How to Spot Scams in Technical Recruiting: Front Running

Mark Looi
5 min readDec 16, 2022

In an earlier article, The Resume, we discussed scams where candidates misrepresent their qualifications or fabricate them of whole cloth. In this article, we expose a scam perpetrated by agents purporting to represent either hiring companies or candidates or both. We call this front running since it is analogous to front running in securities trading.¹

In this scheme, a “man-in-the-middle” represents themselves as different things to candidates and companies. The grift might begin with a company job posting. The front runner reviews the job description and then looks on job boards for resumes of job seekers who appear to meet the job criteria. The grifter might harvest bullet points and descriptions of experience to fabricate an ideal resume to present to the company.

Without a job seeker’s permission, the front runner approaches the company with the candidate’s resume or perhaps with the fabricated one.

Without necessarily knowing of the company’s interest, the front runner simultaneously contacts the candidate job seeker purporting to have an exclusive job opportunity. They will sometimes claim they are the only agency the company works with. The front runner attempts to get the candidate to agree to be represented by it.

It then turns around to claim to the hiring company that it is the representative of the candidate. Even without an agreement, the front runner can proceed as if it has one with the candidate. It is a industry standard courtesy that the first agent to present a candidate is given exclusive rights to that candidate by the company for a period of time.

Thus, the front runner has insinuated themselves between job seekers and the company!

Front Running in Action

One front runner contacted us with a good candidate for an open position in Network Engineering, claiming that they represented the candidate. They even attempted to negotiate a salary, which we declined to do before evaluating the candidate. When we eventually met the candidate, he expressed surprise that the front runner had contacted us about him. He said he had never agreed to be represented by the front runner and stated his resume had been used without his permission. In the end…

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Mark Looi

Entrepreneur, technologist, business strategist, history buff, photographer, with a diverse range of interests.