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Recruiting in Good Faith: How NOT To Negotiate

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by Mark Smith

almost 3 years ago

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I have been in the recruitment industry for over twenty years, and, in that time, I have been presented with many situations, both challenging and rewarding. Rarely am I surprised these days. Today, however, I was taken aback by a series of events that I thought are worth sharing. 

These can be some guidelines for anyone thinking of hiring temporary staff. A new client engaged people2people to bring on board a temporary member of staff for a short term, three-week project. This process involved briefing a consultant over the phone, receiving resumes, interviewing, agreeing on rates and, with advice from the recruiter, selecting the talent. A good result, and all of this happened on the same day. A caveat, however, was we had to move even faster, as the previously selected candidate called in sick on their first day. This is not a good start, and you can read a couple of posts on this subject: here and here.

  Recruiting in Good Faith: How NOT To Negotiate

So far, there is nothing unusual. It was only after the candidate had finished their first week and submitted a timesheet that any issues arose. At people2people, we utilise online timesheets, which are submitted through a portal by our working temps. Once completed, an email is sent through to the hiring manager to approve. In this instance, the manager refused to approve the timesheet and decided to use this as an opportunity to renegotiate the rate he was being charged. Whoa – hang on. Even with only first year university contract law knowledge, it's pretty clear that a contract had been entered into and terms agreed. 

Even if the terms were not explicitly signed, implied agreement would have occurred on receiving an email and a resume with the rate stated prior to the interview, as well as via correspondence following the candidate beginning their assignment. In my experience, it was clear that this manager thought that he could leverage the fact that he could withhold payment to the temp by not authorising the timesheet and thereby placing a proverbial 'gun to the head' of the recruiter to negotiate a reduced rate. This is very unscrupulous behaviour, to say the least, and I am sure that less experienced consultants would agree to the demands to get the temp paid and avoid conflict. Maybe this hiring manager had successfully applied this tactic previously. 

Recruiting in Good Faith: How NOT To Negotiate

The result for this client when dealing with people2people was simple: the contract terms apply without variation, and the timesheet should be authorised if the temp worked the hours. Anything other than this and our temp (our employee) would be leaving the office. If the candidate was hired directly, then a placement fee would apply. The client refused to authorise the timesheet, and, consequently, our temp was asked to leave. This was a hard call for our people2people consultant to make, but not as hard as it was for our temp. 

The situation evoked an emotional response from our temp, who felt humiliated. This was a completely unnecessary result of someone trying to save a few dollars and not negotiating in good faith at the beginning of the process. Of course, people2people are pursuing this matter, but it should be emphasised that there are no winners in this debacle. The lessons:

  • Negotiate in good faith, and complete the negotiations at the beginning of any recruitment engagement. If you are still not happy, walk away.
  • Understand that temporary staff are the employees of the recruitment agency, which has on hired them to you, and with this comes contractual obligations.
  • When hiring staff, you are dealing with people and their individual livelihoods. Respect should be given to the consequences of these types of actions, by both the hiring manager and the recruiter.

There's never a dull moment in the recruitment industry!

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