So, I met a developer (call him "John") through a job posting we put up on Careers 2.0. It didn't work out when we met, because he was late in the process and accepted an offer the same day that we met.

Since we are a growing startup, I get recruiters calling and emailing me all the time whenever we put a job post up.

3 months later, I got one recruiter who called me and asked if he could send me some resumes. I said sure, why not.

One of those resumes happened to be the guy I met earlier and the recruiter informed me that John wasn't happy at his current job. John never said he was actually looking for a new job, only that he didn't like the commute (to the recruiter).

So I reach out to John (who also happened to work with one of my current team members and they know each other well) and we talk for a few weeks about his situation and if we might be a good fit. We go over working arrangements (remote + on-site), compensation, coding challenges, a test project, and two meetings all without the recruiter.

So, do I owe that recruiter for alerting me that John was not happy at his current job? I already knew John, but would not have followed up at that exact time without the recruiter tip-off.

Also, the candidate never actually wanted his resume to be sent out. He mentioned in passing that he didn't like his commute to the recruiter 2 months after he took the new job and the recruiter, without asking John, sent out his resume again.

Thanks for any perspectives you have on this!

** Clarification: We do not care about maintaining a good relationship with the recruiter because we never use recruiters and this one happened to be really pushy in calling and emailing us all the time. We also never signed a contract with the recruiter and the candidate never told the recruiter he was actively looking.

  • 1
    Do I have to ......................................... (fill in the blank) a recruiter if they give me information about someone I already know? Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 5:04
  • We never officially engaged them. They just saw a job posting we had on our website and constantly called and emailed us to see if they could us a resume.
    – Zephyr4434
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 17:17
  • @JoeStrazzere I agree we should have done that, it seems to be an ambiguous situation we are in now, given that the candidate did not even express they were interested in a new job to that recruiter.
    – Zephyr4434
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:21
  • @Zephyr4434 it depends on the contract, if there is no contract there is no obligation. If there is a contract you need to review that. Sometimes it'll specifically mention the lead must come from the recruiter first to count, other times even if you found them on your own you still have an obligation to the recruiter if they present you with the individual. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:40
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    @Zephyr4434 while I would still make sure with someone knowledgable on local laws, but I would assume there is no legal obligation to pay the recruiter anything. If you never sat down and said "We will pay you X per hire" or sign a contract then you never set terms. So then what would "payment" be? A million bucks, a thousand dollars, a nickel, a used tissue and a wad of lint? Honestly the worst I can imagine here is you ruin your relationship with a recruiter. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 19:25

4 Answers 4


I have no legal background, but approaching this from a purely logical viewpoint, there are several factors at play:

  1. Would you have contacted John if the recruiter had not notified you?
  2. Would John have contacted YOU if the recruiter hadn't notified you?
  3. Do you want to maintain a good relationship with the recruiter?

From your story, I get the idea that the answer to the first question is 'no'. You were unaware that John was looking for a new position and would not have had any reason to contact him when looking to fill your job opening. Based on this, I would say yes, you do owe the recruiter. Having established this, the only reason I can think of why you would not owe the recruiter is if he would have contacted you to inquire about job opportunities at your company any time soon. The recruiter did after notify you without John's explicit consent, but if he did not have the intent to contact you this doesn't matter.

Additionally, even if John DID intend to contact you, we must consider the timeframe in which he would have contacted you. If he would have waited a few more months before reaching out, this means that the recruiter's intervention let you fill the position earlier than you normally would have, meaning you owe the recruiter for having the benefits of John's employment sooner.

As for the third point, this is obviously highly subjective. Maintaining a good relationship with skilled recruiters seems like it can be highly valuable to a growing startup, but if they sent out John's resume without checking this could be a red flag. Did they send out his resume again in the hopes that they could make him happy, or were they only interested in the money they stood to make?

My personal conclusion is that the answer is yes, you do owe them. They did their job in providing you with an eligible candidate for your job opening and it resulted in a hire. The fact that you already knew John only made it easier for you to conclude the process, unless you were already in the process of hiring him the recruiter's actions are still the reason he is now working at your company.

  • i think point 3 is where it is at - does the startup want a good relationship with the recruiter?
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 11:42
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    point 1 is why I upvoted. Regardless of point 3, to me it's as much an ethical issue as anything. If the OP would not have reached out to this person themselves, then the recruiter deserves the fee.
    – NotMe
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:30
  • And when you recieved the resume, you should have told the recruiter at that point that you already had that resume before you contacted him.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 20:24
  • 1
    @JeffO, no since there was no contract, they would have to negotiate a fee...which is why you always have a contract.
    – daaxix
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 16:18
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    @NotMe: Presumably the OP has paid recruiters before. If so, then you pay that. If not, then the OP should ask a few colleagues about what they pay and base it on that. I agree that this is a bad situation. However I believe you need to do the most ethical thing which means the recruiter needs to get something.
    – NotMe
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 16:30

This recruiter has really made too many mistakes to expect any compensation. It's a border-line scam.

  1. There's no contract.
  2. The recruiter sends leads with no contract.
  3. There's no contract or any type of agreement, but you're suppose to honor is non-negotiated fee.

Who does this? Should clothing manufacturers just send people shirts and pants they never asked for and expect people to pay for them?

Make an offer to pay an extremely small fee if the recruiter signs an agreement to never bother you or anyone in your company again.

  • It is unclear from the OP if the fee is non-negotiated...but otherwise you have a valid point.
    – daaxix
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 16:39
  • The recruiter did ask if he could send some resumes, and got an affirmative - which in turn was actually useful. That's not exactly "bothering".
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 14:24

Several companies I have worked for offer employees a bonus if somebody you provide a resume for is hired, and stay a specific number of months. The amount of bonus is dependent on how vital or difficult it is to get the position filled. The bonus ranges from zero to thousands of dollars.

All have had a big caveat: if the resume is already in the system, then you can't get the bonus. Most have kept resumes for 6 to 12 months after somebody applied for any position. So if your best friend applied once, then remembered you worked for the company, there was no way to get the bonus.

The person was already in your system. If you award the payment to the recruiter you encourage them to spam you with lots of resumes.

The big thing is what was the contract between you and the recruiter, and the recruiter and the new employee.

In the example I discussed we were told when we submitted a referral if the resume was already in the system, there would be no bonus.

what was the deal with all the resumes they sent you? If there was a contract read it and follow it. If not then I would not have a problem with not paying them for a resume you already had.

  • There was no contract with the recruiter, they just asked to send us resumes without agreeing on terms or anything like that. The candidate also was not actively looking for a job and only expressed that he didn't like the commute at his new job to the recruiter.
    – Zephyr4434
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 17:37
  • I also up-voted the top answer, but this is also a valid and reasonable stance. If the OP pays anything, it should be a small amount, the information was important, but small in the overall context.
    – daaxix
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 16:37

As an Employer do I have to compensate a recruiter if they give me information about someone I already know?

The part in bold is fully irrelevant. The only thing that matter is the contract between you and your recruiter.

Normally the things look like that:

  • the recruiter sends you some CVs
  • you pick the interesting ones
  • the recruiter is sending the candidate to you (until that moment you need to sign something)
  • if you employ that person in given amount of time (for example, 2 years, depending on contract) you pay the fee to the recruiter

Or you sign some other kind of contract, where the recruiter is only sending CV, and you arrange the meeting yourself and pay fee if you employ one of such people.

But if you have no contract, there's absolutely no basis for any fee for the recruiter!

Only if.

You haven't specified the location, but you should check your local law, if it specifies some kind of contract based on customs. For example, if you call a taxi, even if you don't ask for price, you have to pay. Your local law may interpret you saying 'OK' to the recruiter as signing a valid contract between you and him.

But only that thing matters: is there a legal contract or not. If yes, you have to pay, if not, you don't have to pay. The fact how much useful were the information from the recruiter, is not relevant here.

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