The Candidate Said You Wouldn’t Charge

Jeff Allen Collection TipEditor’s note: Jeff Allen has heard every employer excuse you can imagine for not paying up — and dozens more that defy imagination. A few years ago he began documenting them in a weekly collections column. Because of the importance of collections, Fordyce will periodically reprise the most common situations he addressed.

What Client Says:

The candidate said you wouldn’t charge anything.

How Client Pays:

This is one of those naive defenses only a foolish fee-fighter would allege. Yet it’s among the most popular, because candidates fall all over their paychecks to help.

There are actually two levels of defense here:

  1. The candidate was your agent and therefore could waive (relinquish) your right to the fee. This is a sophisticated argument, since you didn’t actually deputize the agent to act for you. However, ostensible (apparent) or implied authority can sometimes be credibly argued if the candidate represents (states) that you authorized him.
  2. The candidate was a witness to your waiver of the fee. This is the safest route. The candidate doesn’t have to lie (much), and can even say he thought you waived it. Usually the words he “heard” were, “Don’t worry about paying the fee.” He “mistakenly” interpreted this as meaning no fee would be charged to the client.

Supposedly that’s what he said during the interview. The client “reasonably” believed him, so hired. No agreement to pay, no communication with you (since it believed you weren’t involved), therefore no contractual liability.

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Don’t budge. There’s no legal way a client can prove an actual agency relationship existed with the candidate. The candidate’s thoughts have nothing to do with the obligation of the client under the legal objective theory of contracts. It simply says, “Look at the parties’ agreement to determine their intent.

“Let the facts speak for themselves.” Don’t back down.

That client will pay!


More than thirty-five years ago, Jeffrey G. Allen, J.D., C.P.C. turned a decade of recruiting and human resources management into the legal specialty of placement law. Since 1975, Jeff has collected more placement fees, litigated more trade secrets cases, and assisted more placement practitioners than anyone else. From individuals to multinational corporations in every phase of staffing, his name is synonymous with competent legal representation. Jeff holds four certifications in placement and is the author of 24 popular books in the career field, including bestsellers How to Turn an Interview into a Job, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book and the revolutionary Instant Interviews. As the world?s leading placement lawyer, Jeff?s experience includes: Thirty-five years of law practice specializing in representation of staffing businesses and practitioners; Author of ?The Allen Law?--the only placement information trade secrets law in the United States; Expert witness on employment and placement matters; Recruiter and staffing service office manager; Human resources manager for major employers; Certified Personnel Consultant, Certified Placement Counselor, Certified Employment Specialist and Certified Search Specialist designations; Cofounder of the national Certified Search Specialist program; Special Advisor to the American Employment Association; General Counsel to the California Association of Personnel Consultants (honorary lifetime membership conferred); Founder and Director of the National Placement Law Center; Recipient of the Staffing Industry Lifetime Achievement Award; Advisor to national, regional and state trade associations on legal, ethics and legislative matters; Author of The Placement Strategy Handbook, Placement Management, The National Placement Law Center Fee Collection Guide and The Best of Jeff Allen, published by Search Research Institute exclusively for the staffing industry; and Producer of the EMPLAW Audio Series on employment law matters. Email him at