Bypassing a Tech Recruiter?
July 14, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to be concerned about after my tech recruiter left me hanging and I contacted the company directly?

I found a job in a city I will be moving to. I found the job through a tech recruiter and we had a brief initial meeting. The recruiter asked me some specific questions, gave me the information, gave me the job description and told me that she would set up an interview with the company as soon as they could.

The recruiter didn't set up the interview for the week I was in the city and I flew home. I emailed the recruiter the following week asking when I could expect a phone interview. On Wednesday of that week, she said she would have something for me by the end of the day. That was the last I heard from her for two weeks.

In the meantime, the company posted the job on Craigslist. Not wanting the opportunity to slip out of my hands, I contacted the company with my cover sheet and resume. I explained to them that I had spoken with the recruiter but wanted to make a proactive gesture. We set up and conducted a phone interview. I asked the HR person at the company if having contacted the recruiter first would put me at a disadvantage and she said no.

The day after the phone interview the recruiter contacted me asking me how things were progressing with the company. I told her about the interview. She found that I had made direct contact with them and was not pleased by this. She made three phone calls to me to discuss the situation. We were not able to make the phone connection, so I explained via email that she had ignored me for two weeks and I did what was in my best interest.

Her last phone message stated that she had spoke with the company and that her and I should have a discussion about the current situation. Given that she's not good about returning calls promptly, I'm not sure that we'll make the phone connection anytime soon.

What is my situation? Can the recruiter make it impossible for the company to hire me? Is she just trying to scare me? Myself, the company and the recruiter are all aware that I spoke with the recruiter first, so if the issue is that the recruiter is afraid she isn't going to get her commission, I don't believe that is the case. Is it normal for recruiters to ignore clients for two weeks? Should I have waited for the recruiter to make the connection between myself and the company?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Regardless of whether it's "normal," she clearly dropped the ball, and it sounds like you took appropriate and responsible action.

I don't think it's in the recruiter's interest to prevent the company from hiring you, nor does it sound like she's threatening you in that way.

At this point, I suggest you e-mail the recruiter, laying out the timeline of events, and saying that you plan to work with this employer directly.

You might close with something like this: "Based on our previous interactions, I'm not confident that you can represent my interests with this employer. If you feel that you've earned a fee for presenting me to them in the first place, I suggest you take it up with them."
posted by ottereroticist at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2007

You don't have to pay the recruiter, since she bills the company you're going to work for. Her deal is with them, and if they want to pay her, that's their decision.

She failed to do her job, though, and is flailing about trying to reclaim her worth. I'd make sure that the company knows what the situation is, and it might be worth it to have everyone sit down in a room together and discuss the next steps.
posted by bshort at 9:48 AM on July 14, 2007

I've only worked with a tech recruiter once. But my recruiter contacted me at least once every two business days by phone, and often every day through e-mail. Not only did my recruiter talk to me regularly, but her supervisor met me before my interview and walked me up to the offices where it took place. My recruiter also answered any questions I had promptly and gave me advice when asked for based upon previous hires at the same company. From initial recruiter contact to getting the job took less than a month. This was into a direct hire position at global company.

From my limited experience, it sounds to me like your recruiter wasn't serving anybody's best interests.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2007

Typically, a recruiter's contract says something to the effect of "I am introducing you to candidate X. No one else can lay claim to candidate X. If you hire candidate X, you pay my fee."

That "no one else" includes you on your own. What this effectively means is that the recruiter is getting paid for your legwork. The only person who might be annoyed at all this is the HR manager, but only at the recruiter, not you.

Your recruiter will really only start to care when an offer comes across. SHE will want to negotiate this, since it dictates her fee. This may, in fact, be contractually obligated. Again, though, the HR person at the company should be aware of this. Just don't sign an offer without talking to the recruiter.

Good luck!
posted by mkultra at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2007

Just don't sign an offer without talking to the recruiter.

I don't think you have any obligation to speak with the recruiter at all.

I bet the recruiter senses that the company can get out of paying her, and she is scrambling to become relevant again, so that she can reclaim her lost fee.

You should probably ask her why it is worthwhile for you to continue contact. Maybe she will come up with a really good 'mutual best interest' argument, which you'll have to seriously consider. If she continues with the attitude "[she] was not pleased by this" indicates, ignore her (politely).

If she directly claims the company wants you to talk to her (it appears that this hasn't happened yet), call the company to confirm, and ask them to tell you what to do.
posted by Chuckles at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2007

Just don't sign an offer without talking to the recruiter.

This is excellent advice. While it's a small risk, it's not unheard of to have an offer rescinded or a job terminated due to a contract dispute between a recruiter and an employer. While the recruiter probably can't keep the company from hiring you, she may be able to collect a large default fee that would make hiring you cost-prohibitive.

In fact, I would suggest making every effort to bring the recruiter back into the loop and make her look valuable, since you don't want the company to think that hiring you at this point would also mean giving money to a recruiter who didn't do anything of value.
posted by backupjesus at 11:54 AM on July 14, 2007

You don't have an obligation to the recruiter. The employer may have an obligation to pay the recruiter a commission. You have made them aware of this possible obligation. Your part is done. If you talk to the recruiter, be friendly and assure her that you're not trying to cost her the commission, tell her you informed the company of the referral from the recruiter and say something like "I'm sure that you will be able to work something out with [company]." And that's all you can do. It's not your problem, it's between her and the employer.
posted by winston at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2007

"She found that I had made direct contact with them and was not pleased by this."

this, to me, is the most telling phrase. it sounds like she's not a very good recruiter. most of the recruiters i've worked with would frown upon this, but not so much if they found out that the contact i had resulted in the job moving forward--in fact, they'd be delighted, as opposed to having multiple conversations about "discussing the situation". her dwelling on the *minor* breach of protocol is way out of line. unfortunately, her attitude may negatively impact your ability to get the job.

overall, though, it's between the recruiter and the company. you did your part. there's no harm in telling the recruiter if you got the job, but i wouldn't involve her in the final negotiation stage, unless the company does.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 3:44 PM on July 14, 2007

Speaking as someone who has actually worked in the recruiting industry, please ignore Chuckles's advice to cut her out of loop or pull some power trip on her.

Unless the recruiter and employer have some highly abnormal contract, the recruiter is owed money if you are hired there. Period. There is no "maybe", there is no "default". She is owed X% of your annual salary after Y (typically 6) months. It doesn't matter how they company comes to their decision. I can assure you, all parties involved are perfectly aware of this.

All that matters is what salary you're offered. Since it's in both her and your interest to get you a higher salary, there's absolutely no reason for you to pull any of the hoo-ha with her that Chuckles is pulling out of his ass.
posted by mkultra at 4:22 PM on July 14, 2007

mkultra, I said:

"You should probably ask her why it is worthwhile for you to continue contact. Maybe she will come up with a really good 'mutual best interest' argument, which you'll have to seriously consider."

and you said:

"Since it's in both her and your interest to get you a higher salary,"

So, you know.. If I ask you why I need your help, and you say "don't pull a power trip on me." I don't think that bodes well for the fruitfulness of our future interaction. But, if you say "it is in both our interest to get you the highest salary possible, and I'm a savvy negotiator who knows the industry and the company." Better..
posted by Chuckles at 5:15 PM on July 14, 2007

You have absolutely no obligation to this recruiter. You didn't sign a contract, so there's no legal obligation. Whatever services she may claim to have provided you were clearly less effective than a bloody classified ad response, so there's no ethical obligation.

Regardless, mkultra is right. The terms of her contract with the employer mean she'll be getting a nice check for 15-20% of whatever salary you negotiate, since she introduced you to the position, albeit ineffectually. This stipulation is quite rightly in place to prevent companies from cheating recruiters out of commissions; your situation is just bad luck.

Whatever the reason she wants to have a conversation with you, it's certainly not for your benefit. You seem to be doing quite nicely on your own. Politely decline, and let her agency settle things with the employer. In the meantime, just focus on nailing your interviews with the hiring manager. Securing a good employee, for them, should be worth paying off a shady/inept recruiter.

(There are, of course, good recruiters out there who will help you position yourself in the market and match you with interesting opportunities, but like the rest of us, they're in it for the paycheck, and the paycheck results from getting an ass in a seat. You're not the recruiter's friend, and you're not their valued business partner: you're product to be marketed. Understand that and navigating the tech hiring waters will involve a lot less angst.)
posted by a young man in spats at 5:20 PM on July 14, 2007

Speaking as someone on the procurement side of this situation, and who has faced similar circumstances, I'm shocked the HR group hasn't put the "radioactive" tag on you and cut contact altogether.

I realize that your conversations with HR have put you at ease in this situation, but that may or may not be reality. In similar situations, when the question of candidate ownership/fee obligation have been murky*, we've essentially cut that candidate from consideration immediately, as opposed to trying to sort out how best to solve the issue and make everyone happy** in the process.

*By "murky," it is probably beyond question that the recruiter had your resume in SOMEONE'S hands "first," but that doesn't necessarily mean the HR group doesn't think it was their efforts alone that has landed your candidacy. Therefore, they are loathe to believe the recruiter deserves the fee in whole, and depending on the relationship with that firm, may not feel like negotiating a "drop your claim to this guy" partial payoff will bear fruit.

**By "happy," I mean "not litigious."

So you want to get this job? You would be well served to work with your recruiter to get them to drop their claim to you. Can you offer them anything substantial, like positive referrals to decision makers at other firms? Even better, can you get them a sit-down with your old company with a GLOWING recommendation?

Call this recruiter (better yet, meet them personally) and tell them you're concerned about the company scrapping your candidacy because of your actions (you started this, make no mistake). Ask them what you can do for them to help here, but make it clear that you understand the point I made above about being potentially "radioactive" here, and that your objective is entirely focused on getting this job. Do not focus on what they did "wrong" here (maybe they were working with a manager who was at a conference one week, vacation the next, and was too busy to work with the recruiter and shoved the whole mess back to HR - maybe it's not the recruiter's lack of interest after all), just go in armed with anything you can think of to help them get more business in their industry from other sources, and if they're agreeable, have them contact the HR group to release their claim on you in the interest of "goodwill" with this company.

Or, alternatively, you can believe you're taking the high ground by blaming a recruiter for something that might not be their fault, and do your best to generate enough ill will to kill this deal without doing whatever you can to make it happen. Up to you.
posted by peacecorn at 8:41 AM on July 15, 2007

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