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A few weeks ago, I was working with a recruiter for a role and right before the last interview, the company canceled and told the recruiter that they hired someone else. Two days later, the company contacted me saying that they were unable to afford to hire me with the recruiter costs. I wished them luck with their new hire and we parted ways.

Now, the company contacted me asking if I was still looking for work and if I would want to come in for the final interview. I am still working with the recruiter for other roles and she has been super helpful through the process - Is it wrong to entertain this company's offer? I didn't sign anything with the recruiting agency, so I don't think I could get into any legal trouble... but I feel odd that the company went around the recruiter. Do I tell my recruiter about this right away? I would have to tell her if I took the job because she was working to set me up with another company. Plus, we are connected on LinkedIn - the entire situation a bit uncomfortable.

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    Suggested related reading: Going around a recruiter who submits unsolicited candidates – DarkCygnus Sep 1 '20 at 0:12
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  • The situation would be different if this had happened at the start of the interview process, and if you had submitted your resume on the company's own recruiting website as well as to your recruiter. Companies gladly forego the professional recruiter route if at all possible, and it's not because of the cost. The primary reason is that the oftentimes subpar quality of candidates submitted by professional recruiters does not justify the fees those professional recruiters charge. – David Hammen Sep 1 '20 at 14:07
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    Just remember: If the company is willing to cheat the recruiter from the money they deserve, they might once try the same with you, their employee. – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Sep 1 '20 at 23:20
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    This demonstrates what I see as a breakdown of ethics in our society. Despite the fact that it is not illegal, and there are no explicit ethics rules for it, it still smells, and I would be reluctant to hire onto a company that sees nothing wrong with this. I have seen people and companies spend so much time and effort to try to skirt what is the right thing to do, and it often takes more time and costs more money than doing the right thing, but those involved pat themselves on the back and brag about how they got away with it. It is not something to celebrate, but to be ashamed. – Ron Maupin Sep 2 '20 at 1:34
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Is it wrong to entertain this company's offer?

To my point of view, this company is acting Unethically.

Going around a recruiter is not a professional nor ethical thing to do at all for a company. You are right to feel uncomfortable with this situation.

Perhaps you can't get into legal trouble as you didn't sign anything, but this company may have signed something with the recruiter, and you would be in the middle... best to cover your back...

Do I tell my recruiter about this right away?

This is up to you.

An alternative approach I can suggest is to reply to them something on the lines of "Hello. Yes, I am available. If you wish so, please contact [recruiter] to inform her and so you can sort the details involved with the contract, etc.. We can then surely agree on a date for the final interview."

This way you will be able to probe if their intentions are indeed to skip the recruiter, so you can decide if you are willing to continue the process with this company despite their actions.

Another option could be to be honest and straight with your recruiter, and tell her about this situation so you can work a solution together (as I guess you need the job and the sooner the better right?).

Personally, I suggest you go for the first approach (to probe their intentions) and then, if they are indeed looking to skip the recruiter (and if you are still willing to work with them), tell this to your recruiter to reach a solution.


Side note: If I were in your position, and if it were completely up to me, I would decline this offer from the company and continue job-hunting.

Why? (1) Because to my point of view this is unethical from their part, and I would not want to work in a company that is Unethical and could then do something to me, and (2) if they really can't afford the cost of hiring you via a recruiter then they are being cheap or they are financially unstable, both red flags to me.

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saying that they were unable to afford to hire me with the recruiter costs

For me this is a red flag. No matter what you think of the whole story in other aspects, I would not join a company that claims they cannot afford the recruiter costs. This is either a plain lie and you will hear about budget problems every time you want a salary increase or they really cannot afford it and you are about to join a company that can barely afford you. Guess who will be fired first if budget gets even more tight...

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    Exactly, if the company is that bad off, they likely can't afford to hire at all. A startup is a different matter in that they are still trying to afford new staff, but they are also most likely to fold completely if/when that doesn't happen. – computercarguy Sep 1 '20 at 16:25
  • Plus they almost certainly knew the recruiter’s fee BEFORE you were submitted. Such are pretty standard, and no recruiter would connect you without a contingency contract in place (with the company). – G__ Sep 3 '20 at 3:04
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The company is acting in a very, very dodgy way hear. They are trying to cheat the recruiter. If they are trying to cheat the recruiter now, you can be sure that at some point they will be cheating you. And as others said, if they can’t afford paying their recruiter, that’s a very bad sign as well.

If you take the job, the recruiter will find out eventually. It’s their job to find out these things. They will most definitely sue your employer and win their case. They might sue you as well.

If you go to the recruiter and tell them what happened, I’m sure they will work hard to find you a job with a better company.

PS. Someone commented that this could get you blacklisted by the recruiter. Not at all if you inform them and don't take the job. They will sue the company and get their fees paid, and then they find you another job and get paid again. Perfect for the recruiter.

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  • I've worked with several recruiters before and they likely won't sue the worker, but they sure won't work with them any longer. I was told more than once that going around the recruiter was the fastest way to get blacklisted by the company. But yes, the company will get sued and if they have as much money problems as they state, they likely won't survive. – computercarguy Sep 1 '20 at 16:27
  • @computercarguy Really? They would blacklist the employee? That doesn't make any sense as the employee has no relationship with the recruiter and no way to even know what terms the recruiter and the company parted on. The employee doesn't even know the terms of the agreement between the recruiter and the company. For all the recruiter knows the employee knows, the company might have told the employee that the recruiter quit. – David Schwartz Sep 1 '20 at 22:48
  • @DavidSchwartz, yep. It would be up to the recruit to make sure there's no conflict, which can be a requirement for employment by the recruiting agency. If they didn't have that in place, anyone could get around the recruiter system and then expect placement again later without any penalty. To be clear, they would also blacklist the company. The "blacklist" is internal to the recruiting company, so you could burn that bridge, but recruiters to talk to each other and hire from other companies, so word of the blacklisting could get around to other companies. – computercarguy Sep 1 '20 at 23:14
  • @David Schwartz Of course they can. That can refuse to put you forward for any positions in future. And word gets round, you could find yourself being persona non grata with other recruiters too. – Bloke Down The Pub Sep 2 '20 at 13:41
  • @BlokeDownThePub While a company can blacklist anyone for anything, it would be quite strange to blacklist someone for something that there was simply no way they could know was wrong. The employee has no information on the relationship between the employer and the recruiter and for all they know, the recruiter stopped working with the company. – David Schwartz Sep 2 '20 at 15:28
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Note: I am working off the assumption that the recruiter has been engaged by the candidate and not the employer. This is based on the language of the question.

I disagree with the assertions that the company is being unethical.

The company has an obligation to act in its own interests. From what I can gather, the recruiter is working for you, presumably with some sort of informal contract between yourself and them. The recruiter doesn't sound like they have some sort of relationship with the business.

It's up to you to manage your relationship between yourself and your recruiter. I think it's certainly a justifiable position to feel ethically obliged to keep them in the loop, but it's your recruiter. So it's your decision.

People are going to say "what sort of company can't afford recruiter costs". But that's an overly simplistic point of view. If there are two similar candidates, and one candidate has a $10k signing bonus attached to them (for instance), it's completely understandable the business will consider that a factor. It's also nice that the company let you know why you didn't get the role.

I personally would let the recruiter know about the situation. It's their job to get on with things. If they get a feel their fee is prohibitive, they may decrease it in order to get this offer across the line.

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  • In all cases that I encountered, the recruiter is paid by the company, and not the employee (except some dodgy places in China). The company has to work in its own interest, but what they are trying to do is very likely breach of contract, and since they lied about the position being filled, it’s fraud. – gnasher729 Sep 2 '20 at 14:49
  • @gnasher729 My first job was through a recruiter that was working for me (and I'm not located in China). It would certainly be breach of contract if it breached a contract, I agree with you there. – Gregory Currie Sep 2 '20 at 14:58
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It does seem a bit dodgy, as a couple of answers have pointed out. (Assuming the company does have a contract with this recruiter.) On the other hand, these recruiters can take outrageous fees. Also, once working through them, it can be hard to get out. Their contracts commonly stipulate that you can not work for the firm directly for some period of time after the recruiter contract is finished.

So, if you want to continue to pursue this prospect, I might consider this an opportunity that can both preserve your ethical sense, and avoid the pitfalls. Namely, suggest to the company that you don't feel comfortable cutting out the recruiter, but you could feel comfortable signing a contract with them for 6 months, which stipulates that after that time, you would be allowed to work directly for the company. That way you recognize the recruiter's contribution, while at the same time avoiding the trap of signing a contract with them that you can not get out of.

Now on the other hand, do understand that this is capitalism. We used to have ecclesiastical courts that would prosecute for cases of usury - and the fees these recruiters charge are often impossible to distinguish from usury. You will have experiences in which you will be considered weak if unwilling to engage in negotiations consisting of bitter brinkmanship. For some organizations, it's a kind of hazing ritual. No-holds-barred struggle is the cost of entry. Be aware of that, because your ethical position can be taken as weakness.

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    These fees are pretty much known beforehand. – fraxinus Sep 2 '20 at 7:48
  • In my last case, the company had to pay the full fee if I stayed six months, and nothing if I don’t stay six months, so your arrangement would mean the company pays their fee. Trying to get around this by cheating isn’t going to work. – gnasher729 Sep 2 '20 at 14:52
  • In the cases I've dealt with, if you want to keep working with the company, you have to stay with the recruiter. After a while these companies just throw up their hands and say, even if we'd like to have you, it's too much. – Diagon Sep 3 '20 at 1:38
  • Those ecclesiastical courts I mentioned? They would prosecute if profits were considered "usurious." That is, too high for the amount of labor that went into it. They promulgated, in other words, a Labor Theory of Value, which existed long before Marx. Knowing the fee before-hand was irrelevant. Though I will point out that in this case we don't know anything about the fee or who knows it. – Diagon Sep 3 '20 at 1:45

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