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I was talking to a recruiter about a possible role with a company and she said she'd put me forward for it. The recruiter works with that company but not for that company, and there has not been any contract between me and the recruiter either. Since talking to the recruiter about the role, a little more than a month went by, and I never heard anything back so I assumed their client wasn't interested, and forgot all about it.

Then I saw an advert for a different vacancy, and I applied directly to the company. Now the hiring manager there likes my CV enough to invite me for an interview, and apparently tells the recruiter about it.

Then the recruiter e-mails me to ask why I didn't tell her. And I reply, saying essentially "I've been applying for a lot of positions lately, don't remember all the names, must've just gone ahead without checking with you. Sorry, I didn't mean to cause you any bother".

How should I proceed with this pursuit? Should I try and involve the recruiter again? Or shrug it off?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Kilisi Jun 17 at 9:44
  • A couple of questions: (1) Have you signed any contract or agreement with the recruiter? (2) Is the recruiter a relative or someone related to the hiring manager? Sometimes the better thing said is to say nothing. – EarlGrey Jun 18 at 14:07
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    @EarlGrey, (1) I haven't signed anything with the recruiter. (2) I don't know, but I have no reason to think so. – OmarL Jun 18 at 22:12
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    "why I didn't tell her" - The first thing coming to my mind is, why should you have told her? – puck Jun 20 at 8:00

12 Answers 12

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I was talking to a recruiter about a possible role with a company, and she said she'd put me forward for it. A little more than a month went by, and I never heard back so I assumed their client wasn't interested, and forgot all about it.

The recruiter doesn't work for you. The recruiter works for the company. As you said, the company is a client of the recruiter.

You are under no obligation to go through the recruiter, or keep the recruiter informed of YOUR activities. There is no legal basis, and more broadly, there is no moral basis.

The recruiter's obligation is to find suitable candidates for the company. Your obligation is to find suitable job opportunities for yourself. That's the status quo.

Whether it's one month or one minute, it doesn't matter. You should keep applying for different roles even as you speak with recruiters. This means there is a clear chance there may be a doubling-up that occurs.

Your only mistake was to justify your actions to the recruiter.

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  • This is an important point - you have no quarrel with the recruiter, the company does. Personally I would answer the recruiter and CC the company contact and just plainly state the facts how you found the position on your own. They can take it from there. – Falco Jun 16 at 19:33
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    Juxtaposing the words "moral" and "recruiter" is an oxymoron by definition. – alephzero Jun 16 at 23:02
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    "The recruiter doesn't work for you. The recruiter works for the company." This is sometimes true, but sometimes false. I've worked with a lot of independent recruiters. I agree with this answer overall ... +1 – donjuedo Jun 17 at 2:42
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    @donjuedo I was speaking with respect to the issue at hand. Recruiters certainly can represent candidates in some cases. – Gregory Currie Jun 17 at 4:31
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    @alephzero - You comment really hits home with me. I got to my current shop via an external recruiter. He flat out lied to both myself and the hiring manager to move my start date closer and earn himself a bigger payout. – StoryTeller - Unslander Monica Jun 17 at 8:15
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If I'm summing it up right, the recruiter never communicated whether or not she actually did send your CV, never got back to you with any updates and basically just went silent for over a month. Then, you, with your own hard work, looked for a job and applied for one, and now she's coming back and wanting to get paid?

I'd tell that recruiter in no uncertain terms to piss off (although you should probably use nicer terms in your actual communication) and stop contacting me. She's had her chance to do a good job, she wasted it, and she has no right to ask anything in compensation for work she hasn't done.

(This is assuming it's an external recruiter. If it's an internal recruiter you might want to be a bit nicer, because you might end up as colleagues.)

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    If it's internal then it's not up to them to clarify with the candidate, but with the hiring manager. In either case, it's not the OP's problem. The recruiter dropped the ball. It's over a month. – Nelson Jun 16 at 7:46
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    You have summed it up perfectly; and yes this is an external recruiter. – OmarL Jun 16 at 13:43
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    I would not tell the recruiter to piss off because it's better not to make enemies in the field, but I agree with the answer. If the recruiter went silent for so long the candidate had all the right to apply by themselves. – FluidCode Jun 16 at 14:53
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    While the recruiter is in the wrong there's not often a professional advantage to being rude. Mostly I would just say sorry I did it separately and eventually ghost them if they kept being chatty about it. – Mark Rogers Jun 16 at 19:54
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    I've pointed out you probably want to be nicer in your actual message, given the comments ;) – Erik Jun 16 at 20:23
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My summary of this is fairly simple. You engaged with the recruiter for the role that she put you forward for. That wasn't a broad engagement for all roles within that organisation, nor did it obligate you to notify her when you applied for other roles.

You didn't side-step anyone, you applied for a role that was not the one that the recruiter was working with you on.

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    And even if it was the same role, it's not your problem. You're not obligated to go through the recruiter. That's for the recruiter and the company to sort out. – Gregory Currie Jun 16 at 16:55
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    If the recruiter wanted some kind of exclusive arrangement with you, they could have offered you something in exchange for such an arrangement. They didn't, so aren't entitled to one and shouldn't expect one. Clearly, the recruiter dropped the ball on getting your considered for that position. They should be glad that you prevented their mistake from harming you or the company. But they're too busy getting mad at other people for their mistake. – David Schwartz Jun 16 at 17:40
  • @GregoryCurrie sometimes, you are obligated to go through the recruiter. If a job applicant to my company was represented through a recruiter for an opening, and then applied for it directly as well or through a different recruiter, we are required to deny their application by policy. I think it's a 1 year period but i'm not sure on the specifics. The reason being, we don't want the possibility of impropriety of asking an applicant to apply directly to avoid a recruiter fee, or the potential issue of two recruiters asking for the fee. – David Jacobsen Jun 17 at 21:03
  • @DavidJacobsen I'm not familiar with recruiter arrangements, but I always assumed that if a recruiter recommended an applicant, and the person was eventually hired, the recruiter gets their fee, even if the applicant went through some other application process. But I guess that's not how the OP's recruiter works, or they wouldn't have been upset. – Barmar Jun 17 at 22:53
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    @DavidJacobsen Some recruiters don't even share the actual company name, which means in that instance it's common for candidates to accidentally "go behind the recruiters back". If the company then decides to throw away the direct application, and also the application given by the recruiter that is, of course, idiotic. A company is able to put whatever conditions they want on it. If they say: "Please communicate through person X", then you do that, I agree. – Gregory Currie Jun 18 at 2:34
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It sounds like the system is working. The hiring manager understood that the recruiter had put you forward for a different position, so involved the recruiter in the discussion about the second position (there would be no other reason I can see for them to ask the recruiter about you). The relationship between company and recruiter is intact.

The recruiter appears angry with you because she didn't advise you of the second position, or advise the company that you might be interested. When the hiring manager mentioned your name there would have been a - possibly unspoken - question about why she hadn't told them you were looking.

Everyone is saying to someone "why didn't you tell me?" - the recruiter is saying it to you because she's embarrassed she didn't put you forward for a position for which both you and the hiring manger think you look suitable.

It sounds like the recruiter is already involved in the second position, so they've not lost out on income or their relationship with the hiring manager. If this is the job for you, it sounds like things will progress.

If this isn't the job for you, or for future job searches, you might want to consider whether you're best served by working with someone who gets annoyed with someone else when they miss putting forward an obvious candidate.

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Everything is fine, nothing is broken. The only thing that is wrong here is your response to the recruiter. I would not have been as apologetic; I would have simply said: "I heard nothing from you for a month, so I assumed we were no longer working together. I've gone ahead and found this position on my own; if you wanted to be a part of this, you should have emailed me back during the month that you made me wait."

As for the questions you asked, just keep on trucking, do what you're doing, ignore this mix-up with the recruiter ever happened. If you do want to involve the recruiter again, be aware of the following:

Commonly, it is not the applicant who pays the recruiter, it is the company. The company has a hiring budget, and they use that money to pay new hire salaries as well as recruiter fees. You should talk to HR of the new company and make sure that involving or not involving this recruiter will not affect your final salary offer; you don't want this recruiter, who essentially did nothing, taking a chunk of your salary. You should also be very straightforward with this recruiter that you now have the company's contact info directly, and if the recruiter proceeds to ghost you again like they did previously, then you will not hesitate to go around them, intentionally this time, and furthermore blacklist them from working with you again forever.

Personally speaking, the recruiter's primary job is to get you an application and an interview. Sometimes they do other things, but 75%+ of their job is that. You've already done that part yourself, so I'm not sure what value the recruiter can provide you at this point. If it was me, I'd tell the recruiter "sorry better luck next time" and have that be the end of it, but you may be more generous than I am.

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I have worked with recruiters a lot, I've done a lot of contracts and currently a consultant. When working with recruiters, it's very taboo and will often disqualify you if you try to go around the recruiter.

Clearly, the recruiter has done her job poorly by not staying in touch, not reaching out weekly to update you on the status. She probably even forgot your application was in play until the issue came up again.

On the applicants side, it's very important to ask for a Job ID number and to keep track of what/who you applied for. Applying for jobs can be a whole job unto itself. I keep track of when I applied, who it was, who the agency is, agency contact, Job ID, whether I heard anything back, whether it's a contract or fulltime, etc.

This is important because you will often see different contract agencies competing to fill the same role, as a business will request candidates from several vendors. Accidently applying for the same job through 2 different agencies is just as a big mistake.

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  • "will often disqualify you if you try to go around the recruiter" - This does happen with with consulting agencies and with low-touch recruiters (e.g., web-based recruiters). However, for higher-touch recruiters (i.e., ones who meet with candidates in person at least once), they typically just sign a contract with the employer, then share full resume (including contact information) for any candidates. In this scenario, the risk of a conflict on commission fees is very low, so the recruiters tend to be less aggressive/rude (to candidates) about side-stepping the recruiter. – Brian Jun 16 at 20:03
  • @Brian They may less aggressive/rude, but it's no less serious. They take it very seriously, for instance, you could be submitted twice and accepted by an offer from the second agency, even though the first submitted you earlier. That'd be a bad situation for everyone, and to maintain vendor relations would likely reject you outright. It's always serious, intentional or not, when you go around a recruiter. – Issel Jun 16 at 20:15
  • I agree that going through two recruiters is a disaster and could lead to being rejected outright (and it's common/reasonable for recruiters to instruct candidates NOT to work with multiple recruiters). Barring that scenario, the typical way a company can satisfy the recruiter is to pay them. – Brian Jun 16 at 20:23
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You did not do anything wrong. However, it is best to be mindful of a few things:

You want the recruiter on your side.. The recruiter has a relationship with the employer. You don't know what this relationship is exactly. I worked at a place once where the recruiting firm was run by the CEO's wife. You never know. It is safest to be polite and professional with the recruiter.

The employer is probably under contract with the recruiter, even if you are not. That means that if the recruiter had already submitted your name (previously, or for a different position), the employer will be obligated to pay their fee, even if you sent your resume in directly. This is to prevent employers poaching from recruiters by telling candidates to apply in person after meeting them through the recruiter.

The fact that the recruiter is involved should not affect your salary negotations. It should cost you nothing to have the recruiter involved. While the employer may have to pay a fee to hire you, the folks that pay the fee work for a different department from the folks who decide if you are appropriate for the position (usually). Don't feel like you are necessarily being cheated because the recruiter is involved. The exception might be in smaller companies where decision roles and monies are more likely to be intermingled.

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  • There is absolutly a chance that having a recruiter involved will affect your salary. The company may have a budget for the role. A dollar that is spent on the recruiter is one less dollar they are able to spend on the employee. – Gregory Currie Jun 16 at 23:34
  • The second point here should be more visible. The relationship between the employer and the recruiter is apparently close enough for the employer to be feeding applicant names backwards through the recruitment process. – Jontia Jun 17 at 11:52
  • @GregoryCurrie - Perhaps in smaller places where they hire infrequently. It can actually work both ways. The (external) recruiter may have a better insight into the budget or ranges than the candidate, and their earnings linearly depend on whether the candidate plays the salary negotiation well. Ergo the recruiter may end up useful to the employee even if their client is the employer. – Jirka Hanika Jun 17 at 18:02
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How should I proceed with this pursuit? Should I try and involve the recruiter again?

You did nothing wrong, but consider this recruiter burned. Don't use them for anything else.

And in the future, avoid using 3rd party recruiters unless you know them personally, or unless they've been recommended to you by someone you trust, or unless that recruiter is allowed to use an email address with the domain name of their client (which implies a formal relationship between the client and them).

The fact is. Recruiters add an extra 30-40% to your hiring cost to a potential employer. So if given the choice, and assuming an employer hasn't already pre-hired a recruiter, that employer will usually prefer the candidate that doesn't come with such a surcharge.

And any job posting 3rd party recruiters have access to, you can usually find on your own (if not right away, at least within a week). Obviously, the exceptions to this rule are CEO/executive positions or other high level positions, in which case, you do need to find a headhunter for those types of positions, but the headhunter you find must absolutely be the right one.

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They put you on the backburner for a month without even batting an eye. You owe them ZERO apologies.

However, for your own well-being you should always maintain professionalism:

Hi Recruiter,

I came across this opportunity on XYZ website and decided to apply.

I haven't heard from you in over a month. Is this the position you applied me to when we initially spoke?

Thank you

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    By asking them "Is this the position you applied me to when we initially spoke?" you're inviting a conversation to occur around it. – Gregory Currie Jun 17 at 11:22
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Just to give you some perspective: Some time ago I was looking for a job, and I applied to many positions, and I also contacted some agencies, to see if they can get me a job. I had an interview with an agency, and they thought I might be a good fit for the positions they are trying to fill. Once that was clear, they asked me if I am interested, then we signed a contract, that basically for 1 year, I have to go through them if I want to get these jobs. In turn they will coach me a little bit, look over my stuff and so on.

So there has to be some contract about the relationship between you, the agency, and the possible employer.

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    Companies sign contracts with recruiters, individuals don't (or shouldn't have to). There's no way I would be with an agency that requires exclusivity. If you are already working with a recruiter for a job, they should already have a contract with the company which stipulates that this role must be filled via the recruiter. No further contract is required. – SiHa Jun 16 at 15:20
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    I'm guessing that "these jobs" refers to the jobs that were introduced by the agency, not any job. – Gregory Currie Jun 16 at 16:28
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    @SiHa: Such clauses are typical for consulting/staffing/temp agencies. However, I wouldn't call such an agency a recruiter. – Brian Jun 16 at 20:10
  • @SiHa: Maybe you are right. It made sense to me at the time. – WorkingHard_Guy Jun 17 at 8:34
  • I suspect you were being scammed. What did they give you in return for you giving them an 'exclusive' contract other then a promise of what 'might' happen? All they did was to ensure that no other agency would get paid if you got the job. – Paul Smith Jun 19 at 0:46
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The same kind of thing happened to me. It's totally possible that someone could accidently apply for another job (or even the same job) with the same company the recruiter they've been talking to is contracting with. In an era where "ghosting" is the norm, it's OK to have a short memory.

In the middle of a job search it's hard to keep track of all the applications and the contacts, sometimes the recruiters (or the companies) aren't communicative and you'd like to get things moving. Whatever happened, it's completely reasonable and not a big deal.

The problem is that recruiters are paid to bring in candidates. And if they and their client discover that a candidate has been talking to both-- that immediately raises concerns. From an HR prospective, they're afraid that the recruiter could sue if the company hires the candidate without paying.

Details such as exactly which job is in question and how things occurred DON'T MATTER in such cases. HR drones which will reflexively take the lowest-risk option, which is to eliminate the candidate from consideration. The recruiter will also drop the candidate because they don't want risk the same embarrassing conversation over that candidate with another company.

Just move on and don't worry about it. There's nothing you can do.

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The recruiter gets paid for any person they introduce to a company that the company subsequently hires.

Some recruiters are professionals and will make a very positive difference to your career and can really help a company fulfill its needs.

Some recruiters are parasites that will blast your CV to every company in your industry and then demand payment from the company if they ever find out that any of them ever hire you. This is why many companies will only deal with specific recruiters and will not accept unsolicited CVs. I have had colleagues whose CVs were sent unsolicited to the company they still worked for. Not a good way for your managers to find out you were thinking of moving :)

I do not know which type of recruiter you are dealing with, but it is reasonable to assume that they should have been aware of the second advert you saw, and they should have known from your CV whether or not you would be a good candidate. And they should have informed you if they put you forward for that role. There was never an onus on you to keep them informed, so no, you have done nothing wrong. You have nothing to apologize for. If you get the job, they get paid.

At the end of the day, you do not have a relationship with the recruiter, they are acting as a (paid) middleman to generate a relationship between you and the company you end up working for. If they have a beef, it is probably because they might get more commission from one job then another but that is their issue, not yours.

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