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A recruiter found my profile in a job site and I agreed for them to represent me via email. They forwarded my details to a client and said client adds me in LinkedIn. Client then messages me stating that they know I have a recruiter but that we should talk.

I then see an email from recruiter that I should not try to communicate with clients they are representing me on for now. I don't want to be stuck in the middle here, but I know the client will be the ones paying me, not the recruiter. I do also know that the recruiter should be recognized for their work, so what's the best way to proceed without hurting anybody's feelings and not breaking any laws etc?

  • Sound shady. Client adding in Linkedin looks strange. – Learner_101 Feb 17 '16 at 10:16
  • Suppose this job lead doesn't lead anywhere (i.e. doesn't materialise into an offer)? Do you still want to work with this recruiter? – Brandin Feb 17 '16 at 11:51
  • Do you know for sure that this recruiter approached this client with your CV? – Sobrique Feb 17 '16 at 15:38
  • IANAL, but, IMO, the only business relationship here (if there is one at all) is between the recruiter and the company, so you cannot breach any terms and it's up to the company to manage any relationships they do or don't have. One possible (and this is by means certain) reason this might have happened is the recruiter, without any contract with the company in question, tried to use your CV to get an "in". Now the company knows the recruiter exists, and knows that you exist. They are interested in following up on only one of those bits of information! – Grimm The Opiner May 31 '17 at 11:01
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Caveat: This is not legal advice.

At this point, you have an agreement in writing (email) with the recruiter for them to represent you for this company. Going around that breaches your contract with the recruiter. Now, if for some reason that the company hires you and bypasses the agency, it's actually you who has broken the contract, and it is more than likely that the recruiter will go after you to recoup that fee.

Note that the recruiter may well have a contract with the company for the recruiter to represent you, but that isn't your contract to worry about. Nonetheless, I would be telling the company that you have a written agreement with the recruiter and that you would rather honour that agreement. If the company doesn't hire you because of that, then that is not necessarily a bad thing given they have proven to have scant regard for contractual obligations.

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    It is also possible the recruiter was forwarding candidates to the employer without contract for services, in order to try and secure a contract with the employer based on the quality of their candidates. It would be a stupid thing for a recruiter to do, but is not inconceivable. Under those circumstances the employer may make direct contact with the candidate without penalty, which is why it's a stupid move for the "agent", and they would definitely try to discourage a candidate from proceeding with that! – Marv Mills Feb 17 '16 at 11:57
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    Two parties cannot bind a third party in a contract without their agreement. The candidate cannot be liable for lost fees between the agent and employer unless they specifically agree to that. I totally agree the candidate should not deal direct, I am only questioning the possible consequences. But since neither of us are lawyers I am happy to let it rest there! :) – Marv Mills Feb 17 '16 at 11:59
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    @MarvMills The OP has a written agreement with the recruiter. Whatever agreements reside between the recruiter and the company aren't really the OP's concern. They just need to ensure that they don't breach any contractual obligations without understanding what penalties may occur. – Jane S Feb 17 '16 at 11:59
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    According to the original post, the request not to talk to directly to the employer seems to have happened after the written agreement. "I then see an email from recruiter that I should not try to communicate with clients". If you don't agree to this, you always have the option to pull out of the agreement. I.e., don't work with the recruiter anymore. – Brandin Feb 17 '16 at 12:26
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    In the UK, the "agreement" between the agent and the candidate does not stand up in law. – Ian Feb 17 '16 at 15:25
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From what you've posted, this company is attempting, at best to breach ethics, at worst violate the law or get you to do so.

In the business world, reputation is EVERYTHING. At this point in my career, my name alone will open doors for me. You don't want to damage that for yourself.

RUN from the client, and tell your agency. You do NOT want to get involved in this. You may find yourself blacklisted by numerous agencies if you do this. Recruiters move from firm to firm in as little time as a few months. Get a bad rep, and the entire industry will know before too long.

Be above board in all your dealings, and that too will follow you.

Get yourself out of the middle of this mess. It may cost you the job, but not getting out of it may cost you your career.

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Step back a moment. Here are the things people have raised, that I argue don't matter:

  • It's possible you were offered, unsolicited, through the recruiter, and that the firm doesn't normally work with recruiters, and are under no obligation to do so.

  • It's possible you have some legal obligation to proceed through the recruiter, depending on the agreements between and among all the parties.

You're not even at that step. Here are the facts on the table, correct me if something is missing:

  • The company is not explaining their situation in a direct, honest manner. If they don't work with recruiters, why are they not simply telling you?
  • The recruiter claims to represent you, but is not explaninig your rights and obligations in this situation.

Why do you want to do business with any of these people? You haven't even shown up to your first day of work--or the interview!--and you already have communication problems and political issues. There's your half of the interview--they failed.

If you had five options on the table, would you even be considering this circus? I'd work on getting those other options together. I'm at a loss when people start playing mental chess over legal issues, and spinning all types of what-if scenarios. There is an astounding lack of maturity on all sides, and that's all you needed to learn from the interview.

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I would be very wary and only go through the recruiter. Just tell the client that. It's not normal for a client to add you and then try and communicate with you directly knowing that you have a recruiter. It's a big red flag as far as I can see.

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While I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, attempting to bypass the recruiter could be considered tortious inducement of breach of contract in the US, one aspect of tortious interference. By not alerting the recruiter that you have a relationship with and with the knowledge that that the company is trying to dodge their contractual obligation to said recruiter, continuing to interview with the company with the goal of obtaining employment further encourages the company to be in breach of their contract.

While it may be unlikely that you'd be involved in legal proceedings as anything more than a witness, you're on shaky legal ground. It's also incredibly unethical. A company that works with recruiters should be fully aware of the cost of doing so and be prepared to pay that cost. If they don't want to pay this recruiter a fair wage for his work, what makes you think that they would treat their employees fairly?

Reply to the company that you are not comfortable excluding the recruiter who introduced you to them and that you'd love to talk to them about the position once they've resolved the apparent issue they're having with the recruiter.

If they still want to talk without notifying the recruiter then you have to decide if you're comfortable doing that. Employment is a business transaction and I wouldn't ever do business with such an unethical company, even if we ignore the legal angle. Whether you alert the recruiter that the company tried to dodge their contractual obligation to him is up to you.

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    I concur. It never ends well if you do business with someone whose ethics are even slightly questionable. – Amy Blankenship Feb 17 '16 at 16:06
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Ask the recruiter

The recruiter should be telling you that they have an agreement/contract with the client and that is why the client should not be contacting you, so you shouldn't contact them either. Just telling you not to communicate with the client isn't very smart if they have a contract.

Confirm with the client

If the recruiter tells you they have a contract, confirm with the client. Just reply to the email, "They say they have a contract with you, is this true?" The recruiter could be lying. I don't care if the recruiter sends your resume to a client or not, that doesn't automatically give them the right to get a fee if you're hired. That's like some guy on the street who starts cleaning your windows and then asks you to pay him. I don't think that's how business is done, but you have to decide what is right for you.

The Recruiter Will Find Out Eventually

Tell the company, that eventually, the recruiter will find out if you get the job. They'll keep calling you and will see it on LinkedIn. See how they explain that one away and you'll have a better idea if you want to be associated with any of these people.

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Its in the clients best interest to deal with you direct, as then they get to avoid paying the recruiting agent their fee, which can be substantial (say 10% of your first annual salary, on top of your annual salary), which is why the company is trying to engage you directly.

If you agreed with the recruiting agent that they would represent you, potentially that is an enforceable contract which you could be violating if you bypass the agent in any way - it gets especially more dubious if the company tries to bypass the agent as well...

Typically, a company will not have a contract with a recruiting agent - its done on "first presentation" basis, and its a purely honorary agreement rather than anything else. The recruiter presents you to the company, but often they remove any identifiable details from the CV they present so the company has to go through the agent. Often however its possible to identify the candidate through all the other information on the CV, especially if you are good at trawling LinkedIn.

Here in the UK, if a recruiting agent presents a candidate with no solicitation from the company, there is nothing the recruiting agent can do about that - its not breach of contract, as no contract exists. The worst the recruiting agent can do to the company is bad mouth them.

But if you explicitly agreed to be represented, as I said before there is a potential breach of contract between you and the agent, so there is that to consider.

So the question is, do you value the position enough to deal with the company directly and potentially be sued for breach of contract? Do you consider the chances of being sued high enough to force the company to deal with the agent and potentially drop you as a candidate?

Only you can answer those questions :)

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    Agreeing to be represented by a recruitment agent is NOT a contract. The agent is "employed" by the employer not the candidate. It is not the same as, say, a actor's agent which takes their fee from the actor's remuneration. Agents seek formal agreement for representation so they can prove their primary legitimacy in the event the candidate is presented by more than one agent. In every case I have ever seen in the UK, agents will have a contract with the employer before submitting any candidates, specifically to ensure their fee is contractual. – Marv Mills Feb 17 '16 at 12:36
  • I work in the UK, I hire in the UK, and yes, we get a lot of unsolicited candidate submissions from agencies without any contract being in place. We sometimes have agreements in place with a single agency, but more often we receive (and consider) submissions from lots of agencies. This is not a new thing, this is how its been for at least the past 20 years in my industry (software development). As a candidate, agreeing to be represented by an agency is most certainly a contract, until such time you end it - remuneration does not have to come from the candidate for that to be the case. – Moo Feb 17 '16 at 12:52
  • For unsolicited submissions, it is widely accepted that "first seen, first call" is the norm - if we have the candidates info from a prior direct submission, that overrides the agencies call. This approach is well vetted by HR and our legal team, and is used by many many other companies so its not something we have made up - the agencies also accept it, so if it were just us we would expect a lot of pushback on this approach, but we see no pushback at all. – Moo Feb 17 '16 at 12:55
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    Well I also work in software development and see the exact opposite, so all that proves is that it is not true to say "Typically, a company will not have a contract with a recruiting agent". Clearly both regimes are in force. So that point is moot, we were both wrong. I'm happy with that. I continue to assert however that agreement to be represented by a recruitment agent is NOT a contract. We will have to agree to disagree on that point, but I would invite you to show how it IS a contract and fulfils all the requirements of a definition of a contract. – Marv Mills Feb 17 '16 at 12:56
  • In the USA, as we are very litigious, a dual submission is almost always cause for the candidate's CV (Resume) to head straight to the bin (trash). Still, dealing above board is always the best approach. – Old_Lamplighter Feb 17 '16 at 17:19
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This is about money not feelings.

The client may not be under contract with the recruiter and is trying to bypass the recruiter. "Know I have a recruiter but that we should talk" is very telling.

You agreed to be represented via email. Is that an enforceable contract - maybe - maybe not? Safe bet is to stay out of that. I am not a laywer.

Something not brought up in other answers but consider you may have a poisonous recruiter. Do some research on the recruiter. If he/she spams your email to many companies and is poisonous then it could be bad for you. Not saying you have a poisonous recruiter but something you should consider and if so then cut your ties. If you discover you have a bad recruiter then email the recruiter you do not want to be represented on any future engagements and get confirmation.

Without engaging the client you may want to ask them why they are bypassing the requiter. "I am represented by X. What do we need to talk about that cannot go through them?" You have agreed to be represented. You have not agreed you cannot communicate. It is fair for you find out what is going on. If it appears the company is just trying to bypass the recruiter then don't take the direct communication any further.

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    P.S. If the recruiter was not under contract they should have sent a resume without your name or contact information. If is possible the company found you from a search on your redacted resume. If so the company is being slimy. – paparazzo Feb 17 '16 at 19:45

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