How to evade this sketchy headhunter tactic and find the best finance recruiters

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If you ask a dozen financial services recruiters who’ve had success and career longevity about their biggest frustration with the job, nearly all of them will respond with the same answer: desperate new entrants sometimes tarnish the reputation of the industry.

The latest trend that has finance recruiters talking is a particularly bold move: competitors will submit a resume to a company without ever getting permission from the candidate or even talking to them about the job. The thinking behind such an unethical decision is particular to each person, but the most likely scenario is that they look at the business as a pure numbers game. Get as many resumes in front of as many people as possible and see what sticks. Worry about tomorrow when it comes.

The other end goal is to use a strong candidate’s resume to get in bed with a company with which they don’t have a relationship, said Lisa Mogilner, a senior executive recruiter at Clear Point Group, a financial services and asset management recruiting firm. Mogilner said she’s heard of the strategy being used “quite often” by other financial search firms, though she and others we talked to don’t understand how the tactic is sustainable.

If the client responds and wants to interview the candidate, “half the time they’re not interested,” she said. Or worse, their resume has already been submitted or they’ve already interviewed. “You would immediately injure your reputation” and lose all hope of working with the client again, she said.

But more importantly, the candidate and people working for the client can look equally bad, if not worse, despite not having any involvement themselves.

“Imagine sending someone’s CV out without permission, and the person they send it to knows their boss really well and it’s just before bonus time. It could be disastrous,” said a managing director at a securities search firm who’s recruited in the U.S. and the U.K. He says he’s lost well north of $100k in commissions from rival headhunters who have blindly sent in resumes without the candidate knowing.

“The candidate would often be furious, and yet the client would insist on paying the fee to the recruiter who sent the CV first because it makes their life easier,” he said.

In those situations, the candidate at least ending up getting the job. More often, getting represented by multiple firms dooms a prospect’s chances. “They look desperate and disorganized,” Mogilner said.

Some hiring managers even have a policy where they won’t interview a candidate if they are submitted by multiple search firms, assuming the person is throwing their resume all over town. Plus, the company may not want to get in the middle of a commission war.

How to find the good ones

The best way to avoid being a victim of a blind resume submittal is to work with ethical recruiters who have strong client relationships. These are people who likely have a number of years in the business, as employing sketchy tactics is just not sustainable long-term. Ask if they have the ear of hiring managers, not just HR, and inquire about how many people they’ve placed at the company. Recruiters that have a long history with a particular client often have access to unposted jobs and can get a candidate an interview even when their resume may not be a spot-on match.

“My simple advice is always ask who the client is and ask in detail about what they do as many recruiters don’t even have terms,” said one recruiter who asked to remain anonymous. Moreover, make it clear that you never want your resume submitted without consent. Even the most unscrupulous headhunters would find it difficult to come back to you with a random interview request after getting that directive.

Other advice we’ve doled out in the past: limit the number of recruiters you work with; find ones who are willing to say things you may not want to hear; and favor those who will make the investment to sit down with you.

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