Recruitment agencies take money from candidates

Do Recruitment Agencies Deserve Their Bad Reputation? - Myths and truths


If you follow various advice blogs and professional social media, you have surely noticed: Recruitment agencies are springing up like mushrooms at the moment. The general shortage of skilled workers makes it necessary for more and more companies to call in an external service provider for recruiting.

However, the still young service sector has a bad reputation, which it owes to the unfair business practices of numerous headhunters. Perhaps you are therefore a little suspicious of recruiting agencies and you hesitate to entrust an agency with their recruiting.

The Fradeo team brings light into the darkness. With our guide you will be able to recognize risks that you may not have thought of yourself, to separate the wheat from the chaff and finally to find a competent headhunter for your company.

Myth No. 1: "Online job networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo etc.) make personnel consultancies obsolete."


Behind this is the ideal: The job advertisement is posted online with two clicks, mostly applicants with relevant profiles come in, the selection is easy and after three to four interviews you have found the perfect person.


The search for personnel is a complex process, both in terms of content and time, for which a company does not always have the capacity. It is the job of a personnel consultant to take on the search in areas that your company cannot handle.

Ideal case

The first task of a headhunter is to collect application documents and examine them in detail. After pre-selecting suitable candidates, he not only checks qualifications such as language skills in personal interviews. He also assesses the candidate's personality profile, e.g. with regard to adaptability, teamwork and soft skills.

The most important thing is a close and constant consultation with you: A competent recruiter knows that he doesn't know everything, and so he asks you a lot of questions about your company in order to define your personnel requirements. In doing so, he does not forget to take into account the current labor market situation in the relevant area of ​​activity. On this basis, he will work with you to define the criteria for the ideal profile for the position to be filled.

A good HR consultant will respond to you - but this also means that if necessary, he will show you unrealistic expectations. Good communication is open communication. If a headhunter contradicts you, you can be sure: you are in good hands.

If a profile you are looking for is exceptionally specific, e.g. if certain language or IT skills are required as the main characteristic, then it makes sense to contact a recruiting company that specializes in this area - the headhunters know the sector and have a broad and specific knowledge Network.

Therefore, before making an appointment with a recruitment agency, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well known is the recruitment agency?
  • What does the recruitment agency specialize in?
  • Which companies are their customers?
  • What competencies do the HR consultants have?
  • Which network does the personnel consultancy have access to?

Myth No. 2: "Recruiting companies treat candidates ruthlessly."


Incidents of false job ads posted by recruitment agencies to fish for résumés are common. There are also consulting firms that send out résumés to their customers without the applicants' prior consent, which can lead to a confrontation with the company in which they were currently employed.


Of course, applicant data is subject to data protection, which all recruitment companies must guarantee.

However, there are actually consulting firms that see applicants only as changing résumés that need to be distributed quickly in order to achieve a result as soon as possible.

Ideal case

The search for the right person for a vacancy is always to a certain extent marketing. A recruitment agency represents your company and your values.

This starts with sending a simple confirmation of receipt in response to an application and extends to the key points of the position to be filled: a good recruiter knows how to answer the candidate's questions about salary and area of ​​responsibility just as confidently as questions about the working atmosphere and team spirit the colleagues. A search for personnel must achieve a qualitative result - and so a headhunter takes time for you and your company as well as for the candidates.

Myth # 3: "Headhunters are either unscrupulous bounty hunters or resume dealers"


The profile of the headhunter is often richly embellished on the Internet: Telephone terror among people who have already expressed their disinterest several times or inquiring about information with a false identity - these behaviors are unfortunately not infrequently labeled as "typical" in various experience reports with recruitment agencies.


When describing the job of a headhunter, the nuance makes all the difference. This is naturally shaped by the subjective perception of those who do not expect to be contacted by a headhunter whom they rejected six months ago for a post, especially in experience reports on the Internet. But as in the rest of life, the same applies here: asking does not cost anything. And especially if the job and company are different than when you last contacted us, a quick call from the recruiter can be worthwhile for both parties.

The normal process for making contact is as follows:

  1. The headhunter contacts people via his networks or his existing pool of résumés in order to ask them about their interest in a vacant position.

  2. The headhunter only records the updated résumé and contact details and sends information about the advertised position if they expressly agree and their profile meets the company's requirements.

  3. After a further selection interview with the candidates, the profiles that best fit the job description are put on the shortlist and sent to the customer.

So the job of a headhunter is neither a résumé fisherman nor a corporate pirate, but rather a mixture of hunter and gatherer.

Ideal case

Of course, a headhunter will always immediately introduce himself as such and not ask for any sensitive information. The procedure is also as discreet as described above.

It should be emphasized that, from a purely legal point of view, your company can be prosecuted for the actions of the headhunter, as he works on your behalf. So, if you want to make sure a recruiter's “style” matches yours, ask them questions about passive and active recruiting practices.

For example:

  • Where do the job advertisements appear?
  • How are CVs obtained?
  • How are telephone cancellations from candidates handled?
  • How can the headhunter assure you of his professionalism and correct way of working?
  • Etc.

Myth No. 4: "Recruiters only want to make a profit as quickly as possible and don't think long-term."


This myth ties in seamlessly with numbers 2 and 3: Recruitment agencies are said to have a certain greed for signing contracts, which does not seem to leave much room for patience and conscientiousness. “Faster” does not mean “better” by any means!


Certainly there are many recruitment agencies whose only aim is to conclude as many contracts as possible in the shortest possible time, to “accommodate” candidates as quickly as possible and to collect their commission. Such companies usually reward their recruiters with a success fee. Depending on the speed at which they are placed, not only employees change at these advisory offices - but also customers.

With increasing professionalism, however, one sees fewer and fewer hard-selling methods in this branch, which have given recruiting agencies their bad reputation - a positive development!

Ideal case

Hasty personnel recruitment rarely achieves long-term goals - and even if a new team urgently needs to be set up from scratch, it is in the interests of every company that it consists of motivated, reliable and professionally and characteristically suitable employees. A good personnel consultancy identifies your company's long-term needs, accompanies you during the recruitment process and works with you to develop an efficient and permanent personnel development strategy.

In addition to hunters and gatherers, competent personnel consultants are therefore also real partners in human resources.

When you first talk to a recruitment agency, find out about:

  • the services offered
  • the individual stages of the search for personnel, including detailed information on the methods for:
  • Obtaining CVs
  • Profile evaluation
  • Create the shortlist
  • Negotiations on the employment contract
  • Follow-up after recruitment
  • Etc.
"The greatest enemy of quality is speed."
Founder of the Ford Motor Company

Myth No. 5: "Recruiters always push the same candidates back and forth to get new commissions."


Some believe that headhunters have no qualms about recruiting candidates who have been referred to one company for a position in another company in order to receive a commission again. The first company then has to contact the recruiting agency again to fill the position, which means that the headhunter benefits a third time.


It is common practice for personnel consultants to stay in contact with previous candidates - they too are part of the professional network of personnel consulting companies. However, an agency proves self-profit-oriented dubiousness with such a trip to Jerusalem, which can also cost the recruiter dearly; when companies ask questions, the headhunting agency in question can lose not only a client but also its reputation.

Ideal case

Developing a long-term partnership with a recruiting company is therefore in the interests of both the recruitment agency and your company. Mutual trust will move you both forward.

If you are working with a recruitment agency for the first time, however, the following applies: trust is good, written agreements are better. For example, you can insert an exclusion clause in the contract before placing the order, which prohibits the agency from contacting the person you have placed for a specified number of months.

It should be noted: Of course, such a clause cannot be applied if the candidate contacts the said recruitment agency on his or her own initiative in order to start looking for a new job.

Myth No. 6: "Recruitment agencies are too expensive and too opaque when it comes to calculating their services."


Behind the financially justified reservations of some companies to consult a recruitment agency, there is often a wrong view of their activities.

As already described, HR consulting consists of more than just placing advertisements and forwarding applications to the customer. In addition, there is the factor that as a company you give up a good deal of control by outsourcing the search for personnel, which makes many companies suspicious.


In fact, different methods of reward carry different risks.

Often the commission for a recruiter is calculated from a certain percentage of the annual salary for the new addition to the company. This model prompts many headhunting agencies to focus only on the most lucrative job profiles in their work or to even deliberately inflate salaries in their recommendations to sums that are far beyond those that are common on the job market.

Other recruiting agencies charge an hourly rate, which carries the risk that customers will become impatient in view of the naturally accumulating number of hours, demand quick results and rush to select someone from an unfinished pool of applicants who ultimately does not fit the position - a mistake, then, which can be far more expensive than a solid first recruiting.

Finally, the remuneration is divided into three stages: the first covers the costs for the recruiting launch, the second is paid when the first applicant profiles are presented, and the third when the candidate signs the employment contract. Of course, this classification is practical, but some companies could find themselves in a situation in which the search process does not end too quickly after they have already transferred the second payment and thus 60 to 65% of the fee to the headhunter.

Ideal case

If you want to be sure that a price represents quality work and a payment method does not hold any negative surprises, choose a service fee. This means that you already know the fee before you contractually entrust the recruiting agent with the recruiting.

Such a fee takes into account the difficulty of the search instead of being calculated from the number of applicant profiles presented, the time required or the annual salary of the position to be filled. Furthermore, a flat rate guarantees that the applicants presented to you were selected on the basis of their skills - and not on the basis of their salary expectations.

Take the time to compare the various offers and services of the personnel consultancy companies that specialize in your sector.

In the first consultation, be open to your potential headhunter about your expectations of working methods and results, and attentive to his. In addition to competence, networks and know-how, a good personnel consultancy also places great emphasis on interpersonal sensitivity. For everyone involved, an application process is above all an encounter, which requires good listening, flexibility, transparency, persuasiveness and commitment on the part of the recruiter.

In addition to the service quality, the financial aspect is of course a criterion. But looking for the perfect person for a vacancy is not the right job to save. If you weigh the costs of a competent recruitment agency against the costs of time invested without results, the loss of your company's image and falling business figures due to a missing or unsuitable specialist, it is only in the interests of your company that you choose the right agency.

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
Founder of Red Adair to fight major fires

That is why our advice is: orient yourself more towards your needs and less towards your company wallet.

Fradeo TEAM

Franco-German personnel agency

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Did you like this article? Receive our best articles and practical advice from our Franco-German experts right in your inbox.