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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Job Agency Ethics Come Under Fire

A pharmaceutical company hired a midlevel employee through a reputable recruitment agency. The employee was qualified for the job and got along with his teammates; everything was going well.

Until the recruitment agency appeared again a few months later, this time to poach the employee for another, newer client.

The story illustrates just one of the many unethical acts common in the job-placement market, said David Kennedy, president of the Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, or AIPM.

After seeing recruitment agencies dupe some of its 52 company members, the AIPM placed an advertisement in the March 21 edition of The Moscow Times calling on recruitment agencies in Russia to reform their practices.

"There is no loyalty to the client," Kennedy said. "These are things that need to be written into some accepted code of conduct."

In a market low on qualified labor, companies rely on recruitment agencies to hunt their heads for them. Phone books list over 100 recruitment agencies operating in the city, filling positions ranging from entry-level secretaries and drivers to executive-level managers.

Placement fees vary between agencies, but they can be as high as 30 percent of the employee's annual salary, agencies said.

One complaint from companies is that agencies do not take job qualifications seriously. One company head said he's been given dozens of resumes for candidates that don't meet the basic criteria.

Olga Zabina, human resources manager at pharmaceutical company Yamanouchi Europe B.V., said her company had a problem when the recruitment agency didn't properly screen its candidate.

"It wasn't that he was not qualified. But he was unable to get along with the team. And when we looked into his past, we found there were similar problems," Zabina said.

Confidentiality is another problem, said Robert Marshall, company manager at Pfizer International.

"Unsolicited CVs are floated around to companies over communal fax machines," Marshall said. "Candidates themselves sometimes have no idea where these CVs are ending up. And it can be awkward if news floats back to his employer that he's looking for another job."

Headhunters themselves said that within the industry, agents who leave one job placement company for another are apt to rob the first company of its contacts.

"But the problems in the market are not just the fault of agencies. Companies, too, make it hard for agencies to work by accepting resumes from many and not being loyal to one," said Koen Breken of the job placement agency Commonwealth Resources.

The five recruitment agencies called for this story said they were not surprised by the AIPM's complaints, and that unethical practices occur "more often than you'd think."

But by not identifying the guilty agencies, the AIPM was blaming the entire industry for the deviances of a few, said Sergei Fyodorov, director of Super Personnel Group.

"We give our resumes to clients hand to hand," he said. "And as long as a client is a client, we do not steal their employees from them."

George Abudashvili, senior partner with Deloitte & Touche/Ward Howell, a long-time Moscow executive recruiter, agreed that the AIPM ad would have had a greater impact had it been bolder and identified the offenders.

But ultimately, the problem lies in Russia's prevailing business ethic, he said.

"If you're going to blame someone, you have to blame the whole country," Abudashvili said. "All of the markets are unprofessional, so you need to pull yourself together and struggle with problems that face you."