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ask a recruiter


I am not satisfied in my current position, but given the industry in which I work, it is difficult to find an appropriate placement without using a recruitment agency.

My current employer has an agreement with effectively all recruitment firms in our industry, prohibiting them from placing any employee of the company with a rival employer. If any firm does, the company I work for will no longer do business with that firm. Thus, I am effectively blocked from looking for other work.

This feels wrong to me. Do I have any options?


Recruiters usually work in one of two ways with their clients: either on a retainer basis, or on a contingency basis – meaning the recruiter works for free until they are able to successfully place a candidate in a job for the client.

A recruiter's loyalties must lie with their paying clients – hiring employers first, over job seekers. This is because job candidates don't pay recruiters (that is against the law in Ontario). Their revenue comes from their clients.

So if a recruiter is actively working on a client's hiring needs, as a measure of integrity, they shouldn't "poach" from their client's talent pool to fill competitors' open positions.

Having said that, I was surprised to hear you say that all recruitment firms in your industry were unable to work with you. In such a case, that means that your current employer has all retainer-based recruiters on the payroll (which could get very costly) or has reached out to all contingency agencies to fill these same positions.

If a recruiter knows that a company has asked every one of his or her competitors to also try to fill a position, they can feel disheartened and not spend as much time on that placement. This is because they know they have a greater chance of getting paid by filling a position with a client who is working exclusively with them.

You mentioned that your current employer has agreements with "effectively" all recruitment firms in your industry. While this may feel like a complete roadblock, it may be worthwhile for you to take a step back and honestly ask yourself: Have I exhausted all of my options with every recruitment firm in my industry?

If you haven't, do your due diligence and be methodical to cover all of your options.

I've never seen a company gain a monopoly over all of the recruitment firms in their industry. Their competitors wouldn't stand for it. And even if they did, there will always be an agency out there that could represent you that is not exclusively working in your industry. That is the benefit of working within a free market.

Job hunting can be a gruelling process, and a few initial challenges can make you feel as if you've been set back, but perseverance and hard work will pull you through. If you keep at it, in time you will undoubtedly find an advancement opportunity.

Julie Labrie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto.

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