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Faking It: The Job Candidate Pipelining Practice that Needs to Stop

Unhappy interviewees sit in chairs waiting to be interviewed.

Imagine a trendy coffee shop finally opens in your neighborhood and they lure you in with a VIP complementary offer for the best pumpkin spice latte on the planet. You’re psyched! You don your hipster slouchy hat and take a selfie while waiting in line for two hours, only find out there are no free pumpkin spice lattes. “But would you like to purchase a small Americano for $5.99?”

You’d be mad, right? How many friends would you tell and how likely are you to want to return?

There are few things worse than feeling deceived, which is why the practice of posting fake jobs to strengthen a candidate pipeline makes very little sense. Yet, many employers do it. Make no mistake, however, that doing so can lead to:

  1. Turning off top candidates and their friends…for good.
  2. Preventing reputable staffing agencies from ever working with you again

How it taints your candidate pool

Employers cite many “good” reasons to engage in fake job posting. It can gauge interest and demand which can then help with creating a case for the job in the future and even an idea of the salary to offer. It can also help build a candidate pipeline for the future or for related jobs. Some hiring managers will even bait-and-switch by posting a too-good-to-be-true position and then offer applicants a chance to apply for a less desirable (but real) position.

But let’s be clear: If you’re posting jobs that don’t exist—for whatever the reason—you’re a scam artist. Few employer attributes are as important to top talent as trustworthiness and, as we’ve covered before, trust is harder to win over than it used to be. Nothing breaks trust like lying to a top candidate before they even enter the front door.

Giving a handful of candidates reason to mistrust you can lead to a crisis for your organization’s reputation. Social networks and review sites like Glassdoor make it very easy for top talent to talk after a bad experience. Glassdoor claims almost half of its members read reviews when they have just started their job search and have not yet spoken with a company recruiting or hiring manager. It takes as few as six reviews to change a candidate’s opinion about a potential employer. Deceive candidates and your poor reputation will precede you when posting future jobs.

How it turns off reputable staffing firms

Staffing firms that are reputable recruiting partners build their success on relationships. While there are plenty of staffing firms accused of spearheading the practice of posting fake jobs, those firms are rarely worth your time and money.

We’ve also heard plenty of stories about staffing firms being duped into recruiting for jobs that don’t exist, like this sad tale from corporate recruiter Charlene Long. It’s baffling to think an employer who not only fakes out candidates but their own staffing firm, too, expects to maintain a long-term relationship with any reputable recruiting partner. The truth is, we (the staffing firm) have too much to lose. For us, losing trust means sabotaging the relationships we need to be successful.

Recruiters who work on a contingency basis have something even more tangible to lose: a paycheck. If a recruiter isn’t paid by a client unless a position is filled, working to find candidates for a fake job is a losing prospect and one a good recruiter (and their top candidates) will not tolerate a second time around.

How to do it the right way

Don’t take this commentary to mean you can’t create a valuable candidate pipeline if you don’t have an immediate position available. You certainly can and should.

Using tools like LinkedIn and other job boards can help you find perfectly matched job candidates quickly, and going back to resumes from recent job applicants for similar jobs can give you a head start on your search. Work with a recruiting partner that uses sophisticated candidate pipelining practices, analytics and software, and you’ll go further even faster.

And, yes, you can even conduct interviews. Informational interviews can be beneficial for both employers and candidates, but you need to be upfront about the situation.

“When I lost my job a year ago, I put the word out among my industry peers that I was looking for a new opportunity,” explains an Austin-area IT service executive. “A representative at one of my favorite companies in the field called and asked if we could set up an interview. He was upfront that there wasn’t currently a position available without relocation but wanted to introduce me to the company and learn more about me anyway, just in case an opportunity arises. I was more than happy to interview, even though I knew it wouldn’t immediately pay off. In fact, I felt truly grateful for the chance to learn more about the company.”

Would he have felt the same if he had been asked to go through the interview process only to find out no real opportunity existed? How many of his industry peers would he have told and how likely would he be to apply for a position with the organization in the future?

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