How to avoid being bullied by a recruitment agency

How to avoid being bullied by a recruitment agency

A friend of mine found herself back on the job market a few months ago following redundancy.  After attending a couple of interviews she received an offer.  The agency she dealt with were understandably keen for her to accept, but the offer fell short of her expectations and various benefits that she had been promised were notably missing.

Having rejected the offer, the consultant she was dealing began to plague her with nuisance calls in an effort to change her mind.  As these became more hostile, she began to decline his calls.  He then resorted to sending her a series of emails insisting that she was ‘a fool’ and ‘idiotic’ if she didn’t take the offer, even offering her a one-off payment from the agency as a sweetener.  By this time, her mind was made up – she refused to be bullied, and walked away.

Any reputable agency will steer clear of bullying tactics like these but unfortunately they do exist due to unscrupulous and greedy consultants.  If you are using an agency, you need to be aware of these tactics so you can identify them and make sure that the decision you make regarding a job is yours, and only yours.  Below are some of the key things to look out for if you think the consultant might be coming on a bit strong, and how you might handle the situation to ensure you are fully in control of your decision.

  • Has the consultant given you all the facts regarding the job offer?  If you suspect they are being evasive for some reason, ask them to send you an email with precise details of the offer.  The friend I mentioned above had been informed that there would be a company car with her new role, which was important to her.  When the consultant made the offer he made no mention of it, and when she enquired about it, he merely advised her to just accept the offer and said they would discuss the car afterwards, which rang alarm bells with her.
  • Are they trying to disguise a low-ball offer?  An offer that falls short of your expectations requires a lot more consideration – so you need to be wary of consultants that will try to disguise the actual package.  Again, pin down what the offer is, and don’t let them pressurise you into a quick decision.  It could be the case that you need to do a few calculations to see whether the lower salary is feasible for you.  It could be the case that you want the consultant to negotiate for you.  If they know that the client won’t offer more, that’s when the less scrupulous agents will try and bully you into accepting by dressing the offer up.  Get the facts first.
  • Are they offering you incentives to take the offer?   If a job offer doesn’t meet your expectations, sometimes the client will offer an appealing incentive, like a bonus scheme, salary review or a nice perk like working from home occasionally.  These are nice gestures and indicate that they believe you are the right person but they want you to prove your worth.  But if the incentive comes not from the client, but from the agency… “My manager says we’ll give you £1000 if you accept” – it is a different matter!  It isn’t ethical, and it happens when the agency is concerned about losing the client’s business.  Incentives like this don’t address the issue of whether the role is right for YOU, and need to be handled with care.  Make sure it is the role you are accepting or not accepting, and not the incentive.
  • “Do you realise you are making a big mistake?”  Most ruthless consultants have a few key phrases that they employ when a candidate is prepared to walk away from an offer.  “You’ll never get another chance like this.” “If it were me, I would definitely accept.” So what?  It’s neither here nor there whether the consultant would accept or not.  Of course, if they are a decent consultant, you can pick their brain for more information – how have candidates that they’ve placed previously with the client fared?  Have they progressed within the company?  What do they like about working there?  They will want you to accept the role of course, recruitment agents are usually paid on commission.  But if they are smart then they will understand that if you accept a role that isn’t right for you and end up parting company with your employer further down the line, it could be more costly to their relationship with the client than if you had just rejected the offer at the start.
  • False time pressure “If you don’t accept now, they will offer the role to someone else!”  This is rarely true, and a company that expected you to say yes without having time to consider the offer and consult your loved ones would not be a company most people would want to work for.  This pressure is coming from the consultant, not the employer, and you don’t have to accept it. 

Ultimately, recruitment is about getting the right person in the right job.  If you are bullied into something that you are uncertain about, no one wins, even the foolish consultant that bullied you.  Your career and future are more important than a spur of the moment decision that you felt pushed into making – make sure you have all the facts, and trust your own judgment.