When the person you hire is not the person you hire

This is something I just heard about recently, but then experienced it for myself.

This story was told to me: A client is looking for a contractor and contacts a staffing firm to find candidates.  The staffing firms sends a resume that looks real good.  A technical interview is done via the phone, the candidate really knows his stuff and nails the interview, and he is hired.  A few weeks later the new hire arrives and begins work.  But something does not seem right.  The contractor does not seem to be that sharp, nothing like he was during the interview.  His coding skills are not that good.  After a few weeks, the client does some digging, and it is discovered this person is not the person who did the interview!

It’s called the “bait and switch”, and the hope is the client remains unaware it is a different person.  I’m guessing sometimes they get away with this switch, but you can imagine how upset the client is when they find out they have been tricked.  It seems the staffing firm is tricked also. This happened twice, and both cases involved sponsored candidates from India.  In one of the cases there was a group of seven who all lived together and one of them was really sharp (the “ring leader”) and would do all the interviews for the other six, who were junior-level.  The resumes had the real name of the person but the experience was the ring leaders.  Also, when the junior programmers were placed at a client the ring-leader would help out the junior programmers if they were struggling on the project they were on.  And the client was none the wiser.

This then happened to me, and shows the extent some people will go to trick the client.  The client I was at did a phone interview on a candidate that I participated in.  The candidate did very well in the phone interview.  Since the client had experienced the same bait-and-switch as above, the next step in the interview process is a required a face-to-face meeting.  So they did a video interview on Skype, were we used Skype for the video and used a land-line for the voice.  Once again the candidate did very well but….it turns out, we were talking to a different person on the land-line than who was on the video!  We got suspicious when we saw how the video and voice were so out of sync, and doing some more digging turned up they were in fact different people.  The guy on the video was pretending to be the guy talking on the land-line.  Crazy!

I asked my recruiter friend about this, and he replied:

I saw it happen more often earlier in my career, not so much now (but it still does happen on rare occasions).  Detroit in particular had a ton of foreign national firms set up show here in the 90’s and when this “bait & switch” became a trend, the Big 3 put an end to it.  They’d make candidates give some form of ID (SS# or some other identifier).  There would also be harsh penalties such as removal from the vendor blanket for firms that repeatedly used this tactic.  The bait & switch is a rookie move.  The staffing world can be a greasy business – unfortunately nothing really surprises me these days.

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About James Serra

James is a big data and data warehousing solution architect at Microsoft. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
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2 Responses to When the person you hire is not the person you hire

  1. Jeff Moden says:

    This is the very reason why I insist on face-to-face interviews. Sure, we use phone interviews as a filter but we’ve seen this “Bait’n’Switch” way too many times to ever fall for it again.

    Because so many good people don’t actually know how to write a decent resume, we basically take everyone that submits a resume that’s absent of spelling errors, has decent grammar, and some reasonable list of skills that we need. Then, one of us will do a phone interview to see if we want to spend the time on an FTF interview. When the candidate arrives, they are given a simple test in the areas that we are trying to hire a person for. These are simple 6 or 7 question tests that anyone with more than a year’s experience should be able to answer. We immediately review the test and, based on their answers, decide if we want to do a technical interview. If they don’t, the Dev Manager (who monitored the test, BTW) thanks them for coming, informs them that we are evaluating other candidates, and politely shows them the door. If they do pass the test, then the rest of us (3 of us evaluate the answers on the test (NOT multiple choice, BTW)) walk into the conference room and begin a deeper technical interview.

    Using these tactics has saved us a HUGE number of man hours in the interview process, keeps us for being subject to “Bait’n’Switch” tactics, and has kept us from missing the occasion “diamond in the rough” due to poor resume writing skills.

  2. Steven Neumersky says:

    I have personally caught Infosys and Wipro pulling this garbage on more than one occasion. …..you would think they’d have the.common courtesy of giving the customer a reach around every now and then!!!!!!