Recruiters: My fee for referrals is 5%

Have you had emails like this recently?

Urgent position – lead programmer

I need an awesome programmer for this fantastic company based in X. It’s an amazing team – probably the best I’ve ever seen – real household names, and they’ve got a cool office, like nothing you’ve seen before. These guys want only THE BEST.

If you don’t want it, please forward this email to all your friends WITHIN 24 HOURS OR YOU WILL DIE HORRIBLY AND TRAGICALLY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK.

PS: I know you don’t want it, but I thought this was a good way to get your attention before I proceeded to rape your Address Book.

Ok, so I made up the last sentence and a half. But I have – on multiple occasions – seen the words “actually, I know you didn’t want this job, it’s unrelated to your career – but I wanted to get you to forward it to your firends, please”. Unbelievable cheek.

More annoyingly, in the past 6-12 months I’ve seen a lot that add this, either in the subject line, or if you reply to them – for any reason at all:

We’ll give you $500 if you refer us to one of your friends and they get the job

Even the cheapest of the cheap, the true bottom-feeders of this industry, demand 7%-12% of first-year salary (I’ve often seen ones that try to charge 20% minimum, up to 25%, with no appreciable increase in quality or effort) if they find a candidate. Usually they do literally no work beyond mass-emailing everyone they can.

So, let’s be clear:


If you give them the candidate that gets the job, you just earned them around $10,000 for them doing nothing, and you doing the work.

Plus, if your friend is rejected (or is too late), you get the joy of having wasted their time. The recruiter gets to walk away, not giving a ****.

If you’re going to do such a referral, insist on a %age fee. 5% is a very reasonable amount – anything less and you’d be practically Cutting Your Own Throat. Please – the more that “normal” staff realise how much money is made by selling them like cattle, and the more they demand their fair share, the happier we’ll be (we all get more cash), and the fewer bottom-feeding recruiters we’ll see. Everyone wins (including the better-quality recruiters).

5 thoughts on “Recruiters: My fee for referrals is 5%

  1. Vicky

    The problem with any of these even if you were to ask 5% is that you are never guaranteed to get it. What do you do sue them after your friend joins and they don’t pay?

  2. suyash

    Completely Agree, even just referring a candidate the recruiter gets a cut, I mean I’m going to start them charging a fee just to send out either my resume or when my friend send in theirs!

  3. Peter Jansson

    Why have I not thought of this? Thank you for the tip. If you feel like forwarding some of those emails to me, I’ll be happy to forward them further and you can have your 5% after I take my 6%.

  4. Chris Chubb

    What I do for recruiters is tell them that in order to get referrals from me, they have to sponsor one of my user groups. For just $50-$75 once a month for pizza, drinks, sandwiches, whatever, I will be happy to refer them. They are happy to bill that to overhead, we get to meet them personally and they help our group build so we can help each other out more. It’s a win-win.

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