In the midst of a hiring frenzy, companies often enjoy and appreciate the variety of candidates they receive through multiple resources. These resources include recruiters, employees, professional network and through personal connections. When a candidate has been referred twice in six months by different people, you might believe this person is a great potential fit because two resources you trust vouched for them. But, if the two resources are competing recruiting firms, you could find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation.
Companies with good Human Resources management will outline a duplicate referral clause providing recruiting partners insights on how the Company treats duplicate referrals. This typically serves to take the pressure off the company, and the hiring manager, without forcing them to decide who receives commission for the referral.
But what does a duplication in efforts, including referral, say about the relationship between the candidate and their representing firms? Is this an indication of a lack of communication? Is it simply a case of don't ask, don't tell? This can happen when the candidate does not connect the dots on the similarity of company and job description, or wasn't given a full description or company name. In some cases a protective recruiter who has been asked the identity of the hiring company will give the response "Confidential client until interview request". Or, did the candidate choose not to disclose knowledge of the prior referral in hopes of increasing his/her odds of getting an interview? Some Companies have a zero tolerance policy and end up "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". In other words, they dump the candidate completely and tell the recruiting partners to improve their screening process or else.
Whatever the case may be, it seems like there are no easy answers. But, there actually is a few simple solutions that may resolve the conflict without a falling out or loss of face for all parties. It's easy to track correspondence and put a date/time stamp on who got the resume to you first. However, delivery of the resume is execution of an email and tells you nothing about which recruiting firm generated interest and/or approval to submit the CV. This is a factor that should be considered carefully before making a judgement call. On the outside chance the candidate did not communicate with their recruiters, but instead had the competing firms submit simultaneously, you could have the wrong type of person interviewing for your coveted role.
Get the facts! Find out which firm has known the candidate longer, the date the firm sent the candidate the position summary, when they received approval to submit, and when they followed up with you, the candidate or your HR partner on the referral.
A candidate whose resume has been submitted without his/her knowledge and consent is an innocent bystander and should not be penalized. If they admit to working with both firms but was unaware their resume was submitted twice, that could indicate foul play on behalf of a recruiting partner. In a desperate moment to gain traction or increase their activity, a recruiter may submit a resume before receiving approval from the candidate and only alert them once an interview has been requested. This is considered a normal practice in many contingency firms, but it is unprofessional and should not be tolerated.
A candidate who has knowingly pitted two recruiting firms against each other cannot be trusted to behave in an ethical manner relative to a competitive situation. If this is the case, you may want to rethink both the candidate and the type of people your partner firms are representing. True, we cannot always know what a candidate will do in a high pressure situation. But, if we have built a proper relationship with them, the odds of them doing anything to embarrass themselves or the firm are pretty low.
In the end, a duplicate referral does not need to slow or disrupt your hiring process. You may need to come to a new understanding with your partner recruiting firms if it happens more than once though. The greatest consideration may be given to which of the recruiting firms you work with demonstrate a consistent high quality screening and submission process. If they practice simple methods for avoiding duplication, such as discussing the company in detail, and asking outright who the candidate has sent their resume to, it is unlikely they will disappoint you with multiple duplicate referrals.