first past the post

The Dangers of ‘first past the post’

The last year hasn’t been easy, especially for those looking for work or out of work. We, as recruiters, have a responsibility to do best by those individuals rather than see them simply as placements. First past the post does not work.

As business owner/manager/consultant/HR, you have the responsibility to make sure they have been cleared correctly on a position before their CV being sent to you. This is where the ‘first past the post’ mentality is dangerous.


Ask yourself this. You are working with three agencies and they have all put adverts out there and are approaching their networks concerning the opportunity you are looking to provide someone. Let’s say the three agencies speak to the same person and send their CV over a 2 hour period…for this let’s say you have agreed to respond to all three the next day.

Agency A – Has the CV on record and as soon as you put the phone down, they send you this person’s CV without speaking to them. Sends you the CV at 17:00

Agency B – Has a quick call with the individual, doesn’t give them the company name but goes through basic particulars and location. Sends you their CV at 18:00

Agency C – Speaks with the candidate at 17:00, gives them your company name and also arranges a video call with them that evening to go through the particulars of the role. They send the CV at 19:00 that evening post an agreement that this is the opportunity they wish to pursue.

You have agreed fee’s with all three agencies of 18% on a 50k salary. Which one has earned their 18%? Which one do you feel has done the best job? Which agency do you feel the candidate is best engaged with?

It’s the age-old story of tortoise and hare. The best job was clearly by Agencies B & C. In my opinion, Agency A is out of the running. Agency B and Agency C may have a fight on their hands but the reality is, as the individual hiring – YOU have the decision to make. Until the interview, there is no such thing as ‘ownership’ (a word I despise) and in truth – why not just ask the individual who did the best job when you meet them? You want to make sure you were also represented well by the agency.

Some firms will send CV’s around without question. I built a team with my last business for Public Practice. When the initial team joined I saw their sent e-mails, bcc’d to a list of 200-300 managers. I asked why they did it – because the line managers will take the CV from the first person who sends it…and everyone else does it. Full names, companies they had worked for, everything in full detail. I asked – what if that individual doesn’t want to work for that firm? The response was – well I have got the job on, haven’t I…

Why would you pay 10% let alone 18% for this kind of service? This is the danger of ‘first past the post’. Right now, people want to work. You don’t just want anyone, you want someone who is going to provide value to your business and help you to grow or recover. First past the post means you will probably be inundated with CV’s rather than the rights ones. A good agency will take a consultative approach and speak with as many individuals as possible who may be suitable and send you the chosen few. Maybe 3-5. But – you still want to make sure you know how they go about this.

Recently I took on an exclusive position in the City. We had a conference call to discuss our methods of recruitment as well as what we would do before they saw CV’s. The business knew the service they were receiving.

I have individuals who only work with me – this may reduce their options but they know I will ONLY send them to businesses they will be suitable for. How do I know which companies they suit – research and experience.

I also have to tell some of those I cannot or will not work with them. They may be a great option for a particular role but due to them working with one or two agencies who operate the first past the post mentality – I simply cannot risk putting the hours in when businesses will say ‘we’ve already seen their CV’ even though they haven’t permitted for it to be sent. GDPR was supposed to stop this.

Recently I’ve even had one individual say I don’t care as long as someone gets me in front of them so send my CV again – again, not conducive and comes across as desperate (even if not) and a lack of understanding in what I do. It creates that question – why are they in that situation? It’s just how the brain is wired. That attitude creates too many questions, naturally, which then creates a negative aura. Nothing personal, it’s years of evolution.

Until businesses push back and ask ‘does this individual know their details have been sent to us’ then this will continue.

A question I like to ask is those who accept first past the post is the following:

As a business – if you receive a speculative CV – why not just go and find that person on LinkedIn or Facebook!? Find them for free.

Why use an agency unless they are hidden. It could save you A LOT of money. If you have a preferred partner – why not approach them to find that individual as I am sure you will have better rates with them than those that have just ‘sprayed and prayed’.

I’ve worked in this industry for over ten years and there hasn’t been a time in which I have seen so much desperation from those who recruit in finance. I say desperation as I truly hope that’s what it is. If not, I will lose all faith in it. We will go back to the times where recruiters are seen as sharks rather than caring. I can only think overzealous and greedy business owners have set KPI’s and targets and those doing the above are under enormous pressure (like my first job in recruitment, which I left as I felt I had to do things in a manner that wasn’t conducive to long term relationships).

We’re 9 months old. We have exclusive relationships with firms throughout the area already. Some of the fastest-growing firms at that. Why – because we go through procedures correctly. We don’t send out CV’s on a whim and when we do market someone’s details it is to a selection of firms rather than 300 on a bcc’d list.

I’ll tell a story which I was part of:

  • During my previous employment, I received an e-mail from an individual stating they had an offer revoked due to one of my team sending their CV around to 150 firms including the firm who had made them an offer.
  • The next day, I received a letter from the recruiter who had lost their fee due to this claiming damages of 4.5k (even though their terms were significantly lower)
  • The damages were real – both to the agency and individual. She missed out on a position but due to conversations she and I had it was not as clear-cut as it seems therefore there was no case to be heard.
  • My employer, in truth, was in the wrong. For my team member, it was the final straw as I had already told them that the next bcc mass mail would be their last (the director had also set them impossible targets to hit without my knowledge so you can understand why it occurred as well).
  • And the ICO – pointless. Your Website covers you as does the job sites. THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT IS RIGHT!!!

However – this could happen. People will miss out on opportunities due to first past the post. People will refuse to meet with you because an agency tells them they have ownership. Companies will say no to your details if they receive them more than once. Legal battles could (and quite possibly should) ensue if people pluck up the courage to go through this as it is a misrepresentation of your personal details.

We all, especially now, have a responsibility to make sure we are doing what is best for those we are working with. Spraying details out to hundreds of companies is not caring – it is the complete opposite. Accepting CV’s without the proper representation is not worth 18% let alone 10%.

And when the recruiters say:

  • If you hire them through the other agency we will send you an invoice – say ok, the likelihood this will happen is low. Only two agencies I know have ever done this.
  • When you get forwarded an e-mail with the candidate specifically stating they wish Agency C to represent them – there is no situation in which any other agency can claim ‘ownership’
  • When you get sent a speculative CV – try and find them directly if you have the name. It takes about 2 minutes

What do I do now?

Well, when working in competition with certain agencies, I ask everyone to confirm representation and attach it with their details so there is clarity. I ask which firms they are working with and give them as much information as possible to make sure I do my best not to duplicate.

What can you do?

As a business:

  • Create a PSL of businesses you know will do a good job and clear the best individuals for you, thus not wasting your time.
  • Say no when agencies ask to work with you if you already have trusted partners
  • If you can’t find the spec CV, forward it to your trusted partner, they will find them, I can guarantee that having done it in the last month
  • When you advertise, don’t say ‘no agencies please’ this is like catnip to recrutiers as they love to test a companies resolve with a good candidate (And in truth, they may have a better candidate just stand firm on costs).

As someone looking for work:

  • Make sure you know where your CV is being sent. Do not feel afraid to ask company names and if you can’t gain them, ask why. Exclusivity and lack of trust are the only two real reasons company name should not be given.
  • Qualify how your details could be marketed.
  • State you do not wish your details to be sent anywhere without your permission.
  • Only work with a few agencies you trust. I normally suggest one big player than two smaller, localised firms.
  • Don’t be afraid of recruiters. If one doesn’t work for you, move on to the next. There are plenty out there.

As a consultant:

  • Do what is best for all parties rather than your companies director/s and your bank balance

I know the above will lose me money, but I don’t care if it cleans up my industry and makes recruitment both cleaner and clearer.



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