- Ben Jones
In a competitive and fluid job market where data is valuable and potential job openings and candidates are very visible on the Internet, it is no surprise that job postings are not always what they seem.
Here are the three most likely ways to be duped by recruitment ploys:
1. Data farming: An important development in the recruitment market has been the proliferation of solo or very small recruitment agents who may not initially be retained by a prospective employer but who hunt for candidates first and then approach the employer believing they have found a great match. To do this successfully, a large database of candidates is required and an unwitting job hunter may have no idea that such agents are not retained or they may be ‘fishing’ for candidates to add to their database.
2. Advertising jobs that do not exist: Other methods can include businesses who advertise, either through unknowing legitimate and reputable recruitment agencies or directly, positions that do not exist. This ploy can be a way of finding out who is available on the employment market and also provide insights into what’s happening behind the scenes at competitors, which of their staff are disgruntled, and so on.
3. Identity fraud: This may be perpetrated where there is no job, the fraudsters have no interest in the recruitment industry and are seeking personal data for the purpose of identity theft and fraud.
The above scenarios all have potentially serious and damaging implications for individuals’ rights, so it is arguable that the whole recruitment industry should be regulated and/or that there should be clear ways to protect and enforce your rights legally.
Possible legal implications and options associated with unscrupulous recruiting practices
These are the following possible paths of action for someone who believes they have been scammed into providing data for a job that does not exist and/or where the recruiter has no right to hold themselves out as such for the job:
Reporting to an Industry body such as APSCo and REC: The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has a large number of member recruiters and a clear and comprehensive policy including that of misleading or false practices. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) also has a comprehensive policy on bad practices and a complaints policy, which would seem an attractive option should you be aggrieved. However, it offers no right to order compensation and neither of these associations have any statutory backing or powers. Realistically, the best outcome might be a voluntary apology and possible offer of compensation if a member values their reputation and does not want to be embarrassed or have membership revoked due to a serious complaint. Real rogue organisations or people are unlikely to be members in the first place.
Tort of deceit: This is a potential civil remedy if a false representation is made, by someone who knows it to be false or is reckless as to the truth of the statement, there is an intention to deceive and it is acted upon and loss is suffered as a consequence. The major obstacle here is the final aspect – proving a financial loss as a consequence of the deceit, which in practical terms means this is more of a theoretical option for an aggrieved person.
Reporting the business or individual to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO): The ICO does have real and significant powers and some offences carry custodial sentences. The potential drawback with this is that the ICO has limited manpower resources and many reported breaches do not get acted upon. A potential breach would also have more to do with the way data is handled and may not cover the situation where data is obtained for tactical reasons, but is given by consent.
Reporting the matter to the Advertising Standards Authority: This is a good option in the sense it does not cost anything and there are no obvious penalties if a compliant is not upheld. It is, however, quite complex. The Advertising Standards Authority is linked to Trading Standards in ultimate enforcement terms, so there are three possible positive outcomes:
- The Authority orders that the advert is taken down
- Adverse publicity in being named and shamed by the Authority
- Enforcement actions and penalties via Trading Standards
Reporting the matter to the police as potential fraud: The typical definition of fraud involves obtaining money by deception, and so the possible difficulty in recruitment terms is – what is the loss, if any suffered? Aside from this, the police have scant resources for investigating fraud. You might end up wasting significant time reporting and chasing a matter that goes nowhere, even if it legally constitutes fraud.
Naming and shaming online: In today’s viral world, reputation matters. Bad publicity makes a difference to most businesses, so calling out unscrupulous recruiting activities may make the perpetrators think twice. However, great care is needed, as anything that is not factual and demonstrable is very risky. Advice should be sought before any decision is made to go public and any threats to go public should also be treated with the utmost caution, as the risk of blackmail could arise.
How to protect yourself and/or spot a fake job advert
- Beware recruitment ads that offer jobs which seem too good to be true.
- Beware recruitment ads that don’t make specific reference to the recruiter being instructed or retained by a specific client.
- Phone the recruiting company direct to verify or ask for other proof.
- Don’t submit your CV until you have satisfied yourself as to the bona fides of the job and/or the recruiter.
- If a competitor advertises, be circumspect before responding.
- Do online searches about the recruiter and any bad experiences reported.
- Don’t make your CV visible on job sites for recruiters.
Ben Jones is a lawyer at Darlingtons commercial solicitors