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James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. 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 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger ( and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

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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