Yesterday I received two independent calls from recruitment agencies that both included mention of the same position at a company.

This not only raises the question which recruitment agency I should choose to represent me, but also if I should choose any recruitment agency at all.

The job is listed in various public places and I could apply directly.

I have seen in my browser's search history that I have already looked at this job in the past prior to the calls, and googled the employer's name, but did not apply yet.

To my knowledge the recruitment agency is not going to do much more than forward my resume to the company and contact them to consider my application. They may do some other organizational things in my place that I could otherwise do myself. In exchange for that the agency will get about 20% of my salary if I get hired (depending on agency). The interviewing is still going to take place at the actual company.

The recruiter(s) want me to grant them the exclusive right to represent me, thereby barring my own ability to apply.

From the employer's perspective, the agency fees are additional costs to my salary, which will weaken my position among equal candidates - unless I am willing to ask for less. I am wondering what benefits there are that are worth effectively sacrificing a percentage of my yearly salary, and how viable the option of a direct application is after being contacted by a recruiter for a position.

  • 1
    Just a note, you aren't sacrificing any pay by going through a recruiter, the placement fee is negotiated between the employer and recruiter, it's not taken out of a new hire's salary.
    – Brandorf
    Feb 4, 2020 at 22:49
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    @Brandorf I think from the employer's perspective you are. Among equal candidates your salary expectation / cost will be effectively 20% higher than the rest unless you lower your requirement. The situation is similar if there is a fixed budget for the position.
    – ig-dev
    Feb 4, 2020 at 22:55
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    @Brandorf Recruiters are on the company's side, not yours. In my experience, they tend to undershoot your salary greatly
    – Mars
    Feb 5, 2020 at 3:04
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    @ig-dev From the employers perspective, the recruiter is performing work that an employee would have to do if hiring. If you have one person, they might be too busy to process a lot of applications, so hiring a recruiter can help ease the load and get them exposed to viable candidates without a fuss. On the opposite hand, you can also get a recruiter to help you find a job. They essentially pitch you to companies and get a nice commission while you get great pay with little effort spent searching job ads.
    – Shadowzee
    Feb 5, 2020 at 3:21
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    Among equal candidates your salary expectation / cost will be effectively 20% higher than the rest unless you lower your requirement. The situation is similar if there is a fixed budget for the position - just to be clear here, I've been a hiring manager at several employers of all sizes, industries, and structures that used recruiters, and I've used them myself to get jobs. I've never encountered a situation where a recruiter's fee changed the offered salary at all. Decisions about recruitment budgets are made completely independently from salary negotiations.
    – dwizum
    Feb 5, 2020 at 16:47

5 Answers 5


A good recruiter will prep you

I have worked with recruiters who knew the interview questions in advance (including the technical ones), knew how the job description differed from what the hiring manager wanted, and knew that anyone they handed in would likely get an interview in comparison to the dark hole of the online application website.

But it differs depending on the recruiter. Most can’t seem to keep track of the phone calls they arrange.

  • 1
    when you're still going to interviews for jobs, this is hands down the best reason to use recruiters.
    – bharal
    Feb 4, 2020 at 23:56
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    I've met two recruiters that I personally like. Both put me directly in touch with hiring managers that they had a good relationship with. They briefed me on the interview process, but also briefed the hiring manager on the overlap and disconnect between the ideal profile and mine. Interviews would thus focus on how quickly I could brush up and what else I was bringing to the table. 100% offer rate, and decent offers too. These two recruiters? Definitely a single-digit percentage of the recruiters that contact me.
    – MvZ
    Feb 5, 2020 at 9:07
  • Recruiters who leak technical questions between candidates are not good. They're scammers that are dishonest to both the hiring firm and the candidates. They tend to be the ones who maximize their cut and minimize the offer. Avoid them.
    – Jeffrey
    Feb 5, 2020 at 14:53
  • @JeffreysupportsMonica there's a huge difference between leaking technical questions versus legitimate prep with information the recruiter has obtained directly from the hiring manager.
    – dwizum
    Feb 5, 2020 at 16:40

I like going through recruiters rather than company websites for a few reasons:

1) Recruiters are expected to have personal relationships with the companies they represent. If you apply through a recruiter and your application is stalled out, you can follow up with the recruiter and expect the recruiter to follow up with the company to get your resume/application looked at. Conversely, if you apply through the company's career page, your application might just go into the application void and never be looked at or considered at all.

2) Recruiters are expected to know and provide details on the company, like company culture, details on the team such as demographics of who your coworkers might be, how social the company is, and so on, things that you wouldn't get from reading a company's webpage. This information might help to inform you of whether a company is a good fit for you or not, which you couldn't get by applying normally.

For these services, recruiters are paid by the company (not by you), and I have yet to receive a below-market offer for my position due to "we had to pay the recruiter". Essentially you are getting these services for free, so use them.

Of course, if you are working with a recruiter who doesn't have this information or provide these services, then definitely cut them off and go through the career page. No problem with that.


The recruiter may get a one-time fee of 20% of your annual salary if they represent you. But you won't be paying them a dime-- that's a fee they charge to the hiring company. And realistically you're not going to be able to get the hiring company to give you that 20% as a bonus if you apply directly. At a minimum, that money is coming out of a totally separate corporate budget than employee salaries.

Think of it this way-- if you didn't want to take advantage of some benefit, say health insurance, it is very unlikely that you would be able to negotiate a higher salary. Health insurance and salaries come out of different budgets and are aggregated across the company, not particularized. No company of any size is going to go through the hassle of decreasing the health insurance budget and moving that money to a different department's salary budget in order to let one employee have a salary that is probably outside the salary band for the position they're in. Similarly, no one is going to move the potential recruiter's commission from the HR operations budget into your department's budget for bonuses so that they can give you a bonus for not going through a recruiter. The company has decided that using third-party recruiters is a cost of doing business they're willing to absorb.

It is entirely possible that you'll get no benefit from going through a recruiter. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the recruiter has some insight into the hiring process or the hiring manager that they can help you land the job. They may know, for example, that you want to emphasize teamwork in your answer because that's something the company really interviews for or they may be able to tell you that the hiring manager is a real traditionalist and you need to dress more conservatively than you might expect. I'd tend to guess that if there are two different recruiting companies calling you on the same day that they're not firms that have long-standing relationships with the company that will give them a ton of insight but that's just a guess.

  • @ig-dev - I expanded the answer but the original point remains. You're not in a worse negotiating position, the company isn't going to care how you came through the door when they're negotiating salary. Feb 4, 2020 at 23:22

The recruitment agency represents the employer not the candidate.

They are paid by employers to find and filter candidates. I know they will try and act like they represent you but they don't (IMO). Some of them will ask you to sign their terms and agree to only apply for positions though them. - where I live this has no legal standing. However you should only apply for 1 position though 1 agency. If you apply for the same position though multiple recruiters then you may get removed from the application pool.

Basically you can go via a recruiter and they will act as a man in the middle to setup interviews, send you interview advice and negotiate salary. Salary negotiation is what's best for them not you or the employer.

In addition to all this great stuff, they will bombard your email with spam for the rest of your life.

Another point to be aware of. They are sending multiple candidates to the employer (conflict of interest). They might decide to not even send your resume across. Don't let them make that choice!

I would advise applying directly.

Your salary offering is unlikely to be any different if going direct. Most companies have 2 separate budgets already accounted for, one for recruitment and one for salaries.

  • The statements you're making don't inherently apply universally to all recruiters, which is leading to you making a conclusion that doesn't apply to all situations. I'm wondering if your answer could be improved by expanding it to include scenarios where a recruiter is acting in a manner that's beneficial to the candidate.
    – dwizum
    Feb 5, 2020 at 16:42

Speaking from my one and only personal experience.

I was recently contacted by a recruiter on Stack Overflow about an opportunity to work in another country.

I wasnt the one paying for his work, but even so he called me several times to prepare me for the inteview and to keep me updated.

This is how things went, and why i seriously consider this kind of service again:

  • first contact on Stack Overflow
  • 5 minutes phone call explaining the role and the company
  • i researched the company and the salaries on the internet
  • sent my cv
  • 15 minutes phone call interview
  • we exchanged text/voice messages about salary, relocation, visa, etc
  • another call to prep me for the interview with the company

I had the opportunity to ask him about many things i wasnt sure, and im certain his feedback will help me improve for my next try.

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