I'm having a bit of a moral dilemma with a job application:

A friend sent me a role advertised by a recruitment agency, who I then contacted and met with to discuss said role. Following from this conversation I met with a friend of a friend at the company to find out more about their experience. This person then advised that I may have a better chance in being offered the role applying directly through her, as this would bypass the recruitment fee the partner would have to pay to the agency.

I'm unsure as to whether I can ethically apply through the friend of a friend, after initially discussing the role with the recruitment agency, but I also don't want to cheat myself out of getting the role if I'd have a better chance without the recruiter?

I live in Wales (UK), if that makes any difference.

  • 2
  • The manager I spoke with at the company is aware I spoke to the recruiter first but still recommended I pass my CV to her directly, rather than the recruiter. I'm just not sure she's fully aware of the consequences of doing so, even though she is in a managerial position at the company. I worry that if I follow her advice I'd still be crossing a line ethically.
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 20:39
  • Did you agree that the recruiter can represent you? Aug 17, 2019 at 22:11
  • There's no formal agreement but had gone in to the company for a meeting and discussed sending over a CV so that I could be put forward for the role.
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 22:16
  • By company I mean the recruitment agency*
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 22:39

5 Answers 5


I'm unsure as to whether I can ethically apply through the friend of a friend, after initially discussing the role with the recruitment agency, but I also don't want to cheat myself out of getting the role if I'd have a better chance without the recruiter?

If a company uses a recruiter, that's a signal that they are willing to pay the cost of finding and hiring good people. Your friend of a friend is likely wrong - it's extremely unlikely that you would have a better chance of being hired due to saving that small cost. (And hopefully this friend of a friend isn't suggesting you bypass the recruiter just so they can earn a referral bonus.)

If you are a good fit for the role, you wouldn't be cheating yourself out of anything.

As far as ethics, I know what I would do. But we each have to make decisions within our own personal ethical framework.

  • Thanks Joe, I hadn't considered that the employee may be looking for a referral bonus themselves - not sure a company of this size would offer that. Either way, I think I will go with the agency as it isn't sitting right with me. Thanks for your input!
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 13:18

If you signed with the recruiter (not clear as you said you had a meeting with them) then they will contact the employer saying that you are one of their clients and they should get the fee whether you apply via the recruiter or direct.

The only way to not have the agency involved was to not contact them at all.

Once you contacted them, and given the timeline, they can claim that you had knowledge of the post via their services - which is what you have stated in your post above. So they will claim a fee of some sort and expect to be paid. This could be either very easy or very challenging...

  • That's a good point - I'm not sure the employee I met with had thought it through fully, as I guess it could end up reflecting badly on them or the company. Although I'm not sure how it works for this type of situation, as there are probably up to double digit numbers of recruitment agencies advertising the role at the moment with several candidates being put forward each. Either way, I think I will go ahead with the agency and explain this to the employee I met with. Thanks for your input!
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 13:16

If the recruiter has already sent the resume to the company AND they have read that email, there is likely a clause in their services contract that will obligate the company to pay the recruiter if they hire within a year. That, of course, depends on the agreement that they have negotiated.

However, if they haven't sent the resume out, or the company hasn't seen it before they initiate contact with you (provably), then you should be in the clear. If the company hires you directly, the risk is theirs to take. You should be aware that recruiters are a noisy bunch, and they often speak with each other. You may find yourself on a blacklist if you pull this move. One "out" on that tip is to tell the recruiter that you're already in interviews with said company. Timing matters though.

If you've signed a contract with the recruiter, then you need to check the terms carefully.


Joe Strazzere is correct about referrals. As for ethics, if you don't have a signed contract with the recruiter you're not obligated to do anything that they want. If they actually did something of value for you that'd be a different story but so far they haven't. They just wasted your time talking. Sort of like telemarketers do. They could be 'thinking' about whether to present you compared to the other 50-300 people who contacted them. If your friend of a friend introduces you you skip all of that.

In my experience the only honest recruiters were new to the industry. They're like angels when they've only been in the business for a few months. Otherwise, watch your back.

  • "signed" contract with a recruiter that's not a thing in the UK at all - a verbal contract to represent is the norm and you normally agree that with the recruiter and if you contact the recruiter there is probably an implied contract Aug 17, 2019 at 22:14
  • So if i had contacted the recruiter about the role then there's likely an implied contract? This is what I was concerned about, as it was quite clear I had at least some interest in the role from discussions I'd had with the guy at the recruitment agency. It's a relatively small city as well and so I'm sure the agency will find out if I get the role in the end after having bypassed them...
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 22:25
  • @Neuromancer I covered verbal agreements (and all other non-signed agreements) with "if they actually did something of value for you that'd be a different story but so far they haven't." In the U.S. at least there's a concept that for a contract to be valid there needs to be an exchange of something benefiting both parties. How does that work in the UK? Side note: in some industries business to business handshake agreements are absolutely binding as it's the norm in that industry.
    – HenryM
    Aug 17, 2019 at 23:43
  • @Jennifer it's definitely possible that if you upset/disrespect a recruiter that they will refuse to work with you in the future.
    – HenryM
    Aug 17, 2019 at 23:47
  • I don't think there's any contractual obligation to be honest. I think the only remit the recruitment agency may have is that they have proof I discovered the job opportunity through them. However, the job is advertised on the company website and has been posted by other agencies on Linkedin. I wouldn't be too worried about not working with the recruiter in the future, as there are countless agencies in the city. I guess if I make a bad name for myself by operating in bad faith it could have a knock on effect with other agencies, although they don't seem to communicate much with each other.
    – Jennifer
    Aug 17, 2019 at 23:57

If there's no written or implied contract between you and the recruiting agency that states/implies that the recruiting agency would represent you and present you to this company for this position than you have no obligation of any type. Moral, ethical, or otherwise.

  • But there is (probably) a written contract between the recruiting agency and the company. As they introduced the friend and the company to each other, they will expect their cut, even if the friend goes off on a tangent. Aug 19, 2019 at 7:41

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