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I am looking to start my professional career, and have an established relationship with a recruiting agency. I have never worked with a recruiting agency before to find employment.

That said, they advised me to contact them if I saw a listing on their website or elsewhere that I would be interested in. I saw such a listing, and when I phoned in, they advised me that the listing was a listing they had for a long time, and they had it listed there simply to attract new candidates. When directly inquired from me, "is this is a position that is available?", they replied that it was not.

Is this a normal practice? i shrugged it off initially but the more I think about it, it seems unethical.

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    It is not normal, but it is common. Anybody can slap their website up and call themselves recruiters. There are plenty who are honest, above-board, and very hard-working. There are also plenty who are not. – Wesley Long May 11 '15 at 5:17
  • @WesleyLong I am omitting the recruiting firm's name - however, I am comfortable stating they are a large firm with an international presence. – jdphenix May 11 '15 at 5:27
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    If you put their name up here, the mods would take your post down immediately (and rightfully so). I'd just say that you've learned this recruiter is comfortable with lying to their candidates. What you do with that information is up to you. – Wesley Long May 11 '15 at 5:31
  • Of course it would be a poor decision to post their name. I've already done what I decided to do in the circumstance. I'm just trying to get a barometer on normalcy and ethics here. I think it's unethical, but I'm just one person. – jdphenix May 11 '15 at 5:33
  • Not only is it unethical, but depending on location, it might also be illegal to post an ad for a job which doesn't exist. – Masked Man May 11 '15 at 5:46
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To answer the questions.

Is it normal?
Probably not quite normal, but pretty far from uncommon -- varies a lot by country as well. With this knowledge in mind take a look at some job boards and you'll probably see some fairly generic 'fishing' posts from agencies trying to get people to contact them. These can vary from the fairly obvious to basically outright lies. Also you'll find a lot of agencies who (perhaps 'accidentally') leave an opening up after they know it's been filled for the same reason.

It's in an agencies interests to have as many people on their books as possible, they lose very little from having more people. And the better they are at providing good candidates to employers the more work they'll get. Each agency will choose how far to go in getting candidates on the books.

Is it ethical?
Well, they told you when you asked that it wasn't a real job -- so you can make your decision based on that.

They could have lied and said it was no longer available but they can keep your name on file. They could have even lied and say they'd put you forward for it but you were refused. I tend to think what they did was borderline, but they could have been worse. And if they generally manage to place people they 'catch' this way -- and both employer and employee are happy, then I'm not sure it's that big a deal.

A lot depends on how it was phrased. If they named a company then that's clearly nonsense. But if it was

Place in <some area> Fortune 500 company doing X'

and they didn't have a job matching exactly that when you called but they do have them regularly, it's arguable that it's OK. If they never have those sort of jobs then it's a classic 'bait and switch' and you should avoid them at all costs.

The fact they were honest about it probably puts them a level above the more unethical agencies out there.

Without the wording of the advert it's difficult to come down on one side or the the other -- and it's largely a matter of opinion anyway unless it's very blatant.

In the comments Masked Man states that it may be illegal -- that would depend on where they are, exactly what they posted and it'd probably be difficult to make it stick.

Go with what you feel -- if you think it's unethical on the basis of your personal ethics then your ethical line is clearly different from their ethical line and it's unlikely you'll have a happy time working with them.

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