So I was approached initially by email by a recruiter for a position at a company close to where I live. I emailed back, saying I was interested and to make a long story short I interviewed at the place and they would love to bring me on.

I received an email from my potential employer saying that they would love to have me at the company, but they are not certain about working anymore with the recruiter that found me. I'm assuming they want to avoid the 20-30% finder's fee. So, now this puts me in an undesirable situation.

The Recruiter contacted me back and asked if I had been in contact with the employer at all. I don't want to lie to anyone. I'm not certain if I'm supposed to be emailing the employer directly, but I already have. I like the employer and want to accept the job. I also thought that the recruiter did her due diligence in getting us in contact with each other and would feel terrible if she was to not get anything from making that contact. Is there any way I can remain honest and not risk my reputation with the recruiter while maintaining a good standing with the company that wants to hire me?

And for what it's worth, the employer had multiple job postings on various sites. The recruiter had contacted them to help them find someone to fill the slot. Not the other way around. I'm not sure if that would make a difference or not.


Just so it is clear, I have not signed anything with the recruiter and from what I was told in the last interview I don't think the employer has signed any contracts with the recruiter yet. So, I will not have to face any legal consequences that I'm aware of. All the recruiter and I have so far is an email conversation where I expressed interest in the position that they presented to me.

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    Just so you know: Anyone unscrupulous enough to do this to their recruiter will have no problem doing this to their employees. Consider carefully whether or not you want to work with such an organization. I've been as tired of recruiters and their runarounds as anyone else, but annoying is a far sight short of dishonest. Apr 2, 2018 at 20:07
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    Yes, this is something I'm considering as well.
    – arjabbar
    Apr 2, 2018 at 20:13
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    And the recruiter is legally entitled to be paid if you are hired. You do really want to work for a company that tries to get out of its legal obligations?
    – HLGEM
    Apr 2, 2018 at 20:16
  • Also let's say you do go around the recruiter - make sure you negotiate a sign-on bonus. normally this is lost to the recruiter fees, but if they're not paying them ...
    – bharal
    Apr 2, 2018 at 20:18
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    And the legal stuff is another thing. They said that they had to bring the contract from the recruiter to the CEO to see if he would sign it after I was interviewed. I'm pretty sure that's where it stopped. So I'm pretty sure they have not signed anything with this recruiter. Either way, the recruiter has put forth the effort. But I'm not sure if there would be legal consequences if they did go around.
    – arjabbar
    Apr 2, 2018 at 20:23

4 Answers 4


Is there any way I can remain honest and not risk my reputation with the recruiter while maintaining a good standing with the company that wants to hire me?

The way you present it here, it doesn't seem so. Either you're honest with the recruiter, in which case the employer will probably pass on you to find someone else who doesn't come with the recruiter fee attached, or you play ball with with the employer, in which case you're being dishonest with the recruiter by not telling them you got the job they hooked you up with.

Which would you rather be? As Stephen Colbert might say, pick a side, we're at war.

Of course, it's always possible that the employer will surprise you and hire you anyway, even though you insist on keeping the recruiter in the loop. That would be the ideal outcome, of course. However, the only way I can see to get that result is to risk losing the job by sticking to your principles.

Be polite with both sides, of course. Let the recruiter know you've been contacted by the employer, and let the employer know you need to contact the recruiter before accepting any offer, in accordance with your contractual obligations to them. (I'm assuming you've already signed up with the recruiter, anyway.)

You could play out the employer side a bit first, to see how they react to the news that you intend to tell the recruiter, before replying to the recruiter. That might give you a better idea of what the employer's intentions really are. Of course, it might also result in them just dropping you cold and not replying any further. But that's an answer in itself, really.


Don't take the job from this place.

The fee should not be so large that it's an economic burden to them, if it were, they would be so financially unstable that you're at risk of being laid off at a moment's notice.

Negotiating for a raise at an office this motivated to pinch pennies even if their finances are strong is going to be very difficult.

But most importantly, working with people who are willing to act with a hint of unethical attitudes this early in the process is almost certainly the tip of an iceberg of bad behaviors.



In order to make a good decision you need the full backstory. I would approach the prospective employer starting with

"I understand you would prefer to not work with the recruiter. Would you mind explaining to me why this is and what type of setup you have with the recruiter?"

That should give some insight on what the deal is. If you get an evasive answer, you can crank it up to

The recruiter has approached me about our interaction and current state. What would you like me to reply back to him/her?"

If they ask you to tell the truth, that's what you should do and let the company deal with the fallout, whatever it is. If they tell you to lie, I would seriously re-consider signing on there. If they are unethical in this regard, they are probably unethical in other ways as well, including towards you.

  • Thanks. I just sent an email to the employer to ask questions very similar to this. I just want to be completely honest with both parties. I'm still waiting for a response.
    – arjabbar
    Apr 2, 2018 at 21:43

Simply be honest to the recruiter about what is happening, and ask your possible employer if they indeed have a Contractual obligation with the recruiter, as you are conflicted. It is not your battle. If you go behind anyones back, you will probably loose out and burn bridges with both parties. By being honest and up front, you only stand to loose one party.

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