Lindsay Olson

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Candidate Question: Am I being used as a "back-up" candidate?

Questioned Proposal


I have been working with a recruiter for more than six months who has told me they have presented me for a number of different positions in a firm where I would very much like to work. I consistently see job postings for this firm in various places, but the recruiter has not been forthcoming with details about any positions available or the timing of interviews, etc, only to say... "they work slowly", "they have to coordinate a lot of people to see you" and "any day now".

I'm beginning to feel like I'm being strung along as a "backup candidate" to present if others do not materialize. Can I contact the hiring firm directly through their job listings? And if so, how do I approach them if I may have already been presented by the recruiter?


If this recruiting firm said they presented you for multiple positions with this company, then it's a safe bet to say they probably have. If you are a fit for the position, I can't imagine the firm is holding back your candidacy. If you have some of the qualifications, but are not the ideal fit for the position, then your suspicions may be correct. Also, if you aren't local, the firm may be holding out to find a local candidate to present at the same time as you.

It's important to remember how recruiters are compensated: They only get paid on a contingency search if they successfully make a placement and that's most likely the case here. The firm is not going to hold back a candidate who is a placement waiting to happen. If the firm said they sent you in, more likely, the company didn't feel it was an exact fit and has said, "keep her warm, but we want to see more candidates." The recruiter doesn't want to tell you that because the company may come back and he wants to keep you interested. Recruiter rationale is that stringing it along for a bit is better than saying the company didn't jump to see you and said they want to see more candidates - implying you are not a strong fit and leaving you with a negative impression about his client.

The other scenario is the company isn't communicating with the recruiter, so the recruiter has nothing to tell you. If he is at a stand-still, you are too. That happens typically when the company isn't really serious about hiring.

In any of these cases, if the recruiter has sent in your resume and presented you for multiple positions, you should not go over his head and re-submit your information directly to the company. The company is contractually obligated to work with the recruiter if he already submitted your information. The company will question why you are going around the staffing agency and you will burn a bridge with a recruiter who could be an essential part of your career toolbox for years to come.

Regardless, I'd continue to look into your other options. If it takes six months and counting for a company to move forward with an interview, they aren't serious about you or they aren't serious about the position. A job posting online doesn't mean the position actually exists.

On another note: Not all recruiting agencies or recruiters are created equal. If you feel like the recruiter is dishonest and lying, cut your ties and use your best judgment. Just remember, if he or she has presented you for the position and your efforts pan out in an interview, you'll be working with them anyways.

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