explore without resorting to rusing. Ben Yoskovitz, who’s had success starting and building early stage companies, suggests giving these ideas a shot:

  • Get a decent contact management system: Excel works, but systems like Network Hippo or Gist offer excellent database systems to store your network of contacts.
  • Use every service possible to find people: Leave no stone unturned. Use LinkedIn, Google, and Twitter. There’s also WeFollow and Twellow.
  • View every profile and make snap decisions: Don’t search only for potential candidates. Keep an eye out for people that connect you to the person you’re looking for. When you find intriguing prospects, reach out to them and make an honest pitch.
  • Keep track of everything and follow up religiously: Tracking everything you do is an essential piece of the recruiting process. Know where you found the person, what information you gathered on them, and who you know in common. Once you make contact with a valuable prospect, follow up instantly and maintain contact even if you don’t end up hiring them.
  • Follow the leader and ask for referrals: Smaller companies should always be recruiting. Whether you hire someone or not is irrelevant. You want to maintain a network of potential hires, so follow the leaders of certain communities and form relationships with them. You may hire them, or you may ask for referrals that will continue to build your candidate pool.

The bottom line is that rusing is never a good idea.

That’s especially true if you’re a recruiter or a startup company that’s in it for the long haul. Just imagine that your company has invested an inordinate amount of time and money developing its product and infrastructure, scoring some fabulous venture funding. Rusing tactics can quickly undermine that progress and tarnish the company’s reputation before it’s even fully evolved. Is it worth that risk?

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