I've been recently contacted by an external recruiter working for a medium-sized company.
The company is new but legitimate and their projects are both impressive and highly relevant to my previous experience. Furthermore, after the initial exchange the recruiter told me that they forwarded my resume to the company's hiring manager and the manager liked it.
Then it fell apart.
Instead of getting me connected with the manager and starting the expected interviewing process, the recruiter started bargaining about the salary (as in, asking for my expectations and then trying to convince me it should be lower). They were trying to hide any details about the opening whatsoever (presumably so I couldn't find it online, but I may be wrong on this one). They tried setting up a couple of phone calls to discuss "some details", but failed to show up for the calls. All in all, the recruiter's behaviour appears manipulative and unprofessional.
I'm about to say I'm no longer interested because frankly I've had enough. On the other hand, however, the company interests me and I would like to have an opportunity to apply to this and future openings directly.
Would it be acceptable in my circumstances to apply directly if I were to say "no" to the recruiter, or would this be highly unethical? I don't mind mentioning the recruiter's name in my application, but I simply don't want to deal with that person any more.
(I've researched similar questions on the website, most notably this one, but couldn't find one that fully reflects the situation I am in.)
Another question was suggested as a duplicate but it is quite different as well. It discusses a scenario where 1) the recruiter's message was not unsolicited (yet in my case I was contacted out of the blue), 2) the recruiter acts with integrity (not the case here), but 3) the candidate does not want to pay the commission fee in hopes to get a higher salary (that is not the reason I want to circumvent them).