Beware of the workplace recruiter

Date: November, 2011
Author: Daniel Lublin
Publication: Metro

Public’s interest may be at risk

It sucks when bad things happen to good people.  That is why I am relating the experience of my client below, hoping that her workplace scenario will not happen to you.
Happily employed for more than 17 years, my client received an unsolicited phone call from a headhunter encouraging her to interview for a more senior role at another company.  Following a series of interviews where all of the basic terms of the job were discussed, including salary, title and starting date, my client was offered the job.  She then resigned from her current position.
However, as is often the case, the headhunter later forwarded an employment contract containing some language that had not been discussed.  This was the first problem.  Unless an employment offer is made conditional upon signing a contract, it is too late to later send one, especially one with punitive terms.
Here, the contract contained a clause permitting either party to end the relationship with a minimum period of written notice.  However, since she was being recruited away from a long-term job, she needed at least a reasonable guarantee, which is the opposite of what she was being provided.  When my client expressed her reluctance to simply sign off on the contract and instead asked to meet with a lawyer, the headhunter accused her of being difficult.
Even my client, a human resources neophyte, immediately realized that something had gone terribly wrong.  She tried to negotiate over the contract, but each time she was either cautioned that she was haggling over “minutiae” and told that the offer would be withdrawn or given what could only be described as legal advice about the contract that was possibly negligent or, at least, plainly wrong.  Worse, the headhunter proclaimed that she was being confrontational and that a lawyer was not required.  That is when she finally called me.
Although her case is ongoing, there is at least one important lesson to be learned:

Not all headhunters and recruiters are impartial advocates, so do not assume that they are always acting in your best interests.  Here, this individual would have said absolutely anything not to jeopardize his own commission – at the expense of my client’s welfare.