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).

  • 5
    @DavidK Thanks for the link, but it appears to be a very different question. I had no interviews, and the recruiter does respond to my messages, just not in a way that is conducive to advancing the hiring processs.
    – fullerene
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 13:10
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    @fullerene I agree that the details are different, but the answers in that other question would appy here -- regardless of how the recruiter behaved, you still learned about the position through the recruiter.
    – mcknz
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 15:04
  • 4
    @mcknz the fact that answers in one question might be useful in another does not make the question a duplicate Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 16:58
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    @RichardU Agreed. In this case I believe the central issue in the two questions are the same. If not enough people think so, then the question stays open -- no harm done.
    – mcknz
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 17:07
  • 1
    @mcknz except for the fact that close votes attract close votes. We've had many discussions on WP Meta about this. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 17:11

5 Answers 5


You should disclose the fact you've learned of the opportunity from the recruiter (at least at some point of the process, be it formally or informally within an interview) and explain why you didn't pursue the opportunity through them further.

Then, they get to decide for themselves what their obligations towards said recruiter are. I imagine they would like to at least be prepared in case the recruiter decides to pursue action against the company should you be hired with them being left out, since they most likely have a contractual obligation.

  • There's also a possibility that if the applicant bypasses the recruiter, the company may look on the applicant in a less favorable light.
    – mcknz
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 16:52
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    @mcknz that's absolutely true - although, it seems staying with the recruiter is definitely leading to nowhere. I'd rather have maybe leading to nowhere than definitely leading to nowhere. Also, it's possible that it will show the candidate to be driven and goal oriented.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 17:53
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    Upvoted this. I once had a family member pull some strings with a manager he knew to get me an interview, not realizing a recruiter had already submitted my name for the same position. I was told that they would be giving the recruiter his commission if I was hired, even though I arguably didn't get the interview through his efforts.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 22:15
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    That's how those contracts work between company and recruiter. If a recruiter presents you, and the company hires you, the company pays the recruiter period. The means to the end doesn't matter. If you are shopping for a house, read your contract with your realtor, same idea applies. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 22:33

If you are reasonably certain of the company and the position I would probably recommend going around the recruiter. I know from personal experience that recruiters run their own game sometimes to the detriment of both applicant and company. I have been seriously misrepresented by recruiters before.

So go ahead, but be sure to not just drop a CV - you need a cover letter. Feel free to use / change any of the following:

Dear Mx,

I write to present my interest in position X. Attached is my resume, and I have highlighted some points that are relevant for position X. I believe my experience in Y and my developing skills in Z are a good match and I believe I will be able to further develop as position X for your company.

Alternative 1

I have been contacted by a recruiter, R, about this position. I chose to contact you directly because I suspect that R is being disingenuous to the point of possibly misrepresenting C (the company). Position X seems like a good opportunity for both me and C, and I contact you in good faith directly to avoid having technicalities and bureaucracy disturb this opportunity.

Alternative 2 a very good indirect approach w/ more finesse by @timbstoke

I'm already in discussions regarding this position via R, but their busy schedule has caused them to miss a few of our appointments. As these were primarily to discuss the specifics of the role, I felt that contacting you directly may be more productive than a protracted discussion via an intermediary

And as always, a polite and formal end

Looking forward to your reply,

Sincerely, Applicant A

But in all honesty, YMMV - we are somewhat off course of regular process here. This is something I would consider doing if I was in your situation. Good luck in any case.

  • 21
    I agree with the bulk of this, but if they're claiming to be in discussion with the company, I'd go for something like "I'm already in discussions regarding this position via R, but their busy schedule has caused them to miss a few of our appointments. As these were primarily to discuss the specifics of the role, I felt that contacting you directly may be more productive than a protracted discussion via an intermediary." If the recruiter is acting out of place, the hiring manager will read between the lines well enough without the need for negative or accusatory terms.
    – timbstoke
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 15:28
  • @timbstoke That is a very good alternative - I agree that a bit of finesse is probably useful. My line of thinking was that contacting directly is a bit blunt as is - might as well be heavy handed (but polite!) for the remainder. I mean, you are showing initative by contacting directly, it would be weird if none of that impetus was showing in the cover letter. But you put that very nicely, I'll go ahead and edit it in as an alternative - assuming your permission to do so.
    – Stian
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 16:33
  • How about “I learned about this position from recruiter x and would like to apply.“ It implies the recruiter approved the contact, but not strong enough to be a lie. And the recruiter would be suicidal anyways if he tells them otherwise.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 4:47

If you are in the US going around the recruiting agency might not work--often times the contract that the hiring companies sign with the recruiting agencies state that if they hire someone within $LIMIT amount of time after the agency submits a resume they owe the fee anyway.

What I would suggest is to first contact someone higher up in the recruiting agency and tell them that you're having problems with the recruiter--specifically mentioning not showing up for the phone calls, etc.

In my experience there are usually at least 2 people in the agency working the position. One person works with the hiring company, the other works with the potential candidates. You might want to try to get to this second person and speak directly with them.

Only if that doesn't work would I consider going around the recruiter. I would make it clear in my initial contact with the hiring company that I know it's unusual and frowned on, but I was having this problem with the recruiting company and don't want to buck the system too much but would really like an opportunity to interview for the job. Acknowledge somehow that they're probably going to have to still deal with the recruiting agency etc.

  • 5
    "often times the contract that the hiring companies sign with the recruiting agencies state that if they hire someone within $LIMIT amount of time after the agency submits a resume they owe the fee anyway" yes, but view it this way: as long as OP is completely open, it's up to the company what to do. They were prepared to pay the recruiter in the first place, if they have a contract with them. They will be happy to have OP if he is indeed a good match. The recruiter will be happy to receive his fee without doing any work. A win-win-win is a possibility.
    – AnoE
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 21:39
  • @AnoE +1 It also lets the company know what the Recruiter are (or aren't) doing - if they start to see the same issues repeatedly with a specific Recruiter then they can adopt a policy of "we will no longer accept referrals from you". When the company I work for were running Interviews (Software Development), we discovered that one of the recruiters was not passing on the message "There will be a short Practical task to undertake during the interview", putting their clients at a disadvantage: one of the interviewees almost had a panic attack! Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 13:17

It's considered bad form, and it can earn you a bad reputation at best.

At worst, depending on your jurisdiction, the recruiter can come after you for their fee, or demand it from the company.

It can happen, and has happened in jurisdictions in the USA. The laws vary and this is one of the possible outcomes. It's rare, but it does happen. Since the USA does not have a "loser pays" legal system, lawsuits can, and are brought for frivolous reasons. Even if the recruiter loses, the person can be out thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Had your resume not already been submitted through the recruiter, I would say "go for it". But since the resume has been submitted, the recruiter has technically done his job, albeit poorly. If you're planning on taking their introduction to the company with no permission and claiming the knowledge of the opening and the contact with the hiring manager as your own, you are likely to run into trouble

Depending on the kind of relationship the company has with your recruiting agency, and the laws of your area, you could end up killing your chances of getting the job and even exposing the company to which you are applying, and even yourself, to legal action should the recruiter wish to pursue it. Even the threat of a lawsuit from the recruiter towards the hiring company will make them dump you for another candidate. You're not worth the legal fees to defend the case. The agency probably won't sue, but the employer won't take that chance.

Recruiters make their money by presenting candidates. If you gave them your resume and they submitted it to a client, they have provided a service and are entitled to their fee. If you circumvent them after your resume has been submitted, you have essentially stolen their service. That's akin to walking out of a restaurant without paying the bill after you've eaten a stake because you didn't like it. You ate the steak if you allowed them to submit you.


Don't go around the recruiter who already submitted your resume, it will end badly for you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:00

If it was me, I would write an email to the recruiting company and cut off all contact with them. Ask them to purge you from their database, do not submit you for any further positions and not contact you again.

Then sure, go ahead and contact the company directly. Point out that you may have been submitted by the recruiter, but you were forced to cut ties with them. The hiring company may be feeling the same frustration.

If you were submitted, and the hiring manager liked your resume, then imagine his frustration. While he has 100 other things on his plate, and 100 resumes that are worthless he finally found one that is a good fit...and no interview.

He might be quite pleased to hear from you.

As far as ethics, there are none being violated by doing so. It is as if you went to a car dealer to buy a car, you test drove the car, and picked out a color. Then the deal feel apart in negotiations. Would it be an ethical violation to drive to the next dealer and buy the same car from them? Of course not. Same-same.

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