Nobody comes between my and my job.
May 1, 2008 6:52 AM   Subscribe

A recruitment firm is between me and the job I want. Can I cut them out of the loop if no contract was made?

Two weeks ago, I was cold-called by a recruitment firm, informing me they had seen my resume, and wanted to send me on an interview. I met with them once in person, and then went to the interview, which went wonderfully. I hadn't heard back from the recruitment firm for a few days, so I called them. They informed me that the company was still interviewing candidates for the position. Later that day, I received a voicemail from the company with whom I had interviewed telling me that they would love to hire me, but the finders fee was exorbitant.

In further correspondence with the company, I learned they too had been cold called, and told that the firm was sending candidates to interview (they only ever sent me). They had entered no legal agreement with the agency, and literally got a call one day, and I was there the next. I have since learned that this is the modus operandi of this recruiting agency- they are known for the blind call, then the hard sell.

Neither I nor the company ever entered into a written or verbal agreement with the agency regarding any exclusivity. The human resources director of the company with whom I interviewed is currently in correspondence with her attorney with regard to our position, so I'm not looking for legal advice.
My question is (I am not soliciting legal opinions here), can I simply tell the agency to shove it?
posted by potch to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
recruitment firms are bottom feeders, you can do what you want.
posted by mattoxic at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

About the only thing I can think of is that the recruiting company could possibly try to come after you for getting the job if they found out you were hired after they 'facilitated' that first meeting. The chances of this are probably small, especially if they're a bush league operation. Otherwise, I'm with mattoxic above.
posted by jquinby at 7:14 AM on May 1, 2008

Usually when I receive resumes from recruiting firms, they will have written on them at the top something along the lines of

"Client understands that it is being introduced to Consultant by XXXAgency for the purpose of a consulting assignment with Client though XXXAgency and agrees that XXXAgency is providing a valued service to Client in locating, recruiting, and pre-qualifying Consultant, as well as providing access to a valued XXXAgency asset, the Consultant. Specifically, Client agrees not to engage the consultant’s services directly, or indirectly, other than through XXXAgency, for a period of six (6) months from the date of this submittal."

Now, have I ever signed anything with the agency? No. However, I actually do value my relationship with the agencies I use, so I play by their rules.

IANAL, but you, certainly, can probably tell the agency to shove it. I would seriously doubt that they would come after you. Whether or not the company will want to do this is another matter. I'm pretty sure that my company would not want to do so, not unless they had counsel that told them that it was a completely safe thing to do.

Annoying situation, I wish you the best of luck.
posted by gregvr at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2008

Definitely. If the firm had a relationship with the company that interviewed you then there could be a problem, but it sounds like they have no relationship with anyone. Don't tell the agency to shove it, just don't tell them anything.
posted by frieze at 7:17 AM on May 1, 2008

I should also say that I value my relationship with the agencies I do use because 99% of them are evil bottom feeders, so when I finally found a good one, I want to hang on to them!
posted by gregvr at 7:24 AM on May 1, 2008

a long time ago I interviewed with an agency that did, in fact, have a relationship w/ my eventual employer. They wanted me to sign something saying that if I quit my job in X time, I would owe them Y$$. I never signed. I kept my job. Considering you have less of a relationship w/ these people, do whatever you want.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:27 AM on May 1, 2008

We had a situation in the dotcom boom days where we interviewed a coder sent to us by a pimp, he didn't cut it so that was fine.

Few months later we acquired a small company who had employed this coder. The pimps found out and tried to stick us for the fees. So they got the fees for the initial placement with the other company, then tried to double dip.

recruiters have contracts with the buyers, not with the placements.

Bottom line, you have not signed anything. So relax. They might try to heavy you but ignore em. They can be tenacious, especially in a tightening market- Nobody comes between my and my commission.
posted by mattoxic at 7:31 AM on May 1, 2008

Can you negotiate a lower rate with the recruitment company? It sounds as if you wouldn't have known about his job, nor would the company have known about you, without the offices of the recruitment firm. If you had strong opinions about the actions of such firms before this (as mattoxic seems to), you should have declined to participate in their service. As things stand, it seems unethical to benefit from their service and then attempt to cut them out of their fee.

(Which is not to say that their fee is reasonable, or that you should pay whatever they ask. This may be a situation in which any attempt to negotiate must be avoided because doing so would open you up to legal action.)
posted by OmieWise at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2008

I worked in the staffing business for ten years, so I can assure you that you should go for the job. Any nastiness, if it happens, is going to be between the hiring company and the staffing company. You are out of it.

If the copmany wants to hire you, go for it. Don't worry about the recruiter.

My comany was never this aggressive, but we did have instances where people went around us and worked out a deal to hire directly. Here's what that meant to us: we would not work with the candidate again, and although we said we would not work with the company again, we ususally did if they asked.
posted by Futurehouse at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2008

Sorry- more typos please.
posted by Futurehouse at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2008

To flip perspectives, It would seem to be a little unethical for the company to interview a candidate introduced by a recruiter and then try to stiff the recruiter on the fee. In any case, as others have noted the issue is between the company and the recruiter. You should simply maintain cordial relations with the company and follow their lead from here.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2008

Sevenyearlurk: The employee was given the impression that the recruiter was working for the employer. The employer was given the impression that the recruiter was working as an agent for the employee. Neither signed an agreement in advance, and the billing is essentially a bait-and-switch.

Imagine an acquaintance setting you up with someone for a date, and you get along great. Now he gets wind of it, and wants to charge you $1000 to date this person who you'd like to see more of. Yeah, he deserves some sort of reward, but certainly has no right to charge anything given that he didn't say he was going to. And definitely not the jacked up rate that is being asked.
posted by explosion at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2008

As long as the employer can't find a contractual problem with the recruiter, I'd say go for it. In my experience it's always better to deal directly with the hiring company rather than through the recruiting agency. You always end up with a better deal for yourself and you don't have someone playing middleman raking cash off the top for little to no value add.
posted by iamabot at 9:49 AM on May 1, 2008

Obviously you should do what's in your own best interest. The recruitment company screwed up. But I think suggestions that the recruitment company is just a middleman trying to get something for nothing are madness! They found you a great job! That's very valuable.

But, they forgot to arrange for someone to pay them. They lose.
posted by hAndrew at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2008

explosion: based on the story given, the recruiter *was* acting as an agent for the candidate. Your analogy doesn't hold much water since the employer certainly knew that they were making use of the recruiter's services when they agreed to schedule an interview. They seem to be quibbling about the size of the fee, not the legitimacy of it.

iamabot; here the agency identified a candidate the employer wants to hire, thus saving them time and effort in their search; and connected the candidate to a position that they're interested in and might not otherwise have been aware of. Seems like a considerable value add to both parties. Do you realize that most large companies, and many small to midsized ones routinely make use of recruiters to fill positions that they have trouble finding talent for? Believe me, in this economy companies wouldn't be paying for these services if they didn't need them.

potch: While I can understand the frustration and feeling of being caught in the middle, the fact is that the recruitment agency did something good for you by connecting you to this opportunity; telling them to "shove it" doesn't seem reasonable to me, but as I said earlier in this situation I would try to continue communicating directly with the employer.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2008

IAAL. Legally, it doesn't matter whether you or the employer signed a written contract with the agency. A contract can also be formed by actions. Here, you and the employer held the interview based on the agency's services, and that was enough.

If you take the job by direct agreement with the employer, and tell the agency to get lost, you and the agency could be sued. If, as you say, the agency has a bad reputation, they're unlikely to get a judgment for the entire amount, but it could easily cost you and the employer more than the amount of the fee to hire lawyers to defend yourself. However, the agency will have legal fees, too. Thus the agency and the employer will probably be able to negotiate the amount down to a lower figure than the agency demands. This is particularly so if the agency never mentioned the fee amount to the employer.

You shouldn't be liable for the fee (although they can sue you anyway). Except with the bottom-feeder agencies that prey on college graduates hunting for a first job, the employer pays the fee.

The agency's bad reputation is probably known to the local Better Business Bureau. Check with them. If your city government has an ombudsman, check there. Local TV stations may have "on-your-side" reporters who investigate rip-offs. A single call from one of these can produce dramatic results. You could also try .

Good luck.
posted by KRS at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2008

The recruiter was *acting* as an agent for the candidate, but presented itself as having a contract or deal with the employer. It in fact had a deal with neither party, and though they connected the two parties, they did not perform due diligence to be sure that payment was being offered.

Essentially, they acted as a headhunter for the company without the company asking them to do so, and without the company agreeing to pay them. Simply put, you cannot do a service unrequested and then bill later. This practice is shady as all hell, and while they probably wouldn't sue, the employer doesn't want to take the risk, and therefore is willing to pay or lose the employee.

If you don't agree with me, I'll be over to paint your house and mow your lawn tomorrow, as you'd certainly agree that those chores need doing. Don't be surprised when my bill comes to around 300% of what you'd normally pay.
posted by explosion at 11:59 AM on May 1, 2008

Disclaimer: I'm in the UK. I am most definitely not a lawyer.

I work as a temp right now, and I had to sign a contract that legally confirmed these kinds of details. I can't be taken on by a company the agency has sent me to unless the company pays the agency to release me. If no one has signed anything, no one is bound to pay anyone a fee. I am also free to find my own employment independently.

I think you should arrange with the company to "turn you down" and return to you a week later with a second offer that does not involve this recruiter as a middleman. If this introduction was done with no paperwork, a verbal rejection and independent re-offer after a period of time should be all it takes. It's good that the company has lawyers involved - if they are prepared to extend their resources that far, that finder's fee must be horrendous.
posted by saturnine at 1:16 PM on May 1, 2008

as a recruiter, i'd agree with sevenyearluck. It's pretty cruddy to try and cut the recruiting firm out of the agreement, especially since the company probably CAN afford the recruiting fees, just doesn't want to. However, without a written fee agreement, anything is really fair game. It's happened to me before, even WITH a written and signed fee agreement, and it sucks. But, the cost to the recruiting firm to sue the employer is not likely to be worth the fee they may achieve. And you are certainly in the clear, since you didn't sign anything or pay anything to them.
posted by Soulbee at 1:06 PM on May 5, 2008

I'd like to add that it doesn't mean the employer will decide to make this leap and hire you. They could, but it doesn't mean they will. For my own part, as a recruiter, I try to behave as ethically as possible and if i don't have an agreement with an employer, I don't represent myself as having such and make extreme efforts (much to my boss's dismay some times) NOT to stand in the way of a candidate getting a job because I was in the way in some form or another. It's too bad that other recruiting firms don't act like this and thus get the reputation mattoxic quoted uppage, as bottom feeders. Sounds like you're dealing with a crappy firm. Sorry.
posted by Soulbee at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2008

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