If a recruiter told me a about job and he gave me name of the company, would it be considered nefarious or underhanded for me to apply with the company directly instead of going through him in the hopes of getting a higher salary because the company does not have to pay any recruiter a commission if I end up getting the job?

Also, is it considered acceptable to ask for a percentage of the recruiter's commission if I get the job? I heard from a co-worker that he did this in the past but I wanted to know how widespread this practice is and what is considered a fair percentage?

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    Did you approach the recruiter initially, or did they give you this information in an unsolicited manner? I think that has a significant bearing over what would and would not be considered acceptable.
    – aroth
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 15:06
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    Maybe you could apply yourself and pay the recruiter a big, fair fixed amount instead of an hourly cut if you get the job.
    – Steam
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 21:17
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    Possible duplicate of Should I go through recruitment company or apply directly?
    – user30031
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 19:57
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    Possible duplicate of Is it OK to bypass the recruiter when I don't hear from him?
    – mcknz
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:33

6 Answers 6


If a recruiter told me a about job and he gave me name of the company, would it be considered nefarious or underhanded for me to apply with the company directly instead of going through him

That's not something I would ever do to a recruiter with whom I've agreed to work (as opposed to someone who sent me an unsolicited email or phone call). My personal ethics wouldn't allow it. Your mileage may vary.

Also consider that if the recruiter hears what you are doing, he may call the hiring manager and complain about it. Then you might look like a weasel in the eyes of a potential employer.

Also, is it considered acceptable to ask for a percentage of the recruiter's commission if I get the job?

Seriously? You are stiffing the recruiter out of what he does for a living, and now you also want to get a cut of the action for yourself?

I've never encountered this personally, nor have I ever even heard of this happening. It isn't considered "acceptable" when I'm the hiring manager. I don't give kickbacks if someone comes in through means other than a recruiter (except for internal referral bonuses).

If you want to apply for interesting positions on your own, you can take a few approaches and still feel good about yourself:

  • Don't use a recruiter at all, at least for a while. (I've done this)
  • Engage a recruiter, but tell him/her that you are also looking for positions on your own. Tell the recruiter that she/he must tell you the name of the company up front and that if you have already applied to that company on your own, you'll let them know immediately. Otherwise, you'll work with them on interesting positions which you haven't found on your own. (I've done this in the past, too)

Note: As aroth points out in a comment below, some recruiters send emails or call you unsolicited. I never respond to or acknowledge receipt of unsolicited emails or phone calls from recruiters. I might read them, or I might just delete them. As far as I'm concerned, unless you have agreed to work with a recruiter, anything they choose to send you is a "gift". For me, gifts have no obligation attached. I am free to toss them, or use them any way I choose without concern for the sender, and without any obligation to the sender.

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    Hey, I'm not trying to stiff anyone. That's why I asked the question. I'm somewhat new to dealing with recruiters, hence the rather sophomoric question.
    – sq1020
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 1:05
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    I think you're being overly sympathetic to the recruiter. Or at least to the ones who send unsolicited e-mails (and phone calls, if you're foolish enough to leave your phone number out where a recruiter might stumble across it) to anyone whose contact details they can scrape off LinkedIn/Monster/etc.. "It's what I do for a living" is not a valid excuse for spamming people so that you can earn a commission off of what they do for a living.
    – aroth
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 15:04
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    @JoeStrazzere - Fair enough. The OP doesn't specify if he engaged with the recruiter or if the recruiter just threw the information into his lap. From my own personal experience, the latter scenario would be far more likely.
    – aroth
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 15:08
  • I've long thought this is unethical, but I'm getting sick of recruiters contacting me about jobs that are already very visibly advertised in 5 different places. I'm more so of the opinion that if you have no previous contact with a recruiter, and they contacted you about a job already on your "to apply" list, then that's fair game. You haven't answered the question from that angle @JoeStrazzere. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 17:07

In addition to the other excellent answer, some companies only use a recruiter. So, if you apply directly

  • They'll know that you had to hear about the job via their recruiter
  • They'll know that you're trying to do an end run around the recruiter.
  • They only hire through the recruiter, so they won't consider your application.

So, you might look like a weasel even without the recruiter hearing about it.

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    Not according to my experience. Most jobs that I've been contacted about through recruiters are also listed as open on the company's website.
    – sq1020
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 1:07
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    In one comment, you state that you're new to working with recruiters and in this comment you cite your experience with recruiters while disagreeing with the answer. Yikes.
    – Hi pals
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 14:33
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    @sq1020 Thursdaysgeek's answer merely points out that there are companies that only use recruiters. Your experience that "most jobs" don't doesn't negate that. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 22:34

Bypassing the recruiter is a simple and obvious strategy that many companies would do if they could. Either by hiring directly, or by the sort of cheat you suggest.

At least in Australia many (most?) recruiters require the company to pay a commission for anyone they refer who is hired by the company, regardless of whether you approach the company independently. That's specifically to get around the approach you suggest. If you look through this search for "two recruiters want to send me to the same company" you'll see that that issue raises similar problems. In that case your idea just will not work.

From the company side, by doing this you're showing that you encourage cheating, and that may not be a characteristic they look for in employees.

You can always ask for a cut of the commission. I suspect you're not likely to get it, especially if you phrase it as you have done.

If you're contracting through a recruiting company it's often unclear as to how much of what you get is coming out of the recruiter's commission. From the employer's point of view, they're paying a set amount negotiated with the recruiter and how much of that you get isn't their concern. If you negotiate well you may end up with a bigger slice than some of your peers. I've done that in the past.

For a permanent position it's a little different, as they're getting a fee from the employer and you're getting paid separately. So you're very much asking the recruiter to give you some of their payment, and it's obvious to everyone who sees it what is happening. Unless you're a unicorn I can't see that happening, and you'd have to be a pretty special unicorn for the money not to come from the employer directly. Ask for a signing bonus, that's more likely to work.

The other approach would be to put it as a request for reimbursement of your expenses. Ask the recruiter to pay for your transport or taking the interviewer out for lunch or something. IMO that's less unlikely to work.

The ethics of those approaches are, as others have said, at best questionable. Cheating the recruiter out of their commission is somewhere between illegal and wrong. Asking for a cut of that commission is more on the unwise spectrum but it's ethically dubious in that it says you don't think the recruiter is entitled to be paid for their work.

That seems to be the thrust of your question. My answer to you is: if you don't think their work is worth paying for, don't use them. Don't apply for jobs through recruiters, and stop dealing with anyone offering work as soon as they make it clear they're a recruiter. It's that easy.


I would not bypass the recruiter to get to the company. Not only may you make the company mad since they had an agreement with the recruiter to conduct a search and do the screening, but you may make enemies with the recruiter since you cut them out of the loop (and possibly costing them the placement fee).

Just yesterday, I had a recruiter approach me about a job that I interviewed for about 11 months ago. I did not get the job, but had a good rapport with the hiring manager. The recruiter wanted me to update my resume to send on, and I decided not to proceed - recruiters usually have some sort of agreement that

  • They will get paid if one hires a candidate they presented in a certain time frame, usually 6-12 months, sometime more.
  • The company may not be willing to pay a recruiter if they present someone that has already interviewed/applied in a certain time frame.

Unfortunately, I am going to keep my mouth shut in order to not cause trouble on either end. I don't want to get into a legal/moral gray area but cutting out the recruiter who told me about the opening.


Personally, I would find this unethical and immoral. It's stealing.

I also think it could hinder your chances of getting the position because you don't understand what good recruiters do for companies.

You can go to the company's website and fill out the application just like all the other candidates who subject themselves to the filtering process of the HR department. Not all companies have internal people who are skilled at hiring all positions. This is especially true for non-technical companies hiring programmers. The HR person will screen your application, force you into a very boring and time wasting phone interview and at best, forward your application to the hiring manager.

A good recruiter should be more skilled at not only filtering candidates, but "selling" you to the client instead of just sending you to the client. They will have insight on how to go about showing your strengths and what to say or not say during the interview. You'll get background on the hiring manager. You'll know more about this company.

The recruiter is only going to get a percentage of the first year salary unless you are on some type of contract. The company isn't interested in passing any savings on to you. You took time away from the HR person and possibly the hiring manager by denying them the opportunity to off-load some of this on a recruiter. I don't see it as part of the salary negotiation strategy. It is more of a distraction away from your skill set to justify why they should pay you more.


That's one reason why I usually don't talk to recruiters: they do stuff for a fee, a fee which may very cost me a job opening if they cold called a company I am interested in. On the other hand, I don't like cheating anyone, especially when the cheating directly impacts on how someone makes their living. Recruiters have their value: I have interviewed in places I never thought of applying, mainly because the corporate culture is different. As I usua;;y end up discovering for myself, it doesn't mean that the people who interviewed me are not good people and that it wouldn't be a pleasure to work with them and for them :)

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