I am a senior HR business partner in a global IT services business, and have recently conducted a review of our HR recruitment suppliers. The senior HR management team has decided to use two companies. I wish to consider working with these businesses as a candidate. Obviously, this is a delicate situation. How should I approach them, and how can I be sure that they will treat my application confidentially?
This is not an unusual situation. HR recruitment by, its very nature, is self-feeding because clients become candidates and vice-versa. We often secure our clients their next opportunity and work with the interims to recruit their permanent replacement, for example. We have also worked with in-house resourcers who have called us looking for work because their contract has ended, or they are relocating.
As long as you approach it in the right way, there is no reason why you should be treated any differently from another candidate. If you are working with a recruiter as a client and you wish to use their services as a candidate, make sure you make a distinction in your dealings between the two. For example, don’t bring up your career aspirations in a business meeting in which you are the client, as it could create a conflict of interest. Arrange a meeting or conversation separately, ideally outside work hours. The one thing you want to avoid is muddying the waters. A throw-away comment such as: ‘I might send you my CV’ during a fee negotiation meeting will confuse both your employer and the supplier.
Reputable recruitment agencies will have an ‘off-limits’ policy that prevents them from proactively headhunting staff from their major clients, but if you approach them directly, this won’t be an issue. As far as confidentiality is concerned, the recruitment company should follow the same data protection and privacy procedures for you as it does for all of its candidates, so your employer won’t know anything about it until you resign.
On the positive side, entering into a recruitment process with one of your suppliers is a great way to assess how they work and treat candidates. Many HR professionals have been through the process of being a candidate with a particular supplier, and then forming a business arrangement with them as a client later on. It would be very shortsighted of a recruitment business not to treat your application with the utmost professionalism. You clearly rate these suppliers, and should feel comfortable in approaching them for your own purposes.