Dear Claudia,

I have a large network and am frequently asked for referrals by recruiters who seem oblivious to the fact that I make my living with placements too. Is it reasonable to expect a fee split when I don’t know the person asking?


Dear Cranky,

When I was young my grandmother’s next door neighbor, Mr. Moore, kept a sign posted by his door that said “I don’t buy from strangers. Expect to stay a while.” I asked him once if that was a nice way of saying he was lonely and wanted people to visit; he laughed and said it just meant that he was retired and preferred to spend time more than money on people he didn’t know.

Of course you’re reasonable to expect payment for a service you’d charge for under any other circumstances. But give me a break: I also think that the recruiter asking for help may be doing what recruiters do – networking for names. There are no laws broken in the asking, and in life we don’t get what we don’t ask for, right?

Still, there’s a big difference between asking for a favor and being a freeloader. The best way I know to sort out the difference is to set your own expectations up front, just like Mr. Moore did with strangers at his door. “I take a 50% split of the fee for placements made from my referrals, and I will gladly send you my standard agreement so we can get down to business.” Professional recruiters will step up to the plate, and freeloaders will move on to an easier target.


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Cool article. I remember a couple years ago when I had a Client provide me about 5 positions to work, although they were not exclusives. [They would have been if I'd drop to 20% (1/5), but I'd rather take my chances and welcome competition than cut my fee structure.]

So about 3 days later, I see Bob's Staffing put the same positions on a "split board", although the client specifically noted, "Do Not Post". So, being inquisitive, I called the client and asked if they knew Bob's Staffing, and they swore they didn't . . . although Bob's had been calling them 100x a day to "get the business."

In the end, Bob's Staffing was putting together a pipeline of candidates to present down the line. I know because I sub'd them a dummy resume with my phone number that they 'rejected due to lack of fit' . . . yet my phone rang 3 days later with Bob calling to introduce himself :)

I love this business :) There is never a dull moment :)
Rayanne, Josh, and Scott -- my apologies for not responding sooner, I think I must have inadvertently turned off the tracking for this discussion as I didn't even know you'd been here!

@Rayanne - agreed: it takes practice to feel comfortable asserting a contradictory opinion, especially when the other party is in-your-face enough to ask for something you perceive is out of bounds. But before assertion comes clarity, I think; it is not a bad thing to know the warning signs for when (for me) helping out becomes being taken advantage of. My line of demarkation is different from yours or someone else's. IMHO, recruiters are just doing their jobs when networking and making an opportunity visible to others. So I never fault them for asking, or expect them to know my protocols; I just hold myself responsible for drawing the line between my generosity and my pocketbook.

@Josh - Go figure. And I love your sense of humor about it all!

@ Scott - thanks for the referral to the site. Have you used it before? Good experience or ... ??
I also fill positions by asking for help, by reaching out to my network. My network of professionals in my industry who trust me and would gladly send referrals my way because they know I will treat them well.

I do not expect other agency recruiters to send me "free" referrals to candidates in their networks. Most networks are a combination of professionals in the industry and recruiters, it is how we all survive.

The thing that I can't understand is people hoping to gain referrals by sending out their openings to an all-recruiter network.

Why not just make up a T-shirt?

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