On the heels of the double-presentation question, I'm curious about the best way to sever ties with a recruiter who has represented me in the past.

Let's say I was presented by this recruiter to a firm in January, but in the interim, have decided that I no longer wish for that recruiter to represent me. In addition, what if the aforementioned firm has a job opening in August that may be a fit?

Am I free to apply on my own? How do I need to communicate to the recruiter that the relationship is over? What implications are there for a conflict at the potential employer?

I have no contractual obligation to the recruiter, none of any kind. They've just presented me to their clients over the years. I don't exactly know how to communicate that I no longer wish to be a client to them and the firms they may have presented me to in the past.

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    Do you have any sort of contractual obligation to the recruiter?
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 23:58
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    None. Other than they've presented me to their clients over the years. I don't exactly know how to communicate that I no longer wish to be a client to them and the firms they may have presented me to in the past.
    – ewwhite
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 0:01
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    Thanks for clarifying; @MathAttack's answer pretty well covers what I would say in this situation!
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 10:44

4 Answers 4


Just say, "I'm no longer in the job market, and don't want my resume in circulation. Please contact me in advance before presenting me to anyone." Every time they ask you if they can send your resume to someone, before they share the name, politely say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not interested." Eventually they'll get the idea.

It is unethical to apply directly to a firm if the headhunter makes the introduction. If they give you a position or a firm that you are already aware of, you can say, "Thank you for the intro, but I already know of them"

I think the industry standard is not to chase the same firm for a year, but I'm not positive on this one. If it's a different job in a different department, and you're not using any connections they gave you, less could be ok. You can always tell the HR rep at the company, "I heard about you from X 7 months ago. I'm no longer working with that firm...." and then it puts this on their head.

The bottom line is that headhunters don't have much recourse when you go around them, but it's still poor form to violate the unspoken rules. At some point in your future one of them could be helpful.

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    It is not just unethical there may be remuneration required should you take a job with a firm that you were presented to through the recruiter. These can be very significant to an individual. Not to mention attorney fees for both sides if they choose to pursue the matter in court. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:08
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    @Chad: that will depend greatly on whether the OP signed any contract with the recruiter. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:47
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    @kevincline - you might be surprised to find out that you do not even need to have signed anything in some places. Simply agreeing to utilize the offered services of the agency can act as binding consent. This is not true everywhere and in every situation. Which is why I used the word MAY above. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:53
  • A side note - it's very rare for headhunters to actually sue people unless it's very flagrant. Why tick off potential employers? It's still bad form to go around them though. (Sort of like a higher cost version of not tipping a waiter who gives you good service.)
    – MathAttack
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 16:09
  • @MathAttack - One can go around them. But one needs good reason too. If it's been years since the recruiter has introduced you, then I would not worry about it.
    – bigdaveyl
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 19:11

Just give the recruiter written notice that you are withdrawing permissions to discuss you with any outside agency, company, or person. That will free you to pursue jobs on your own or with other recruiters.

If a recruiter ever represented you to a company, and at some point in the future you are offered a job by that same company, then you want to be sure to mention to the hiring company that you were at one time in the past referred to the hiring company by a recruiter.

You may well be opening up your new employer to a lawsuit if you don't disclose your prior relationship with the recruiter in question.

  • I would add to send it both via email and certified mail (or the equivalent outside the US).
    – daaxix
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 4:17

If the job is a different one and you are applying from scratch, you have no legal obligation.

However, if you think your chances will be enhanced by them having met and maybe tested you already via the recuiter, then ethically you should at least contact the recruiter.
Also, it may well pay off later. Often recruiters are allied to companies and it might look pretty bad if he stops by the company after you are hired.

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    It' not so much a question of the employee 'looking bad' in the eyes of the recruiter. It's that the recruiter may well claim via lawsuit that the hiring company violated the written contract with the recruiter. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 4:55

Had the headhunter not made any preliminary agreement with you, even as lightweight as an email?

I have recently decided to take back more control on when/which employers get to receive my CV, so I re-read the emails I exchanged last year with a headhunter. In his 1st email there were some conditions, which I naively accepted, implying in vague language that he could send my CV to other potential employers besides the original one, with no expiration date. So I emailed him to withdraw from the agreement, as @Jim In Texas advised.

Further to that, whenever I work with headhunters in the future, I plan to put in an email right from the start that they have to get my consent before proposing me for each single job opportunity. They earn big fees when they place someone, so I figure they will still propose me if they really believe my profile matches, while giving me more control on my job search.

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