April 10, 2023

What happens when you go around the recruiter?


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Flashback to my early days

Early in my career, I submitted a candidate to a long time client who made it to the final interview. As a conversation starter, the exec off-handedly asked “so how’d you come across us?” to which the candidate replied “oh, I saw the job ad online and applied.”

The exec, flipping through notes, spotted the actual source (us) and said “wait, you didn’t come through Hirewell?”


A few things happened next:

👉 I learned my relationship with the candidate was absolute sh*t.

That’s on me. I owned it. Pile on in comments if you must…

👉 The client passed on the candidate. Entirely based on ethical grounds.

Why would someone lie about something so mundane? Then double down when they could have played it off as a mistake or moment of confusion?

👉 The candidate learned that a common mantra at the time (maybe still?) of “it’s always better to go around the recruiter” is garbage.

When I pressed the candidate afterwards, they fed me the line of “no offense but everyone said it’s better to go direct.”

Of course, they didn’t realize that we placed that exec, the head of HR, and half the team. Our referral actually carried a lot of positive weight.

Fast forward to today. Extreme “lie about it” scenarios are rare. But some of the same underlying issues are common:

How should candidates think about going through vs around a recruiter?

How do (and how should) companies view direct vs recruiter submissions?

Why do people (like the exec above) think differently than a candidate might expect?

It depends, it depends, and it depends.

I see 3 types of companies:

1. Those who rely on us to find their talent once they’ve chosen us to manage their hiring process.

2. Those who try to find any reason at all to not pay fees. Even after willfully engaging with agencies.

3. Those who legitimately got it all sorted out on their own. (Respect.)

Look, we know agencies aren’t cheap. Companies know it. Candidates know it. The entire world knows it.

But some companies value their partners as a strategic function in their hiring. While others do not and see hiring as a transaction.

In group #1, a recruiter relationship helps. In the group #2, it hurts.

The question is: do you really want to work for a company that looks at business the way the second group does anyway?

Side note: if I’m a job seeker right now, I’m using any and all means necessary to find a new gig. Job boards, 1:1 networking, recruiters, communities, the full spread. There’s no right or wrong way. Don’t let any of the online hucksters trying to sell you a job seeking course tell you otherwise.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

More blogs from James Hornick

See all Talent Insights Blog entries....

Our Latest Featured Episode

Our Shows