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‘A recruiter informed my boss that I’m looking for another job’

If you’re a candidate applying for a job through a recruitment firm, it’s your worst nightmare -- somehow your boss finds out that your CV is circulating the market. Thereafter, your disloyalty is rewarded with no promotions, no pay rises and the risk of redundancy.

Fortunately, this happens rarely. But it does happen sometimes. One candidate got in touch with the following story. What would you advise that she does next?

“I work in research in an investment bank and want to move into sales. In February 2013, I applied for two sales jobs, both through separate recruitment agencies. I wasn’t totally serious - I just wanted to gauge the level of interest in someone with my background.

I didn’t get the jobs in sales and thought nothing of it. A few months later, we had some roles to fill in our research team. My boss got in touch with one of the recruitment agencies I’d been in touch with and asked if they could help identify a few research candidates. In the course of these conversations, one of the recruiters mentioned that he’d placed a few people who’d left our company and had even seen several CVs from people on the team.

Most of these CVs were from people who’d already left, but one was mine. Somehow, my boss was then able to elicit from the recruiter that I’d applied for a job, that the job was in sales and that I was interested in moving on. It’s not clear whether the recruiter was aware that I still worked there, but he divulged my name.

None of this was actually mentioned to me. I’m only aware of it because another colleague told me that my boss had been in discussions with HR about my applications. It seems that they decided not to pursue the matter with me because they didn’t think I’d get the job in sales and they already had gaps in research and didn’t want to create another one.

I took the matter up with the recruiters concerned, who apologized. But my problem now is this – I’m still working for the same company and seem to be going nowhere. A promotion I thought I was due has yet to appear and I’m not hopeful I’ll get a bonus. I’m stuck on a knife edge in a job that seems to have no future. At the same time, my company won’t trust me with key work because they fear I’m about to walk out the door.

At the same time, my trust in recruitment firms has been shattered. Even if I trust an individual recruiter, how do I know that his colleague won’t divulge my identity once my CV is in their database?

I don’t feel that I can trust recruiters. I don’t feel that I can stay where I am. Any suggestions?”

You are invited to add your (helpful) advice in the comment box below.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ka
    30 June 2020

    The recruitment agency whom I registered with, and who then found a job for me in September 2019 has recently shared the our conversation notes on why I left an ex employer. (My employer asked them for the info) but I was not told by the recruitment agency that they were going to do this and that information has now been shared further from HR with managers who have expressed their opinion on, one being derogatory. Is this allowed?

  • Do
    29 November 2013

    I experienced far worse.. I had recruitment consultants post jobs similar to mine but with higher pay on this site... just to see if I would apply for it. These job interviews went something like tell me all the type of jobs you are looking for so that I can tell your boss what kind of 'genuine' jobs you might apply for in the future and he can ring up that firm even before you apply and screw your chances of getting a move.. Do NOT TRUST recrutiment cosultants;they are not PAID BY THE CANDIDATES THEY ARE PAID BY THE FIRMS...

  • Re
    5 November 2013

    I agree with a frank but firm discussion with your boss.

    There are of course disreputable recruiters out there, I know of an Owner of a boutique firm in Asia who sent a very senior manager in financial markets for an interview and then called his boss and told him the Sr guy was interviewing! The "candidate" involved was my client. But there are also reputable Recruiters, often candidate put it in writing to me not to release details until I have contacted them about jobs, but again this would not have solved your situation.

    As recruiters our statistics say once you have applied for a job, and if your boss persuades you to stay, the stats say you will have still left your firm in 12 mths. So if your boss finds out you are looking it can go 2 ways - you can negotiate for more money, promotion etc or they will sideline you.

    As you applied for a Sales job he may think you are not committed to your current job which is in fact possibly the case so you need to prepare your script very well and really work out what you want first.

    On another note however, Recruiters are basically commission based we really don't appreciate people who want to benchmark themselves, use us to get a counter offer etc., as an experienced Recruiter (I have over 20y in Head Hunting) we can typically spot this behaviour and we will drop you.

    Similarly clients use recruiters to get market info, I tend to warn the candidate if I feel the client is doing this and advise them not to give out too much information. One well known Head of Private Banking in Hong Kong has time and time again demanded a client list, faked a job offer then dropped the offer at midnight.

    I don't advise taking legal action, it will eat up a year of your life, you need firm evidence in writing, you cannot prove loss of income, and you will get a bad reputation in the markets.

    Work out what you really want, make a strong case to your boss or keep looking for what you want. and Good Luck - sorry you had this experience.

  • Su
    30 October 2013

    You can sue because you are suffering from this unprofessionnal behaviour. This will compensate for the bonus and the promotion you could not get.

    Now that your boss knows that you are open to a move, you should be frank with him and tell him exactly what you want : next job, promotions.
    I guess your boss will acknowledge that despite applying for another job you remained professional. So, you can negotiate with him : OK I stay for another XX months because you have gaps in your team, I am fine training other people, but then you should help me get what I want.

    To avoid the same situation in the future, you should primarily rely on connections that will let you know whether positions are available (alumni, networking). Alternatively, you may use recruiters that are recommended by good friends.

  • Bi
    Big Dog
    30 October 2013

    Make sure you meet the head hunter in future, or in fact realise that if the head hunter doesn't want to meet you they are working at a CV bucket shop who spray CVs around the City in the hope of getting a few bites by potential employers. Also I'd suggest, if you are serious about your job search that you update LinkedIn, make yourself more visible and then you'll be head hunter for roles that are relevant and suit your skills and background, simples :)

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