5 reasons I won’t pay your recruitment fee

no feeIf you have worked in recruitment for any decent amount of time, you will probably have come up against the scenario where a client starts being difficult when your invoice arrives on their desk…. or before then.

In my time working as a recruiter I’ve heard a range of excuses. Fair play to some clients… they really get quite creative to try and avoid paying fees sometimes. When I was younger and dumber they would often get away with it…. although that was more to do with my employer who didn’t want to take on the fight.

Here are my top 5 examples, some of which will not be unfamiliar to you… and if I had my time again what I would say in response.

Sorry, we already received his CV from someone else.  That’s fair enough. If you can just show me the email or some other form of evidence to back that up I’ll walk away. Oh….you don’t? …. Funny that.

After offering him, we discovered he was already on our database. And your point is? Even if that is true, what difference does it make? Employ a better HR department in that case, and then you wouldn’t need me in the first place to find you someone you apparently already know.

I’ll pay you something, but we had to offer her more money so I’m not paying it all. Oh really… and you expect to pay the same for a Ferrari as you would a Skoda? No? Well, why do you expect to pay the same for a candidate that you have decided is a lot better ? 

We weren’t really happy with the service. OK. First I am hearing about it is now. But you have still taken my candidate so….  are you one of those that doesn’t pay the restaurant bill after eating everything because the fork was dirty?

What are you going to do about it? Ballsy- you are Goliath to my David so I don’t imagine a legal fight will be much fun for me. I’ll just tell my candidate that their future employer operates this way, that it suggests that they don’t value you that much and they might be the same when it comes to you asking for a pay rise or bonus time. Maybe they will still want to join you. Maybe.

People who use recruitment agencies will try and take the piss sometimes. It’s to be expected… just like every industry. Apart from ensuring you have yourself well and truly covered with your terms, the best advocate is your candidate. In my experience, if you have that type of relationship with your candidate, one where they trust you, take your advice and ultimately respect what you are doing for them, then they will be prepared to back you up.

What about your experience? What are some of the more ridiculous, creative excuses you have been given? How did you handle it?

Luke Collard


5 thoughts on “5 reasons I won’t pay your recruitment fee

  1. Jon on Reply

    In the last three months alone:

    1. We had the candidate on our database. Result: we took legal action and won

    2. You are not a vendor so we can’t pay you. This was after the client actually approached us to help them and terms were agreed. Result: we are in the process of taking legal action that is actually more expensive than the fee involved.

    3. We fired the candidate after 13 weeks (rebate period was 12 weeks). Well you should have paid after 4 weeks as stated in your T&Cs that you asked us to sign. Result: After discussion they paid

    4. Stop answering all calls and correspondence from our finance team. Result: Sent legal letter (at our own cost) and they paid

    5. We received the CV from another headhunter first. Despite telling us that the candidate was ‘too senior for the role’ when we sent her. Result: We took legal action and lost

    The issue here is that these client relationships are now over. As a larger rec company, this won’t kill us but it’s massively frustrating that it comes to this

  2. Gordon Alderson on Reply

    1. Have you Hiring Manager and at least their boss go through a speedy process where their independently assessed key attributes they need you to find are combined to derive an agreed ideal candidate profile.
    2. Quote hard money – disavow percentage of first year total income.
    3. Get 1/3rd up front.

  3. Mike Butcher on Reply

    The simple and best option as always is never to use a headhunter.
    Having tripled the size of two companies as an internal recruiter over the last few years, within budget, at speed (c. 10 hires a month, software engineers, PhD level) it is more than possible to drive down your cost of hire and never have to use these rodent level operators again.
    Always pay if you sign up, sure, but the root cause of this problem is that the service and quality never matches the fee.

    1. Luke Collard on Reply

      Mike – another example of an over generalised, dumb and unbalanced swipe at every recruiter out there. Why do they always seem to include a ‘look at how good I am’ statement … and have little relevance to the article?

      People who truly understand the recruitment challenges most business face appreciate the importance of having both internal and external channels to find talent. I speak to a lot of very senior internal recruitment managers who recognise the need to support their own efforts with external help, and certainly don’t view all Headhunters as rodents…. after all they headhunt themselves.
      You will find that the differences between internal and external will continue to shrink. Maybe be careful who you describe as a rodent – unless you never need to actively approach anyone as part of your role (i.e. headhunt) then you are probably including yourself… along with all us other rodent recruiters.

  4. Jeremy Milligan on Reply

    Recruiters tend to suffer even more than other sectors from invoice disputes and non-payment. One thing your tend to have in your favour however is that your terms of business are usually strong, and process is usually good in that you have supporting evidence for your case. Often clients are deliberately avoiding payment without legitimate reason, but sometimes the client genuinely believes that they are not liable for the fee. My company specialises in getting recruitment fees paid (internationally) without damaging client relationships where possible, and in the vast majority of cases without going legal. Our website also has useful tools to assist agencies in handling disputes. You can find more information here: https://sterlingdebtrecovery.com/recruitment-agencies/

Leave a Reply