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I have received a CV from someone asking for employment and then received it from an agency about 1.5hrs later. I understand that the agency spoke to the individual and he then found our company and send his details directly.

From my point of view I received the CV directly before the agency sent it so if I employed that person would I have to go through the agency or am I in my rights to go directly and not pay them a fee?

Many thanks.

  • 17
    If I were you, first come first serve .... – Иво Недев May 16 '16 at 12:42
  • 3
    Is it exactly the same cv? – Raystafarian May 16 '16 at 13:02
  • @Raystafarian Some (or most) agencies will reformat the resume and put their logo at the top. If the subject of the resume is the same natural person, then what difference does it make? – Max Sorin May 16 '16 at 13:10
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    @max I would imagine if the dates, titles or responsibilities aren't the same on both, then the candidate may not have given the agency permission to represent them to that company. – Raystafarian May 16 '16 at 13:13
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    What is your relationship with the agency? Are you their client, did you sign a contract with them? (edit: also good to know: is your prospective employee a client of the agency?) – marcelm May 16 '16 at 17:30
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If the candidate contacted you directly as a result of being asked "What do you think about this opportunity at your company?" by a recruiter, then it could be argued that the candidate contacted you as a result of the recruiter doing their job. As such, the recruiter is then entitled to their fee and all further communication should follow the "Client to Recruiter to Candidate" flow. These agencies operate in a fairly cut-throat market, and are not afraid to defend their 5-15%.

Further if you plan on keeping the agency as a talent provider, then showing them that you are willing to break their good faith to save 5-15% will certainly put a stain on that relationship. Conversely, informing them that the candidate circumvented the communication chain and still allowing them to represent the candidate would go a long way to demonstrate that you are a serious business and deserve every bit of their effort to get you the right candidate.

  • 19
    Welcome to the site Max Sorin and thank you for your answer. I see that Jane edited your post to fix the formatting, but I wanted to point out that you shouldn't use code markdown (backticks) to add emphasis or to represent quoted text. It' especially annoying for people using screen reading software. Please use the bold or cursive markdown instead. – Lilienthal May 16 '16 at 13:36
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    @Lilienthal Thank you for the welcome, I've been lurking around a bit now, thought wasn't aware of the code markdown issue being more active on the stackoverflow site. I will certainly keep that in mind, and thank you, Jane S. for your corrections. – Max Sorin May 16 '16 at 14:14
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    The recruiter shouldn't have asked the question. A competent recruiter won't disclose the client company name to the candidate. If the recruiter loses his fee through his own incompetence that's his problem, not yours, and again any competent recruiter will know that. – user207421 May 16 '16 at 20:35
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    @EJP The recruiter, letting slip the name of the company, does not excuse the client of the recruiter from all ethical and moral responsibility regarding the candidate. As I pointed out, if you are to pursue a future relationship with this recruiter it is ill-advised to withhold their fee on what one could consider a technicality. Recruiters also have a network, and stay connected. You might just find yourself having to do your own head-hunting if you alienate them. – Max Sorin May 16 '16 at 20:52
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    Just to clarify, I think @Lilienthal meant to say italic instead of cursive. (They are two quite different things, and the Formatting help refers to italics.) – jpmc26 May 16 '16 at 23:46
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I get many more candidates apply to me directly than through agencies, but I am fully aware that they are also providing their CV's to agencies and other companies - so it is fairly common for me to receive a CV through more than one route.

Agencies very rarely tell a candidate where the opportunity is until conversations have progressed a little down the line, so from the candidates I have interviewed, none were aware their CV also got to me via agencies.

So I would categorically disagree with the idea that you should drop any candidate whose CV arrives through multiple routes! My default assumption based on interviewing hundreds of candidates is that this is not fishy!

In this instance, if the candidate did get the link to you from the agency, then yes - this is a special case. I wouldn't assume there was anything shady going on, but you should treat the case as a standard agency referral.

(As an aside, when I got a job with EY that I then remained with for 10 years, I had no idea I was applying to work with them, or even that they had roles in my industry - I only found out who it was about a month into the recruitment process!)

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    Just as an aside. My personal experience with recruiters (from the candidate perspective) has been slightly different from what you're describing. Many start the conversation with "Do you know ACME Co.?" and only once I told them that I could consider working there would they proceed to describe what the needs of the company are. This may be a US vs UK or industry difference. – Max Sorin May 16 '16 at 17:35
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    @MaxSorin In the UK it's very rare for recruiters to tell me the company name. They'll discuss generics like location, industry, culture etc but only when I've said I'm interested do they then say what company. – Tim B May 16 '16 at 18:09
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    @MaxSorin - My experience in the US is that some do as Max says, and some do as Tim says. But if they do as Tim says and I ask them the name of the company, they cough it up right then, or I don't bother talking to them ever again. Because there are plenty of recruiters out there I'd rather work with than one who thinks I'm out to cheat them of their fee. – davidbak May 16 '16 at 23:26
  • I don't think it's rare at all for agencies to tell the candidate what the company is. IME, it's rare if they don't. – Amy Blankenship May 17 '16 at 21:34
  • It's incredibly rare in the UK, Amy. – Rory Alsop May 17 '16 at 21:47
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Ask the candidate. You need to figure out how and why this mixup happened. In most cases like this, the candidate will indeed be represented by the agency and he mistakenly sent his resume himself. You'll need to go through the agency in this case as they "own" his resume.

In some cases this will merely be coincidence where the candidate sent his resume to the agency for general use and was not aware that the agency already knew of your position. They both applied independently and the candidate was not aware that he would be submitted by the agency for your specific position. In this case you need to reply to the agency that the candidate independently contacted you first and that you will not consider them as having introduced him or owning his candidacy.1 Reputable agencies will not make a problem of this. Less honest ones may argue. If they do, you need to talk to your legal or HR department. You need a legal professional to examine the contracts and the relationship with the agency may turn sour. If you didn't have prior contact with the agency, then that's not a concern for you and you can probably ignore them, but in some jurisdictions they may still start legal proceedings.

If you don't want to risk potential trouble, you may need to drop the candidate from consideration, even if neither you nor the candidate did anything wrong. That sucks but while you shouldn't encounter it often, it's been known to happen when recruiting through agencies.


1 - I'd encourage you to speak to HR or legal first even if the situation is obvious. Certain contracts between agency and hiring company or between an agency and the candidate may invalidate this general principle.

  • Why would he need to drop the candidate when he could continue working with him through the agency? – Erbureth May 17 '16 at 9:00
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    @Erbureth Because I wouldn't encourage working with a dishonest agency that makes a claim on a candidate they don't actually own. If the candidate is clearly the strongest and you have no others then you could swallow the one-time fee and ignore/blacklist the agency after, but in most cases the reality of the hiring process is that you'll have plenty of candidates and one person isn't worth too much trouble. It's unfair to the candidate but that's not a core concern for most businesses. – Lilienthal May 17 '16 at 9:21
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In the US, the answer depends on whether the candidate is for a contract/hourly paid position or for a full time position.

1) If this is for a full time position:

The candidate doesn't stand to gain anything from bypassing the agency and this is probably a misunderstanding. All you have to do is clarify this and then proceed through the agency. You will have to pay the fee if you hire the candidate, but the goodwill and trust gained is better for all in the long run.

2) If this is for a contract/paid by the hour role:

In this situation the candidate might be trying to bypass the agency. If the candidate hasn't signed a "right to represent" agreement with them, then they are out of luck, there is nothing they can do to stop you from dealing with the candidate directly.

The questions then become: How much do you really care about this agency and is this candidate really worth breaking your relationship with them?

You might start questioning the candidates ethics, but first ask yourself why is the candidate trying to bypass the agency? If this position is a 60$/h position and the agency is offering the candidate 40$/h and keeping 20$/h for them then even the most moral person in the universe is still going to try to get out of that arrangement.

But money is not the only issue.

I have been through this situation myself as a contractor: I got an offer to work for a very prestigious client through a staffing agency. Having that client on my resume would be a major step up in my career, and I really wanted the role. After the first few calls, the agency I was dealing turned out to be VERY unprofessional. They kept making unreasonable demands, like requiring me to quit my current job and remain on standby even though the client hadn't approved my application yet. They also asked me to commit to not searching for any other positions at all while working for them. They kept insisting that they couldn't complete the process unless I provided them with a definitive end date to my current role.

At the end I got so tired of their lack of professionalism, and the inconsistency of the information they were providing me with, that even though I had signed an exclusive "right to represent" agreement with them, I contacted the client directly.

I ended up going with another more reputable staffing agency, the contract was lucrative enough and the client prestigious enough that they were willing to handle the legal consequences of my breaking the "right to represent" agreement and I did get the job.

  • I don't understand the distinction you're making. Even if the employment is full time, cutting out the recruiter will always mean a lower cost for the employer and a better chance (or more money) for the potential employee. – Stephan Branczyk May 17 '16 at 23:17
  • @StephanBranczyk In the US the employee is going to get the same salary regardless of whether he goes through a recruiter or negotiates directly. The employer will pay a one time fee to the recruiter (20%~30% of the employee's annual salary). The employer stands to gain some money from bypassing the agency, but not the employee. But presumably the employer knew before hand what they were getting into when asked for the agency's help, so they are ready to pay the one time fee anyway. and they save money by freeing up their HR for other tasks. The situation changes completely for contract work. – Alex Kinman May 19 '16 at 3:27
  • @AlexKinman, "The employer stands to gain some money from bypassing the agency, but not the employee" What you're saying doesn't make sense. First of all, when going into an interview, and yes, an interview in the US, the HR person doesn't have just one number in mind, he usually has two, a minimum and a maximum. And when a prospective employee is weighed down with the extra cost of a recruiter, that just means the HR representative has a lower maximum he can offer because of this extra cost. – Stephan Branczyk May 19 '16 at 7:28
  • @StephanBranczyk I'm not following your reasoning: Assume a qualified candidate is worth 100K on the market, and HR were willing to go up to that. But since they are going through an agency and pay 30% of the salary, they will only go up to 90K (covering over 3 years). The candidate knows her worth, feels lowballed and goes with another offer instead. This would make for a very poor recruiting policy, especially since if they decided to go with an agency, that means that the skill set they are looking for is highly specialized and the candidates will be in a position to pick an choose. – Alex Kinman May 19 '16 at 16:01
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Answering this from a UK perspective as it's tagged but NOT LEGAL ADVICE.

Ask the agency. Any established agency in the UK will have got the candidate to either sign a letter stating they wish the agency to represent them (or will have got the candidate to send an email stating this). So if they have this proof they will be more than happy to forward a copy to yourself, and in this case they will act as agent for this candidate and will expect to earn a fee (which you will need to negotiate if you haven't already).

If they don't have this, contact the candidate and ask them for an email stating THEY HAVEN'T authorised the agency to act for them, any further discussion will be between the agency and the candidate.

I wouldn't (from experience) worry too much about putting the agency's nose out of joint, they usually have a skin like a rhino, and if they haven't dealt with you before they'll still be glad of getting the foot in the door by making contact with you, but agree a rate before you entertain any CVs from them.

This also works similarly if two agencies come with the same CV, likely one will be doing it without the candidate's OK.

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