I'm currently applying for other jobs. I've applied to places directly and through a recruiter who's found me some quite relevant roles. I've not made my mind up about definitely leaving my current role yet. The recruiter knows all this.

What is the etiquette if I happen to accept a role the recruiter did not put me up for? He's done a good job and presumably won't get paid if he doesn't fill the vacancy. Obviously I'm going to choose the role that's right for me and not be swayed by this when choosing one over another.

Do they accept this as part of the job? Is it enough to thank him for his work and say I'll keep in touch when/if I decided to move on? I don't want him to feel as if I wasted his time because he's been very helpful.

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    Just a comment as part of the review queue: The question is well-phrased, but you may want to consider teasing out the questions (perhaps making them bold, italics, etc.) just to make things easier for readers. Feb 22, 2017 at 11:58
  • Personally, I don't add that "I'll keep in touch" line myself because it feels too much like "I want to break up with you, but let's stay friends." So I might just start with an, "I'm sorry," instead of "thank you" because how I really feel is sorry, which is why I'm asking on SE for advice on how to say sorry. But this is all just semantics, meaning that it's just my own personal take, so don't feel bad if you still just say, "Thank you." Feb 24, 2017 at 9:28

4 Answers 4


It seems you up front have been very transparent as regards to your situation, enabling the recruiter to make a reasonable assessment of how much time they should invest in you.

And keep in mind, that you never know the goings-on at the recruiters end; which other candidates they have lined up and how you measure in comparison.

It therefore seems like you haven't knowingly wasted their time - so don't worry about it.

  • Also, be careful in jumping the gun in thanking the recruiter so that you are not forced to save face because sometimes, no written offer, no job. Feb 22, 2017 at 11:47
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    @TeacherKSHuang I'd go one step further. No signed employment contract = no job. Feb 23, 2017 at 17:29
  • @CodesInChaos. Heh, if you go to the link I had posted, we could go even two steps further: no job until you're sitting at the desk ("I've had job offers rescinded literally the day I was supposed to start. – Richard U Feb 15 at 18:53") Feb 24, 2017 at 9:24

What is the etiquette if I happen to accept a role the recruiter did not put me up for?

Them's the breaks. The professional thing to do is to inform any recruiters you work with that you're also actively looking yourself. If there are other recruiters who are looking on your behalf then you can mention that if you'd like but you can just include that under "I'm pursuing a few leads myself."

Do they accept this as part of the job?

Yes, they should. There are some recruiters who want the exclusive right to represent you. This can make sense in some sectors and for some profiles but for most people I'd recommend against working with someone like that.

Is it enough to thank him for his work and say I'll keep in touch when/if I decided to move on?

Yes, but keep in mind that you have an ethical and professional obligation to keep him updated on the status of your search. Not in excessive detail and you definitely don't need to mention specific companies but if you've gotten an offer that you're seriously considering it sometimes makes sense to update him on that. Usually though you'd only do this if you're in the final stages of a recruitment process and you'd typically contact the internal recruiter or hiring manager, not the external recruiter who made the initial contact unless he's still actively involved in the process.

Thanking a recruiter or recruitment company for their work if you were impressed with their help/service is highly recommended. It's a reality of their work that a significant portion of contacts don't work out and they set their rates accordingly but a simple yet genuine thank you does a lot. I've done so in the past and could tell that both the recruitment company and their client appreciated it and they considered it a good mark for their relationship. A good "review" is still a useful performance metric for a recruiter even if they don't end up placing you.

I don't want him to feel as if I wasted his time because he's been very helpful.

As long as you operate in good faith by being open in your communication no sane recruiter will feel like you wasted his time.


Recruiters are hired by the employers to source candidates for their roles. They are paid when they fill the role. So although if you go for another role, he probably has other people lined up for interviews etc just in case.

Honestly, don't worry yourself about them. They will know you are applying for more than one job, it's the nature of the business.

Just say you have found a role better suited, but that you'll keep his details on record if you are job hunting again. He won't be offended or anything. He may try to talk you round, but you have to look after number 1.


In the cases I have worked with a recruiter, both myself and the recruiter went over the rules beforehand. In my case, every time, the recruiter brought this up before I did, and I would normally think this would be standard practice by them to protect their own interests.

Each recruiter I have talked with had their own rules. Some worked only with a group of companies they had agreed to rates with and relatively limited access to a list of positions with. If I wanted in to those companies, there were sets of positions that were only hired through recruiters, and they were one of a limited number of recruiters who could present for them, but they did not shotgun resume's to other organizations. That made it a no contests, I could not claim I found the position on my own, get the position, they were owed the commission. Others would search for me with their contacts. These were the ones that could result in fights.

Terms I would agree to were that I had to tell them where I had already contacted, and for a period of time they would not contact those places and I was on my own with them. Before they would present me information anywhere, they needed to tell me where that was and I would approve or decline. If I approved, then for a period of time, typically 6 months, any position I accepted with that company would be considered their find, even if I felt it was not the position they put me up for. Thus, they would not try to steal commission for positions I found on my own, and I would not try to undercut them on their finds. It was not perfect, but resulted in no squabbles for me. But I would highly recommend making sure you and the recruiter understand each other and are not double working the same organizations.

When I worked with recruiters I did actually have to sign a contract with them, and I would really recommend this being in writing. I have known people who ended up in lengthy battles because they did not fully understand the rules and were working with firms who expected to be paid, and if the company did not agree to pay, the client was on the hook for the fee. A good friend could not take a position he wanted because he had sent a resume/CV in, and then the recruiter contacted the company. The company said they directly offered, would not pay, so the recruited demanded half a years salary from the applicant. He ended up still hiring with the company, but not until 6 months later and with a different position.

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