How Much Should You Pay A Good Headhunter?

I’m seeing a lot of questions about how much you should pay a headhunter to help you find a job.

My answer:  NOTHING.  Nada, zilp, zero.

Headhunters and recruiters are paid by the company who has a job opening, not by a candidate.

Unfortunately there are companies/people out there who say they are headhunters, they have large networks, they are tapped into the hidden job market, and for a fee (usually in the thousands of dollars) they’ll help you land a job.

Go to Ripoff Report and read this story about a guy who paid $3k USD upfront and then was going to pay another $2k after the headhunter landed him the job.

I hear about this regularly.  It’s not as uncommon as you think.  Some thoughts:

  1. It seems that the company will change it’s name regularly.  Why?  Perhaps because of legal issues, like you read in the Ripoff Report page. Another reason is because once they get some complaints online they become more visible in a bad way… people google the company name and find complaints like this.  BEWARE OF A COMPANY WHO YOU CAN’T GOOGLE.
  2. Understand the role of a recruiter, and the roles of other services professionals who might charge you for services.  Some are legit, some aren’t.  It’s your money, you are the one responsible to know what you are buying (or what scam you might be funding).
  3. Why is there a market for this?  Job seekers can be desperate, we all know that (been there). I think managers and above are accustomed to outsourcing things – whether it is to the inhouse IT shop, a virtual sales team, or the janitorial services… in business you pay money to a group who specializes in something.  Combine desparate with the familiarity of outsourcing to solve a problem and you have the perfect opportunity for stuff like this.

Do your research, know what services you should pay for, and if you get scammed REPORT IT.


  1. Craig on March 25, 2010 at 7:49 am

    I agree…you should never have to pay a recruiter for their services…but i think to really understand why…a job seeker should know the differences in agencies that are out there. I currently work for an agency that focuses on both full time and contract staffing. i am compensated by my clients…not candidates for any hires i make. What you are looking at is executive retained search…where the company puts the agency on retainer to find talent based upon the previous success they have had as a normal contingency firm. This is usually reserved for very senior level recruiters with huge networks of people with a high level skill set…like…CEO, CIO…some of these firms may have relationships to get people not at that career level in the door…but its no guarantee…and certainly not worth any financial investment.

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