Jeff on Call: Recruiting From Former Clients?

Aug 19, 2009


Q: How long must I wait before I recruit from a former client?

The underlying question is, “What constitutes a former client?”

Establishing a recruiter-client relationship usually involves five major steps:

  1. Receiving a job order.
  2. Clearing the fee.
  3. Transmitting the fee schedule.
  4. Sending out the candidate for an interview.
  5. Placing the candidate.

Even if you do all of these things, ask any human resourcer whether his company is your “client” and he’ll reflexively answer, “No.” But he’ll change his answer almost as fast if:

  • He’s trying to prevent you from raiding his company.
  • He wants you to be responsible for your candidate who couldn’t, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t have been hired.
  • He wants you to pay for the mistakes, misdeeds, or mishaps of your candidate.
    He wants you to do a little free espionage on his company’s competitors.
  • He wants you to conduct a free survey of industry hiring and pay practices.

Unless you’re accepting retainers or placing temps on site with the business, use your best judgment. You’re under no legal obligation to wait.

Otherwise, waiting one year is more than enough time — and be careful not to be accused of initiating the communication.

If you do decide to run with a candidate and you’re not sure whether there will be repercussions, tell him you’ll work with him only if he notifies management, and obtains the clients’ consent.

An email or phone call to you from the client is fine. If it’s a call, ask for confirmation by email or do it yourself.


To participate in future Q&As, email Keep in mind you should always consult with your own attorney. Nothing contained herein should be construed as legal advice. It is for your information only.

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