I am completely new to working with recruiters. A recruiter for a big agency found this job for me which I am interested in. She wants me to sign some paperwork making me an employee of this recruiting company (more like an agreement on paper). I am not paying them, and they are not paying me. By being an employee of this big agency recruiting company, it basically locks me in with them so that I cannot self-apply for positions with companies that they work for, BUT, I can still work with other recruiters.

I understand that this will vary by recruiters, but is this standard in working with recruiters? I feel weary about signing anything that I do not understand.

  • Whether this is common depends on the kind of work and skill levels involved, industry standards and locale.
    – Oded
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 16:32
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    It's common for recruiters to do everything they can to keep their commission. Remember that recruiters are rarely looking out for you. They're looking out for a commission. They're sales people. Never trust sales people. ;)
    – DA.
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 17:33
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    Can you explain a bit more about "making me an employee of this recruiting company" and "I am not paying them, and they are not paying me". Those two things sound contradictory. Does the company you are actually working for think you are their employee? If so, have nothing to do with an contract that appears to make you also en employee of another company. Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 22:27
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    Sounds like they want you to be a contractor for them, without them having any risk whatsoever. Such an agreement is only beneficial to them. Either don't sign, or require some form of compensation. Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 10:31
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    Whether it's common or not; don't sign if you don't understand.
    – user8365
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 20:22

3 Answers 3


You don't say where you are or which industry. However, assuming it's the IT industry, in the US and large parts of Europe, it's not uncommon to have a "lock in" with a recruiter. I've never seen it in the form of an employment though. What I've seen are various forms of contracts that you sign with the recruiter which prohibits you from contacting, soliciting or accepting offers from a company which the recruiter has had previous contact with on your behalf.

I'm not sure why the recruiter wants to do this employment construct with you. In some countries, enforcing an employment contract when the "employer" is not paying any wage is tricky. Also, many countries/jurisdictions have minimum wages set by law or collective bargaining rules that apply even if you are not a member of a union yourself. It also raises a slew of other concerns like insurance, pension and taxes. Again, some countries mandate certain insurances that the employer has to pay for and certain taxes and fees. Not to mention reporting requirements.

In summary, it sounds like a lot of hassle to solve a problem that has already been solved. For sure, the "recruiter" takes on a bunch of liabilities when "hiring" you. It's very hard to calculate what liabilities this would mean for you personally. Remember, for the recruiter, you are neither a client nor a "real" employee; you are their product. I'm not saying all recruiters will rip you off, but assume that whatever they do, it's not primarily for your benefit. Their goal is to maximize their flexibility, which often means limiting yours.

I would politely inquire with the recruiter what the reason is for this employment construct and why you can't solve this with a more standardized service contract. If they insist on pressing the employment I would strongly suggest you seek the advice of a lawyer or similar to fully evaluate what liability you are exposing yourself to in your jurisdiction. If you have a trade union in your area, they may have a legal aid service you can make use of.

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    Good suggestions and advice. I ended up just not going with them. There are plenty of other I.T. recruiters that I can work with.
    – user785179
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 18:11
  • In any case normally a "lock in" doesn't need to prevent you from applying for posts at companies the recruiter works with. It merely needs to ensure that if you do so, they get the commission anyway regardless of whether or not they were in the loop. That's between them and their client (the employer), all you need to do as applicant is keep everyone informed. There should be no need to put them in the position of a gatekeeper who needs to give their permission for you to apply for a job. Recruitment agencies aren't there to forbid job applications, just to collect money for them :-) Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 12:29

When you say "work for" it sounds like you are signing a contract that means they are the only people who can get you a job or apply to jobs for you. Thus they are acting like a middle man, so if you wanted a new job they would find you one and thus make a commission or fee on said transaction. I would in no circumstance sign a contract like this. That seems shady for a variety of reasons,

  1. You may have to go through this agency when applying to any job in the future. Thus they will be submitting your application on your behalf for you. While this may not seem so bad what if you want to work for a company they don't have a good relationship with? Or a company does not want to deal with their fee? etc. etc.

  2. This may prevent you from doing other work, I do some consulting work on the side of my regular job to supplement my income, a contract like this may make it hard to do/apply for, such work.

  3. In todays world head hunters are becoming less useful as the digital age has made it much easier to find people. Thus recruiters are trying to keep up with the times by locking people in to complex contracts insuring them profits in the future. Years ago if you wanted a job (very generally speaking) you could either be recruited on campus by a company, know someone at the company and be informed of the opening, or reach out to the company and inquire about opportunities. In todays market finding a job is as simple as going to a cooperate website and seeing whats listed. This in a way undermines a lot of what head hunters do (matching talent with open positions). If you are a talented person looking for a job you should have no issue finding one on your own. I hated my first job and left quite soon after I stated. I applied to some major companies through their websites and had interviews and offers for great positions shortly after. I would not want some contract to prevent me from finding a job on my own.

  • Hi user, welcome back to The Workplace, would you mind expanding on point #3? While the other points are helpful, point #3 is really the only one that touches on the question, and on Workplace SE our goal is to provide in-depth answers to questions in Q&A format. Check out How to Answer and our site's back it up guidelines for more details, or someone in The Workplace Chat can help w/suggestions. Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 0:58

I haven't heard of this sort of contract very much, mostly because it doesn't make much sense.

If the recruiter thinks you have great qualifications, they'll want to submit you to their client whether you sign a contract like this or not. And if the recruiter doesn't think your qualifications are awesome, you probably wouldn't get the job anyway, so why would you want to sign away your flexibility?

So, if a recruiter asks you to sign a contract like this, I suggest you turn the subject to whether you're a great fit for any of the jobs the recruiter has open. They probably think or at least hope so, or they wouldn't have contacted you. If the recruiter doesn't think you're a strong fit for any of their jobs, or if the recruiter says he/she will not discuss the issue further until you sign, then say if you're not a great fit for any of the available positions, you don't see a point in signing a contract. And if the recruiter says you are a great fit, but they need you to sign before they talk about it, then definitely don't sign: if they really do believe you're great, they'll want to submit you regardless.

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