Beware of Recruiters


We're entering an unfortunate economic period where employment will be less readily available than was the case over the past few 2-3 years. That means those employers who actually need people are operating in something of a "buyers market" for the first time in several years.

I want to caution those of you in the job market to be careful about signing up with "recruiters" in this job market. On the one hand, that may seem the best way to find a job in a down market. But, on the other hand, recruiters also represent an unnecessary - and large - expense to those few firms who are hiring.

Quite frankly, those of us who are hiring have lots of qualified candidates to choose from right now - we simply don't need to pay a so-called "recruiter" 15-20% of your starting salary to hire good people.

I'm dealing with a well qualified candidate right now who was first presented to our firm by a recruiter. The recruiter has made no contribution whatsoever to the process, other than making the introduction. We like the candidate, but the recruiter's total inflexibility on his fee probably means we'll go with a different - albeit slightly less qualIfied -candidate.

I thought some of you fairly new to this challenging profession might want to see the other side of the process in these difficult times. Recruiters have their place - but, they are not always the best way to go.

I recommend that you place your resume on the job boards for a while before signing up with a recruiter. Once your resume is sent to a firm by a headhunter, the firm must pay the fee if they want to hire you. In this market, that may put you at a competitive disadvantage unless the firm can prove it was aware of your candidacy before receiving your resume from the recruiter.

Good luck.

Sep 27, 08 10:34 am

That's a really helpful thing to know, Quizzical. Thanks for posting it.

I've always wondered how the recruitment 'contract' works. Who is bound by it? The employer and the recruiter? The new hire and the recruiter? Or is it not a contract at all, but a sort of gentlemen's agreement that everyone just adheres to?

Bottom line: what would happen if you hired Mr./Ms. Right and do not pay the fee to the recruiter? (Also, does he/she know about your quandary relative to their candidacy?)

Sep 27, 08 11:26 am

Typically, the employer contracts directly with the recruitment firm and pays the fee directly to the recruitment firm. The recruitment firm typically requires the employer to sign this contract before revealing who the candidate(s) might be and arranging for the interview(s) -- up to that point, the recruiter typically will provide only a summary resume, without the candidate's name or contact information being provided.

Fees charged to employers by recruiters typically are in the 15-20% range, based on the candidate's 1st year compensation -- I've seen recruiters charge as much as 25%, but that's typically more common in cases of retained searches.

In this market, any firm that needs additional staff probably won't need to pay a recruitment fee, unless they're looking for someone with extraordinarily rare experience or skills, or firms that just don't want to spend any time on the process. What you have to ask yourself is whether a recruiter gives you a competitive advantage - or places you at a competitive disadvantage - in this particular labor market?

IMHO, candidates who lock themselves into a recruiter relationship too early in the job search process will be at a serious competitive disadvantage, given the relative abundance of qualified candidates looking for work today -- and the relative scarcity of vacant positions.

As an employer, why would I want - or need - to pay a recruiter a fee equal to 20% of your salary if I can find other qualified candidates simply by placing an ad here on Archinect or on for a few hundred bucks? Quite frankly, I'm inundated by unsolicited resumes in times like these -- often, I don't even need to place an ad to have a good selection of candidates from which to choose.

I can guarantee you that having to pay a recruitment fee is a significant factor in my decision about how much our firm can afford to pay a candidate.

To answer Citizen's question in the final paragraph above, because a firm typically needs to sign a contract with the recruitment firm before meeting the candidate, it's virtually impossible to avoid paying the fee if we decide we want to hire that candidate. If that's how we first find out about you, then we're locked into paying the fee if we want to hire you. As I stated in my original post, given two relatively equal candidates, the deciding factor re. which candidate we choose may be which candidate doesn't come with a 20% fee attached.

Sep 27, 08 12:55 pm

i totally agree with quiz.

a few years back i was picked up by a recruiter for a job. i had a meeting with him at his office and brought my portfolio. well, he wasnt interested in even looking at my portfolio and could care less. this flew up a red flag for me because he was the recruiter guy for architecture at this specific

i was hired along with this other guy... my pay was $22 an hour and the other guy was at $28 an hour. only reason the guy was getting more was that he worked in that "specific" field for about a year while my background was more in the design/build aspect.

so after a week, i'm running circles around this other guy in means of detailing/talking to shop heads/etc. he asks me questions of how to make this and that work/etc....

in the beginning i did ask for more per hour since i knew my skill set, but was low-balled in the end by the recruiter. not sure if they get a cut per hour or they bill me out at a specific rate because i received my checks from the recruiter office.

then a few days ago i received a call about another gig. i updated my resume on monster and stated in my cover letter that i wanted to relocate to cali and work in an arch. firm. well, this recruiter called and asked me all these questions then asked if i had exhibit experience, i said yeah...etc..etc.... then he said are you willing to relocate...i said yeah...... he then stated that there was a job in jersey for an exhibit house..... i asked if he read my cover letter on my resume... he didnt... i passed on the job.

i'm sure there's some recruiters out there that are good. i also think that some firms/houses dont advertise that they are hiring so it makes it harder for us to find out who has open spots.

the both times i was called by a recruiter, i had my resume on i would think that some firms could prolly spend a few hours and review whats there along with the other sites and find a person without all the fees/etc....


Sep 27, 08 1:13 pm

Although I generally agree with what has been stated, I'd like to bring up the point of the architectural profession being an exclusive club of connections, therefore typically what occurs specifically in hiring practices is that potential employees are referred or recommended. Lets be completely honest, firms do not always look strictly at qualifications, many times they rely heavily on recommendations by their peers.


Sep 27, 08 1:37 pm

: While certainly there are instances when what you write takes place, in my experience "the old boy network" is becoming less and less of a factor in recruitment - especially since firm's have tended to become more and more competitive over the past 15-20 years. There still are instances during slow periods where one firm will try to place an employee with another firm, rather than just layoff that employee, but I don't really think that's the sort of situation you have in mind.

Clearly, there are regional variations -- but, it would be a poor business decision to weight a hiring decision heavily towards the "network" and not also look objectively at the skills and experience of the candidate. In my part of the world, I just don't see many - if any - examples of what you describe.

Sep 27, 08 1:56 pm

So, Quiz, in the context of your explanation, I have to ask: why is your firm contracted with a recruiter in the first place? Are you looking for that specific, hard-to-find skill set? Or is this just a longstanding arrangement now made awkward in the downturned economy?

Sep 27, 08 6:11 pm

Nope ... we've never had (and don't now have) a business relationshp with this particular recruiter ... as part of a blast e-mail, the recruiter just happened to send us a resume from a person laid off by another firm here in town ... we found some of the credentials interesting and opted to take a look ...

Because this candidate has significant experience in our project type, I'm convinced this candidate would have found us on his own had he just looked around a little first or posted his resume on -- we've got an ad there.

This particular candidate is marginally better than several others we're considering right now. Were it not for the significant recruitment fee we'd be obligated to pay, we'd already have issued an offer. As it is, we're holding off and still looking at several others who are almost - but not quite - as good as the one introduced to us by the recruiter.

The size and payment terms of the fee are the only sticking point at this time -- what would have been an easy personnel decision became complex because this candidate came to us through the recruiter. IMO, this didn't need to unfold this way. Because of the economics, an otherwise worthy candidate may remain in the job market longer than necessary.

Sep 27, 08 6:39 pm

Ah, I see how it works. Again, thanks for the information.

Sep 27, 08 7:28 pm

Recruiters are also sometimes quite unprofessional. At least once a week, one or more of them calls me in the office, during working hours, as if I would actually talk to them at my desk in front of everybody (not that I'm looking to change positons or anything, but even if I was).... hardly the model of discretion one would expect from these people.

Sep 27, 08 8:35 pm

I have seen recruiters being used to increase the size of a firm dramatically in a short period of time. Here in Chicago a larger recruitment firm helped an architectural firm double its size in just 1 month this summer. This firm has quite a substaitial client base in the middle east and has prided itself in cutting edge sustainable design. In a months time their goal was to increase the size of the firm from 70 to 140. That recruitment firm then filled the office with bodies, and through compeitition the right candidates would be hired full time and the rest laid off. I seriously considered the opportunity but since I had full time job security I did not take the offer. Since then I have had a friend laid off and another hired full time.

Sep 30, 08 1:58 pm

it's called the growing pains effect...

i know of a firm that hires/fires in the same week. sort of a shame that you can't figure out wtf is going on and have to make excuses on things and not inform people.

recruiters dont really understand the fact of styles in firms..... whether your looking for a modern firm or a commercial firm/etc.... they just try to fill the hole in what ever means necessary. they wont give you info on the firm either nor pics of the firms work.

Sep 30, 08 2:17 pm

recruiters always sell lies, is my experience

Sep 30, 08 2:18 pm

We just got bombarded by a recruiter in our office. To me that was a good sign that there are still places hiring...

But it sounds shady.

Sep 30, 08 3:25 pm

jaol - i know which firm you're referring to (b/c of the sheer magnitude of people hired and the size of the architecture community, I wouldn't be surprised if we all know at least one person who started working there this summer).. What's interesting is that these recruiters are still accumulating resumes (they still have postings on their site) for this firm, I think with the anticipation of growing even more by the end of the year. From what I've heard, things are pretty crazy in the office with so many new hires, many of them entry-level/interns... And with no obligation by the firm to keep you since you're on a contract basis and paid by the agency, if they don't like you for any reason you could get the boot, like you said.. super risky if you ask me.

You're right about just filling the office with bodies. Assuming you meet some fundamental criteria, the agency will hire you. I had an interview with the hiring agency and the guy literally told me he was meeting me "you know, to make sure you don't have two heads or anything." Didn't take a gander at my portfolio. course he's not an architect, so why would he bother. And then he gave me several of his business cards and asked me to tell my architecture friends about him.. right....

Sep 30, 08 5:18 pm

gotta watch out for the craigslist posts too.....most of the time i dont respond if there isnt a firm website there..... if i'm curious, i'll reply from my hotmail account and ask for a website/more info....this way i dont get spammed later on/etc in my other email accounts


Sep 30, 08 5:47 pm


Sep 30, 08 6:34 pm

nope, why?

Sep 30, 08 7:45 pm

I just graduated from there. The school put together a resume portfolio of every student interested and the recruiters used that to find people.

Sep 30, 08 10:06 pm

I see.. I actually responded to a posting I saw online.. I had never used a recruiter before and wanted to see what they were about.

Oct 1, 08 12:55 am

oh crap i signed up with bunch of staffing firms...
Thankfully, they hooked me up with firms I don't really wanna work for. Though they say they will connect you to the firms the most suitable to you, they just introduce you to everywhere. It seems that they just care about ripping money off of employers.

Oct 1, 08 2:43 am

I've gotten calls in the past, and this one place asks questions like "do you know architectural desktop?" Whenever I'm asked that question, my first instinct is this person has no idea what they are talking about - or the people who use this service have no clue, and probably just need warm bodies.

It reminds me of job postings where they just list all of the software they own, and it's obvious they have no real understanding of what it does.

Oct 1, 08 9:03 am

recruiters are commission whores - way worse than real estate agents.

be very, very cautious - especially in a labor market like this.

Oct 1, 08 10:02 am

wouldnt the cost of have the secretary/intern search for resumes/etc be ALOT cheaper than going the recruiter route.....

all you have to do is search monster/craigslist/aia/etc to find resumes for our field.....even word of mouth is good to get people.....


Oct 1, 08 1:18 pm

: yes -- that was my whole point when starting this tread.

the warning is this: if a candidate signs up with a placement firm, then a design firm cannot hire that candidate without paying a commission.

in this labor market, if I have two equal candidates available to me, I'm definitely NOT going to hire the one who has a 15-20% commission attached.

Oct 1, 08 2:57 pm

i'm sure the "person" probably has the same resume on all the website.... so what if you find that 'person' there instead.... i call that free game then.....

and i dont think candidates sign anything prior to submitting resumes so it's fair game.....


Oct 1, 08 3:11 pm

i just got this ........ i have no clue....


I am John from IIC/ Apollo and have found your details in job site and presently we perceive that there may be synergies between your expertise and an existing position with our fortune client. I would like to speak with you over the phone to better understand & align your expertise & aspirations with the role.

If this opportunity sounds right for you, please send me your updated resume in the word format and also suggest the time and number where I could reach you.

The position details are mentioned below:

Designation: SAP A&D GPD/PS Consultant

Work Location: Fort Worth, TX

Duration: 1 year plus extension

Details: W2, 1099


SAP - GPD - Grouping Pegging and Distribution, SAP - IS - A&D - Manufacturing, SAP - PS - Project Systems


SAP GPD (Grouping, Pegging, and Distribution) - SAP PS (Project Systems)

Aerospace and Defense Industry PREFERRED but not MANDATORY

Kindly revert back with your updated profile along with the following details only to: john_b If your friends with the same skill set are interested and looking for a change you can forward their updated profile to me also.

1. Full Name as in passport
2. Pay Rate
3. Home Location - City n State
4. Telephone Numbers
5. Work Authorization
6. Date n Time Available for interview
7. Date n Time Available to start
8. 3 References
9. Email Id

If you are not interested in this position, please let me know what type of position you are looking for. I can keep an eye on possible positions which may come up in near future.

Thanks n Regards,


Oct 1, 08 8:36 pm
some person

I think you have the skills n interest for this one, cryz.

Oct 1, 08 8:44 pm


i might send him an email and speak my mind a bit.....

Oct 1, 08 8:48 pm

I'm cautious of firms that use recruiters...usually means that their reputation among the local talent community is so bad that they use a recruiter to hire from outside said local community.

Oct 1, 08 10:23 pm
prairie school drop out

i was contacted by a recruiter today. said they got my resume from a craigslist ad i (must have) applied to back in march. predictably, she wouldn't tell me who the firm was, but it was pretty easy for me to figure out. obviously, the responses above makes me really hesitant to work with her. i'm guessing it wouldn't hurt for me to send stuff directly to this firm, again (i last sent them stuff in march), though i don't know anyone there and i worry that my materials will go into an endless pile of resumes....

would anyone recommend i not send my stuff to the recruiter too (after i tweak my earlier package)? is that really going to screw me over? this is not a firm i'm desperate to work at but, hey, i'm desperate!

Jul 13, 10 8:34 pm

In this economy I can see zero reason any firm would need to use an external recruiter - why would any firm need / want to pay the fee? If you think you know the firm in question - and can document that you've been in touch with them previously - I see no advantage to you of working through the recruiter. In fact, if the firm wants to hire you they'll save considerable money if they can do so without going through the recruiter.

Jul 13, 10 8:49 pm
prairie school drop out

i'm definitely a little creeped out. especially because she wanted me to give my references' contact information to her, too.

what's also interesting is that there are a few jobs posted on their website. there are two different emails listed (one, which is what i used the last time i applied, was careers@ and now, under the position i would theoretically be eligible for is hr@)

Jul 13, 10 9:05 pm

might be trying to scam your profile/info/etc.... for stealing your identification/etc...... just be careful and talk to her on the phone..then ask her questions and if it's fishy then forget it

Jul 13, 10 11:19 pm

prairie school - I wouldn't be put off by the change of email alone. Our firm has had to change up job application email addresses several times over the last year simply because they get posted on international, non-targeted websites. We ditch the old ones once the applications from legitimate candidates are overwhelmed by ads from overseas rendering shops.

Jul 13, 10 11:33 pm
prairie school drop out

houseofmud, no, the website has different emails for different positions all listed together.

anyway, it seems legit (like not a scam, but still creepy!)-the company is one that had people at the last firm i worked at a few years ago. but they are persistent, i just got another call from her

if i did use them for this particular position, am i contractually not allowed to conduct my own job search elsewhere? can i give them stuff without signing anything, or is this act sort of implicit permission that they and only they can act on my behalf? does anyone have experience working with a recruiter (from my perspective)?

should i talk to my lawyer before further action?

Jul 14, 10 1:08 pm

prairie school drop out-

You can continue your own search. If you do sign anything it will only pertain tot eh firm you would be working at. Also, if anyone were to get into hot water over side-stepping the recruiter it would be the firm not you.

I got a call yesterday from the big dog recruiter here in Chicago, personally I think they are just updating resumes on file to keep themselves busy and not losing a job themselves.

Also a piece of advise never listen to a recruiter that tells you they are the sole hiring entity for a firm and when you ask the question: "So, even though I sent them my resume on my own three weeks ago, your telling me the only way I can get hired is through you?" and they answer "Yes." they are lying.

Jul 14, 10 2:11 pm
prairie school drop out

pencilpusher, thanks for the info. oh i'm in chicago too, btw.

Jul 14, 10 3:26 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: