The normal process of working with recruiters seems to be to speak to them, read their terms of service, negotiate a rate, and then proceed to receive candidate profiles (CVs/resumes)

However, there's also "cold call" type of dealings where profiles are sent by a recruiter without having agreed terms beforehand. In my experience profiles sent in such a way are more heavily anonymised.

In one particular example, the recruiter's anonymisation methods have failed and it's been possible (trivial) to find the candidate's web site.

Having not entered into any sort of agreement with the agency, is it okay to approach the candidate directly?

So far, the relationship with the recruiter extends to a couple of emails and a couple of phone calls. The terms of business have been sent over but not agreed to.

  • While I can't really remark on the legality, it sure doesn't feel right, morally. I'm sure if someone undercut me and went to my suppliers behind my back, I'd make sure people I worked with know. Is it really worth risking your reputation?
    – Reaces
    Jun 4 '15 at 8:15
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    @Reaces really? I don't see how a recruiter spamming candidates at you gives them any ownership of your hiring decisions. I wouldn't lose any sleep over some unknown recruiter (I'd shoot them all if it was legal), unless you can identify it damaging your relations with your good ones or presenting a legal risk. Jun 4 '15 at 8:30
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    @NathanCooper Despite the (probably warranted) dislike towards recruiters, I still don't like the idea. And you can't really know if it would or wouldn't damage relations with your good recruiters, it's a small world and if this person is one of the good ones and has a decent relationship with the client he's representing, or knows one of your good recruiters... I'd prefer it if everything was always above the board, because I'm naive. And disliking someone because of his profession and because he's unknown just sits wrong with me.
    – Reaces
    Jun 4 '15 at 8:35
  • @Reaces I was enjoying my hyperbole. Yeah, probably. Tbh, whilst I reserve my right to immediately dislike people, my actual advice is to consider whether the candidate is worth the hassle. Jun 4 '15 at 8:43
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    From the first part of this post it looks like the recruiter just sent you an email out of the blue, while in the last paragraph you admit you were somewhat in contact, even if you still didn't sign anything. You should clarify.
    – o0'.
    Jun 4 '15 at 16:10

Yes, this is okay. From a moral point of view, the answer would have been no, if you had an agreement with the agency.

However, you cannot help that the agency sends you profiles before having reached an agreement. The agency is the party that made the mistake by sending you profiles that you did not ask for. The fact that they made a mistake in anonymising the profile of the candidate will hopefully teach them to use a different style in the future - as long as they don't, the collateral damage should be at their cost.

Nonetheless, you might want to think of the consequences for your reputation. If it is a large agency that is well-known in the market, they might try to damage your reputation if they figure out. You might even want to do business with them in the future (apparently they can come up with good candidates), which might also be a consideration. If one of these is the case, it might be better to be open about it and reach a proper agreement. However, do not feel that this is a moral obligation, because once again, they made the mistake.

  • I would assume that a large, well-known agency wouldn't be doing stupid things like this.
    – andi
    Jun 4 '15 at 16:14

Not giving a legal point of view, but based on experience (and from talking to good recruiters quite common).

I received unsolicited, redacted CVs for candidates from an agency I'd never used previously. Doing some Googling on my part found one who had the same CV (apart from the agency tweaks) online. Most of the posters are right in that if the agency have INTRODUCED the candidate to you, they will likely have (or make) legal claim.

In this case however they have sent through a redacted CV without naming the candidate so they haven't done any introduction, especially if you haven't even agreed terms of supply with them.

If you contact the candidate, do not mention the name of the agency directly, but get them to send you an email stating they DO NOT wish to be represented by any agency in regards to this opportunity and have not authorised any agency to do so. As the agency is cold calling you the likelihood will be they are also doing this without the candidate's knowledge as well, and will only tell them if you bite and agree to use the agency (they won't want to explain why the candidate didn't progress if it was due to you not actually being a customer).


Since the recruiter sent along the terms of service with the candidate information, it would be unethical to immediately go and contact the candidate directly. Doing so is likely to backfire on you if the candidate has a positive relationship with the the recruiter. Supposedly, your business is doing just fine without him or her. You can afford to let this one go if you decide you don't want to work with the recruiter.

It is possible that this candidate is being used as a "loss leader" (sales tactic of giving away, or selling below cost, in order to get a customer in the door and hopefully purchase a bigger ticket item). It is also possible the recruiter is hoping to hit you with ideas preemptively so he or she can claim you owe them.

If you simply don't deal with recruiters, contact this one and let him or her know you won't accept candidates through them, and let them know that any unsolicited CVs in the future could be used as time savers in your own recruiting efforts. This is the right option if the candidate has no relationship with the recruiter. In this case, you should know immediately that the recruiter will likely be a headache to work with.

If you do work with recruiters, you should talk with this one and evaluate whether he or she is someone you want to work with. If so, agree to terms and move forward.

  • It makes no difference whether the recruiter sent along "terms of service" or not. What matters is that you didn't sign a contract agreeing to them, so there's no reason to abide by them.
    – andi
    Jun 4 '15 at 16:12
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    He's exchanged a couple of emails and phone calls with the recruiter. It is obvious the recruiter hopes to get some business from him. To engage the recruiter and then steal his lead at this point would just be a jerk move. Letting the recruiter know what to expect in the future is the less-jerk thing to do.
    – Kent A.
    Jun 4 '15 at 16:28

You should tread very carefully here. Recruitment companies are generally not stupid (I know, I know) and try very hard to protect themselves from someone stealing their contacts and depriving them of their commission. This one has been lax in their procedures and allowed you to identify the candidate- but that does not entitle you to merely "take" what you want. In the same way as if a shopkeeper forgot to lock their door at closing time that does not entitle you to walk in and take their stock.

Whether you wanted recommendations from a recruiter or not, by contacting a candidate they have advised you of, you are acting on their referral/recommendation. I am 100% convinced that you will find a clause in their Ts & Cs essentially describing that their fee becomes due if you employ any candidate for which they sent you details however that employment offer is reached. If present, and it is very likely to be present, this means that the very act of offering "their" candidate a job means that you have invoked their fee. You will probably notice that this clause has a 6 month or yearly timescale- In practise this means you could interview a candidate and not find them suitable and hence not offer, but in 11 months time remember them for a completely different job, salary, role etc, and offer them the job and the recruitment agency still has a right to their commission even though they did not place the candidate for the role... If you think it is far-fetched, then think again, I used to work for a recruitment agent (not as a recruiter I hasten to add), and I saw it acted upon. As I said, they are not (all) stupid and if they propose the candidate to the company they should be paid for that information.

Whether or not that is worth anyone's time in taking legal action is a different matter, and maybe they wouldn't take any action. But if they can prove they sent you the details, and the Ts & Cs and that you subsequently acted on that information, they will probably have a case. Such a case might be weakened if you have declined to enter into a contract with them by the point of offer to the candidate, but if you are declining to enter a contract you should not be offering their candidates, you can't have it both ways. Or rather, you can but you need to be aware of the risks. Once you and/or your company gets a reputation for "stealing" candidates you will find it hard to get terms from any recruitment company (yes they do talk to each other and share such information).


The right answer for the future is to delete unsolicited CVs sent by a recruiter. That way you don't even have the appearance of impropriety.

In the current case, if you decided you liked the information provided and even went so far as to track the candidate down, then you should stop right now and formalize an agreement with the recruiter. Is this backwards? Yes.

The key here is that the recruiter is in the business of providing information. You implicitly agreed to using their information by deciding to track that candidate down. To me it doesn't matter what the legal situation is. The moral one is that you used their business for your benefit and should compensate them accordingly. Everything else is just trying to draw some gray lines in the sand.

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    Right so I'm going to suggest you might want to buy a smartwatch, and send you a redacted glowing review involving partly eaten fruit. If you go and find the review of the apple watch and buy the watch, do you owe me 25% for the recommendation because I sent a sample unsigned contract saying you would? You don't know me, you didn't ask me about watches and I didn't tell you to buy apple so how would that be impropriety? Jun 4 '15 at 19:42

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