Is it common for a company to have more than one recruitment agency working on a position for them?
Yes, it′s very common for company to use more than one recruitment agency. Recruiting firms come in two flavors - generalists and specialists. My agency is a specialist firm - we only fill positions in PR, marketing, and sales. Obviously, companies may have recruitment needs in other areas, so it makes sense to partner with several agencies with different specialties to cover the needs of the entire organization.
The issues arise when companies work with multiple recruiters though for the same position. This strategy tends to backfire.
Contingency recruiters firms only get paid for their efforts if they successfully fill a position. Many companies think there isn't a financial risk in using several agencies since they are only going to have to pay for the one candidate. After all, the more recruiters out there working for them, the quicker the position gets filled, right? Not necessarily. This is when the mess begins and it usually goes one of two ways.
Scenario 1: Multiple recruiters start calling the same people. The candidates are left with the impression the company is desperate and there must be something wrong.
If a candidate is interested in the opportunity and is contacted by a few recruiters, he may or may not know how to handle the situation resulting in duplicate resume submissions by different agencies. Here′s when it gets really ugly. The recruiter may blame the candidate for not being honest about working with another firm on the same position or the company may think the candidate is desperate and won′t want to move forward at the risk of a lawsuit by the fighting recruiter companies. Nobody wins.
Scenario two: The candidates tell the recruiters they have been receiving calls from others about the same position. Since the staffing agency is only getting paid for a successful hire, it must evaluate and prioritize its searches based on the realistic chances of filling it. Recruiters lose interest in searches that don′t seem like viable placements and the company ends up with an unfilled position and nobody working on the search. Most recruiters won′t bother telling the company they aren′t working hard on the search because someone might pop up they can submit with little effort and they can still look like heroes. The company thinks they have an army of recruiters working on their search when in reality nobody cares anymore and the company believes recruiters are useless.
It's a safe bet if you are receiving calls from lots of recruiters, this is what is going on. If you decide it is an opportunity you are interested in, it is common courtesy to let the other recruiters know you are already in the process with the company through another recruiter. Make it clear you do not want your information sent to anyone without your approval.
The rule is simple as a candidate: Work with only one recruiter for a position with the company.