I turned down a job offer and now the recruiter is invoicing me

A reader writes:

I was in the awesome position of interviewing for two roles through recruitment agencies and receiving offers for both. Both roles were aware that I had another strong offer on the table, and negotiations started between myself and the two agencies.

As I was available immediately, both roles wanted me to start ASAP and had suggested start dates that were within a working week of the initial offer. Within a few days, I made my decision and I outlined my choice in an email to the recruiter of the role I was turning down.

The recruiter wanted to discuss the matter further and I declined. He indicated by email he was upset that I was turning down the role so close to the start date.

A month later, I received an invoice from the accounting team of the recruitment team – no other communication – just an invoice made out to me for $50 for a background check they had completed. I responded to the accounts team saying that I believed this cost was for their client, and as I had no relationship with them, it wasn’t an invoice for me personally (assuming it had been mistakenly sent to me as the subject of the background check).

The next day, I received an email from the recruiter directly, who informed me that as I had behaved unprofessionally and without integrity, as an act of good faith I should pay this “insignificant amount” rather than ask the (very large international) agency to absorb it.

I wanted to write a strongly worded response about my ideas of professionalism, but I am going to sit on it for a day or two. Ironically, if he had emailed me and outlined his point of view earlier – without attacking me – I probably would have paid the invoice out of feelings of guilt/good faith.

So am I obliged to pay this? And if I’m not obliged, should I pay it to save face professionally?

What the flying F?

Um, no, you should not pay this. Just like they should not pay for your interview suit or your time spent interviewing or the Xanax I will use to calm my slightly crazed laughter after reading this letter.

Background checks are a normal cost of doing business for recruiters. There are a few industries where applicants are expected to pay for their own (teaching is one), but those are (a) rare and (b) disclosed ahead of time. That second part is the real tell here — you don’t spring costs on people after the fact that they never agreed to. That’s not how this stuff works. People have to agree to it up-front; you can’t decide to charge them later because you’re bitter.

This dude sent you an invoice in a weirdly misguided attempt to penalize you for turning down an offer (and losing him his commission). That’s unprofessional, hostile, and out of touch with what’s okay to do.

There’s nothing unprofessional about turning down an offer — and that goes double when you were totally up front with him throughout your deliberations. You’re under no obligation to accept an offer (just like they were under no obligation to make you an offer).

He sucks, you have no obligation to pay this, and you certainly shouldn’t pay out of guilt or to save face. In fact, that would be the opposite of saving face — it would be agreeing that you’d done something wrong, when you haven’t.

Ignore the invoice, ignore his letter, and never work with this agency again. As for sending a letter back to him, I’d skip that entirely .. but if you must send a response, send it to someone above him; there’s no need to engage with someone who has already demonstrated that he’s hostile and irrational.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 168 comments… read them below }

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      Please be sure to send the recruiter’s harangue to the hiring manager at the company whose offer you turned down.

    2. long time reader first time poster*

      I’ve been in a similar situation where I was juggling two job offers. The recruiter for the losing team did NOT accept the loss gracefully — he pestered me for days, with increasing pressure, to accept his offer instead. I finally had to tell him to stop contacting me. I have a feeling that he felt that once he had an offer in hand, he’d earned his commission, and was bitter about seeing it slip away.

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Hurt Feelings-itis is not a covered condition under Obamacare, so the costs are being passed along to consumers.

    What an absolute jerk! If he continues I’d be tempted to let the company who hired him know what’s going on.

  2. Eva*

    I love how he calls the amount “insignificant” while still going to the trouble of trying to make you pay it instead of just covering the cost himself.

    1. Michele*

      This drives me crazy for some reason. For some people $50 is a lot of money. You don’t know if that person has been out of work for a signifgant period of time. For some people that is their food budget for a week. I know when I was unemployed for over a year $50 seemed like a million $’s to me!

      1. Livin' in a Box*

        $50 used to be my monthly food budget. Whenever someone says that $50 isn’t a lot of money, I want to smack them.

      2. SJP*

        I am based in the UK, But I live by myself and as someone said £50/$50 is indeed a food budget for a month so yea, it’s an ‘insignificant’ amount for a company to pay, but for a person it can be a lot of money.

        Just.. wow. This recruiter is an ass

          1. sstabeler*

            actually, no- £50 is approx $60-$75, depending on how the Pound is doing relative to the dollar- usually closer to $60.

            1. KH*

              The cost of living is higher in the UK than the US by at least enough that 50 pounds buys you equal or less goods and services in the UK than $50 will get you in the US.

          1. SJP*

            Yea whats V.Meadowsweet said, not if you live in pounds its not. Im just doing the comparison rather than currency conversion…
            But yea second what Ted said, if it’s such a small amount why doesn’t the jerk of a recruiter pay it!

  3. soitgoes*

    Would it be completely uncouth for the OP to send a note to the client company about this? Something along the lines of, “Did you know that your recruiting agency is doing this?” I would want to know if my recruiters had a reputation that was alienating good job candidates.

      1. Chinook*

        “I’d certainly want to know if a recruiter I’d hired was doing this.”
        I agree, not only because it is a jerky thing to do but it is also possible that the company who hired the recruiter may have also paid for services that included the background check, making this essentially double billing for services rendered.

      2. soitgoes*

        I’d also want to nip it in the bud in case the recruiter tries to get the money through a collection agency or something similarly crazy. The recruiter thinks the invoice is legit and is obviously unreasonable enough to send the bill in the first place. A lot of companies make serious bank off of these one-off “fees” that most people don’t know to fight.

        1. Collarbone High*

          This is a good point. If you ignore it, you might assume the matter is closed, only to find out months from now that it’s been sent to collections. At that point, you’d be looking at a nightmare of bureaucracy to get the charge removed and restore the damage to your credit.

          1. OP*

            That is something I am concerned about – and I dont know enough about the collections process to know how they would prove it was a real debt, would the burden of proof be on me etc

            1. EG*

              Unless you signed paperwork saying you would pay this cost, they can’t come after you in collections. If they do anyway, you can file suit or report them to the state attorney general.

              1. soitgoes*

                Wouldn’t a recruiting agency have all sorts of signed paperwork from job candidates? It’s not impossible that they might have buried a clause about these fees somewhere in there, especially if they also recruit for a field where it’s customary to pay for your own background checks.

                I realize that I’m probably sounding really paranoid at this point, but anyone who’s ever tried to straighten out any kind of bill understands the value of avoiding this kind of headache.

              2. Rayner*

                But doing that can often take time and energy. Meanwhile, that big black note is going on your credit file and ruining your chances of applying for things like loans and credit cards. Best not to get into the situation in the first place.

                1. kozinskey*

                  I second the suggestion to call your attorney general if they do try to take it to collections and mess up your credit score. One $50 charge might not be enough for the AG to take action, sure, but if a bunch of people are calling in with similar complaints that might be enough to get a case opened. You just never know, so it’s worth a shot.

              3. Lisa*

                A lot of times though, credit report agencies are lazy and see big company having an invoice and confirm a debt without bothering to see if there is any agreements that you owe the money. Rather than wait to see, call both companies and find out what is going on. The recruiting agency may be doing the invoicing and not the recruiter, in that case pay the $50 cause they prob will report missed payments to the credit bureaus. If the recruiting agency isn’t the one behind it and the recruiter is sending invoices because he may be on the hook for any of these fees, then you can prob ignore it and then tell the hiring company that you find it ridiculous that their firm uses a place that puts the cost of doing business on valuable candidates. If that was my company, I would set the recruiting agency straight and not renew the contract with them unless they stopped doing that.

            2. Dan*

              If the system works as it’s supposed to, you can contest a debt. But “working like it’s supposed to” means that the debt collection agency sends a bill to the right address and you contest it within 30 days. But they also don’t just take your word either. It’s possible you have to sue them in small claims court. I’ve flirted with debt collection agencies before, and if I have the cash on hand, the next time I’m backed into a corner, I think I’ll pay the bill and fight it in court. A single collection item seriously damages your credit, and that is absolutely something you don’t want.

              My all time favorite was a former employer who sent me to collections 15 months after I separated. All correspondence went to an address I hadn’t lived at in over a year, which means address forwarding had expired.

              Once something is on your report, it’s hard as hell to get it off. There’s ways to do it, but if they can provide a paper trail attaching it to you, you’re kind of screwed. By that, I mean there’s a difference between “never did business with these people, never heard of them” and “yeah, we got into a tiff about how much I owe.” You won’t win the later.

              1. Dan*

                Crap, forgot to say your best bet is a generic “I contest the debt.” The credit bureaus don’t actually spend much time adjudicating an issue. Your hope is then that the debt collector doesn’t respond to the credit bureau’s dispute inquiry.

                The flip side is that the debt collector can add it back. What happens is that they will sell the outstanding debt to another collector, who will then report it again.

                1. Melissa*

                  That’s actually illegal, I think – if you contest the debt and the debt is removed, they’re not supposed to put it back just because it’s sold to another agency. Of course, I know that’s not always the way it works in practice.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              I think that is an absolutely terrific question for the BBB or your state’s attorney general.
              Conversely you could just tell the recruiter if you hear one more word about this bill EVER, you are going to start making phone calls and sending emails demanding an investigation.

            4. Melissa*

              No, the burden of proof is on them. If they did come after you in collections, within 30 days you can send them a debt validation letter, saying that you do not owe this debt and requesting that they validate the debt. They have to respond within a set amount of time (I think 60 days) with paperwork validating that 1) you owe the debt and 2) they are legally entitled to collect it. A lot of debt collection agencies are sleazy and will try to collect on debt that they aren’t legally owed, just because the payoff is worth the time and effort to them. There are templates of debt validation letters online all over the place.

    1. Artemesia*

      I would do this and would also copy someone at the top of the recruiting agency assuming this is an agency and not a sole operator. This is outrageous and unprofessional and if I were using a recruiter this would make me drop them and find someone more professional.

      If the OP was open and clear to the recruiter as s/he says s/he was then the recruiter should not be bitter — it is a typical event in this business. The OP couldn’t after all have accepted both jobs.

    2. Adam*

      I’d totally do it. The lines between independent recruiters and hiring company can appear extremely fuzzy to people, so this guy’s behavior could reflect badly on the employer whose making use of his services. If the employer generally goes through recruiting agencies to fill its positions this kind of stuff could really sour people on the company proper rather than the recruiter.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I don’t see it as a scam as such. wildly unprofessional and totally unreasonable but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to defraud any body.

      1. Celeste*

        I’m not saying it’s something the company does. I’m saying it seems like an enterprising person in Accounting may have tried to figure out how to generate their own little revenue stream by fleecing applicants on the side.

        1. Artemesia*

          But the recruiter followed up which indicates it was the recruiter and not a side bar in the accounting office.

    2. A Reader*

      I think it does sound a bit like a scam too. Honestly, there are some people who use the recruiting field for fraudulent opportunities…..it just happens way too often. Weird that they seem legit enough to be talking about a legit job……but I don’t have all the facts here.

      A legit recruiting agency will (I think in 100% of circumstances) NOT charge you for anything before you start a job. I work in a recruiting firm, so this is from my experience directly in the field.

      1. OP*

        It’s not a scam – legit recruiter, large international recruitment organisation. Perhaps just a cheeky effort to make his bottom line look better before the end of the year?

        1. A Reader*

          Honestly, I could never, ever see this being possible in a good recruiting company. Seriously…..none of our recruiters would even be able to pull something like that off (managers are excellent), nor would they want to. That’s just scary for that company and its bosses. I know we’d fire that person ASAP.

        2. Sans*

          It’s possibly a scam in that a large established recruiter would have paid for the $50 background check as a matter of routine. If he’s sending you a bill, that could be pure profit directly to him. Or, perhaps, he was promising the company you turned down more than he should have – “oh, I’m sure he’ll say yes, let’s do the background check, don’t worry about the cost” – and then when that backfired, he’s trying to make you pay for his b.s. promises.

        3. MaryMary*

          I wonder if your shady recruiter authorized the background check prematurely, assuming you’d accept his offer. When you declined, he was stuck with a fee that never should have been spent, so he tried to pass it on to you.

          1. pajh*

            I’d put money on this. They jumped the gun, fucked up, and now they’re butthurt about it. Spectacularly unprofessional behaviour at best.

        4. EE*

          Oh, I wish you’d tell us which one of the agencies it is!

          I bet this recruiter is new (recruitment is a revolving door), already wrote up that he got the commission, and now is stuck with the $50.

  4. Lisa*

    OP – If you do go above him, please please update us on this one! I would want to alert the company that you turned down too, but you may want to work there eventually and somehow this guy will make you look crazy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just for the record, there is no WTF Wednesday! (Largely because it would feel mean if the WTF was about the letter-writer.)

      I realize it seems to still live in mythology though :)

        1. LBK*

          I think Aunt Vixen’s point was that “tattling” implies something kind of childish done for the sole purpose of getting someone else in trouble, whereas “reporting” doesn’t have connotations of pettiness.

  5. A.*

    Wow. The recruiter is beyond bitter. He’s just mad about missing out on the commission. You don’t owe them a dime!

  6. A Teacher*

    Even in education, my employer paid for my fingerprinting, physical, and criminal background check. I have yet to pay for one of these in any education setting–high school or higher ed–in 11 years in the profession.

    1. Laufey*

      What subject do you teach? I know my father (history) and friend (English) have had to pay for their own processing (except for physicals; as far as I know, those weren’t required), so I was wondering if it’s a demand and supply thing.

      1. Stephanie*

        Substitute teaching in my state, you pay for all that up front (and the districts tell you this). But I’d guess that’s a supply-and-demand thing (and probably a way reduce the supply).

        1. YaH*

          My district makes potential subs pay for the fingerprinting, etc. themselves, and limits how many days a month subs can work so they don’t have to pay insurance. Meanwhile, we have something like 50+ jobs that are unfilled each school day because there aren’t enough subs to cover for teacher absences. So classes are doubling up, being covered by non-teachers, etc. It’s ridiculous.

      2. Zillah*

        My partner is a teacher, and I believe his fingerprinting, at least, was paid for when he was subbing. I know he didn’t have to pay for a background check.

      3. A Teacher*

        I’ve taught and been an athletic trainer and sub in multiple districts in the State of Illinois. My specific district I’m in now runs background checks on all employees and volunteers that work with students over 5 hours and they pay for it. I’ve been in a district as small as 400 in the high school to over 2000 in a high school. Subject matter doesn’t matter neither has grade level. I also adjunct at a college and they pay for all associated costs as well. Its not that way in EVERY district, but for the districts I’ve been in, the employer absorbing the cost has been the norm.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I pay for my own background check and fingerprinting. I brought it up at a party about five years ago, and now a group of my friends take turns chipping in for mine – they say it eases their guilt and costs less than happy hour.

      1. Chrissi*

        Is it like an annual background check? And your friends sound very lovely, but why would they feel guilty? Are they at the same company and don’t have to pay for their own?

        1. Nerd Girl*

          It might be because most teachers aren’t paid well and this requirement takes a further hit out of a already meager paycheck.

          1. Chrissi*

            Thanks! I didn’t connect the dots w/ the comment she was replying to, so I didn’t realize she was a teacher. That makes a lot more sense :)

    3. JoAnna*

      My husband just started working for one of the local school districts (in the IT department, not as a teacher) and he didn’t have to pay for fingerprinting or background check.

    4. manybellsdown*

      I’ve only paid for mine about half the time. I think it depends on the job and the location. Sometimes I’ve even had to buy one myself for volunteering, and sometimes the school has paid for the checks on volunteers.

    5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I had to pay for my fingerprinting but I got reimbursed for it – and that was explained to me up-front when I was given directions about how/where to get fingerprinted. I also had to get a TB test, but my employer-provided insurance covered that.

    6. Elsajeni*

      I paid for background checks and fingerprinting twice, first to be placed in a school as a student teacher and again to get my license when I completed my certification program; I think those are the ones people are thinking of, the checks that are required to get and maintain a teaching license. Schools and districts will typically pay for any additional checks they require once they’ve decided to hire you, though.

      1. YaH*

        My graduate program paid for all background checks & other fees involved in my internships and for my licensure. It was pretty great to walk out of there after graduation and not have a single thing else to do other than be hired.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Interesting! I… wouldn’t have particularly liked my grad program to pay those fees, actually — it just would have made me conscious of how that was presumably being covered by the tuition and fees I had paid them, and I was already feeling less than thrilled about what I was getting in exchange for my tuition money by the end of the program, so.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        All you guys that paid for your own fingerprinting, did you know you had a job first? Did you accept said job first? Or did you get fingerprinted and hoped for the best?

        1. Elsajeni*

          No, the fingerprinting I paid for was purely to be licensed as a teacher at the end of my program. Some lucky classmates had jobs lined up at that point, pending approval of their license; I don’t know whether they got assistance toward their licensure costs from the districts/schools that wanted to hire them or not. But most of us were still on the job market well past the point where we needed to pay the fees and apply in order to have a license in time to start teaching in the next school year.

    7. Callie*

      In my state, my teacher ed students have to pay for their own background check when they apply to the teacher ed program, and for another one when they apply for their first license, but I *think* that once a school wants to hire them the district pays for their background check at hire. I got licensed in another state and I remember having to pay for my first background check and fingerprinting in 1997 for my license but not when I was checked again when I was hired in two different districts.

    8. Raptor*

      When I did mine, I had to pay for them.. What was amusing is that I had to get finger printed 4 times, because I have no finger prints. The police officer who did them, looked at the finger prints, seeming extremely puzzled, and said ‘don’t ever commit a crime!’. They were just black, finger-shaped marks with a few random white lines on the paper (not even swirly lines!). Each time the letter came back saying that the finger prints weren’t clear enough. By the third such one, I was told I needed a doctor’s note to go with the finger prints saying that I had no finger prints.

      Thankfully, I didn’t have to pay for the follow up finger printings. But I did have to pay for the doctor and the fact I had to go spend half a day at the police station each time.

  7. HR Manager*

    Not only would I escalate this above him, if you still have a good relationship with the recruiter or the hiring manager who extended you the offer through the agency, I would email that invoice and communication to them, as a heads up with the note saying “Thank you for the interview and the the offer. Sorry things did not work out, but I received this invoice and communication from XXX agency. I understand this is far from the norm, and I want you to be aware of the behavior this agency has with its candidates”. They should be aware of this agency who is representing them and their job opportunities to candidates.

    If a candidate made me aware of this, I would cut all ties with that agency STAT. This is outrageous and unacceptable.

  8. TheExchequer*

    Looks like somebody forgot to change out of their Crazy Pants when they got to work. (You want me to pay for your background check? Um, how about no). I would respond, politely, once more that I had no intention of paying any such thing, copy it to their supervisor or someone above them, and be waiting with a cease and desist letter if they tried it again.

    1. jag*

      He/she may be doing it because it works sometimes. Wrong and greedy for sure, but not necessarily crazy. Until it comes back to bite – if the OP or someone else tells his client about this and he/she loses the client.

      1. TheExchequer*

        What Zillah said. Just because it works does not make it any less crazy pants. The interview with 40 candidates putting a dinner party together also “worked”.

        1. jag*

          Crazy is not a synonym for bad or outrageous. I think it means very irrational or delusional.

          What you two think it means?

  9. Stephanie*

    Ick. It sounds like he’s bitter about losing out on the commission. This guy sounds immature and unprofessional as that’s the nature of recruiting (and you couldn’t work more than one job anyway). If he persists, I’d contact his supervisor (or the agency) or the hiring manager he worked with. If it gets really bad, you can get a lawyer to draft a cease and desist lawyer (somewhat) cheaply.

    1. A Teacher*

      I know you meant letter (before somewhat) but I have to chuckle at having a lawyer draft a cease and desist lawyer. I’m trying to picture that actually…

  10. LOtheAdmin*

    Honestly, what goes through people’s minds when they pull stunts like this? I could
    never in my right mind EVER think to do something this unprofessional.

    Whatever you do, OP, keep records of every interaction you have with this company in the future
    and immediately forward this “bill” and his statements to you to his higher ups. Do not engage any further with Mr Invoice and speak only to his managers. His behavior is completely outrageous, and he needs to be stopped before he does it to someone else.

  11. A Reader*

    I work for a recruiting firm and I want to chime in that this is absolutely not standard. The firm or the hiring company should be paying this cost and it’s their responsibility to make sure the candidate is worth (i.e. likely to actually take the job) running a background check on. We’d never ever ever do something like this. I just don’t think any of our (good) competitors would either. Don’t pay it. This recruiter cannot smear you name/reputation for not paying it….because it’s not valid.

    Do tell their manager. We’d want to know about this (of course nobody in our firm would do this or be able to do this without a manager shutting it down). And I’d be kinda interested to know the firm name (although I can see why you might be reluctant to give it).

  12. Sherm*

    Ugh. I wish all recruiters would just gracefully accept it when a candidate is not interested in a position. I went on an interview through a recruiter, and I hated the place so much. I could tell you a dozen things wrong with it, but above all my gut was telling me “Run, run, run, PLEASE run.” In response to my rejection, I got the hard sell from the recruitment agency over 3 days. It was even implied to me that it would damage my reputation for being flaky.

    I recently noticed that the position is open again, a few months since this happened.

  13. Csarndt*

    I would follow up with the company itself just to make sure that the recruiter didn’t tell them some load of bull about you to them. Along the lines of “I’m sorry this position didn’t work out for me at this time, it was a pleasure blah blah blah, but here is my well reasoned purpose for the choice I made. I was bothered that the recruiter for your position invoiced me after I declined the position and thought you may want to know that the agency is behaving oddly to potential employees as it may affect your company’s ability to recruit top candidates blah blah blah.

    1. Zillah*

      Eh, this seems a bit overdone to me. A simple note like, “Thanks for the opportunity, I’m sorry it didn’t work out this time. By the way, the recruiter I had contact with sent me this invoice. I found it very unprofessional and thought you’d like to know” would work fine. She doesn’t need to kiss their ass because she turned down the job or spell out why a recruiter doing this would be bad for business. Doing so would actually be pretty off putting, IMI.

  14. Stephanie*

    I just want to say that a few years back I received an unsolicited request from a recruiter on LinkedIn and ended up interviewing with the company as I was somewhat looking and somewhat interested. After my interview I got the offer the same day (they really liked me), but I didn’t feel like the position was a fit for me. I ended up sending a very nice email response declining the offer, only to be called by THE PRESIDENT OF THE RECRUITING COMPANY, telling me I was making the wrong choice and that he knew what was best for me.

    Fast forward to an HOUR conversation about how I was damning my career, torpedoing my contacts, and how I would never get another position and be stuck in a dead end job forever. Um… excuse me? You contacted ME. I wasn’t even looking. When I told them I was interested in a different field which is why I didn’t want the position, he continued to tell me that the industry wasn’t doing well and that no jobs were being offered in that field.

    Actually sir, there is 38% growth in that industry–I checked. Eff off.


    1. steve g*

      That falls under the ‘wow’ category. I once started a job through a temp agency only to find that it was only 35hrs a week. Um….when I negotiated my pay I need per week I divided that # by 40 to come up with an hourly rate, right in front of them, and they still lowballed that, but I was desperate….so their blaming the “confusion” on me was bs, as was their acting like I was the unprofessional one for not wanting to continue the job. a large well known firm as well……….

    2. Lamington*

      me too, i had a recruiter contacted me, offer a crappier job and berated me when i turned it down. She said i will die in a service desk job and will never amount to anything.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’m wondering if all these dramatic reactions are recruiters lashing out because they’re losing out on their commission or might not make their numbers (or whatever metric).

        1. Stephanie*

          Stephanie–What a beautiful name you have! Did you pick it out yourself? ;)

          I mean, you gotta wonder when the president calls you if the 10k commission they’re taking (apparently 20% of the position salary) means that much to their business–your business failing is your problem, not mine. I think it might have also been because I’m younger (early 20s), so they think I don’t know enough to push back. I wanted to report them or something, but who do you take that to anyway?

          1. Jean*

            Other commenters here have suggested reporting these batsh*t crazy recruiters to their very own managers and/or the state attorney general. If you’re really feeling irate why not also throw in the Better Business Bureau or whatever professional agency might be giving this outfit its credentials?

  15. steve g*

    Send him a check you know is gonna bounce, then fall off the face of the earth. Let him cover the bounced check fee!

    Just kidding…..

    1. LBK*

      Heh. Maybe send a counter-invoice for a “stupid requests fee,” which coincidentally would also be $50 and render the exchange of funds moot?

      1. Notmyrealname*

        A photographer I used to know had an “Asshole Assessment Fee.” She used to invoice it as “AAF” and if the client asked (mostly they didn’t) she said it was a materials charge.

        1. Sarahnova*


          I wish my old employers had leveraged an “Asshole Assessment Fee”. There were a number of clients who richly deserved to pay extra given the stress incurred by dealing with them.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    I would definitely let the company know about these shenanigans. And that’s what they are. Unprofessional, unethical shenanigans. And then filter his emails to go to a folder where you can save them in case he starts sending you a bunch of angry or scary crap after the fact.

  17. HM in Atlanta*

    Here’s the story: I was the hiring manager. The recruiter had an “accepted” offer and a “confirmed” start date from the candidate. We start the background check process, and our agency says the candidate isn’t cooperating. A few days go by, and the recruiter days the candidate backed out.

    Reality: The recruiter was about to miss his days to fill SLA, that came with a substantial financial penalty. The candidate was real, never accepted the offer, but reset the time to fill clock. However, this only worked a few more times before we noticed the pattern.

    My guess is that the recruiter made some promises he couldn’t keep and is scrambling to cover his story.

    1. INTP*

      This was my thought too. When I worked as a recruiter, the hiring company usually paid these types of costs. The recruiter may have ordered the check prematurely to rush things along and the hiring company will only pay if it’s ordered on acceptance of an offer of some similar situation.

      1. some1*

        I had the same thought…the recruiter put the background check through prematurely. Not the LW’s problem.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      I think you are right HM in Atlanta. And the company may be pushing back on the recruiting firm to cover the expense of the background check which they are, in turn, trying to push to the OP.

    3. Kelly L.*

      And this is especially gross since it’ll damage the OP’s reputation with the company, in a way that it wouldn’t be if they knew she just turned them down rather than accepting and then reneging.

    4. Transformer*

      I’m curious as to whether the candidate agreed to a background check. I have all candidates fill out a special release for the background check and I walk them through what to expect. I would have expected any fees to be brought up at that time. This also brings up a question I have been wondering for a while… Is illegal to run a background check without the persons approval?

      1. OP*

        I did agree – it was a very quick process from interview to offer to potential start date for both roles so with full disclosure that I had other irons in the fire, I agreed to a background check. The check itself was a standard set of forms to complete, nothing about cost/reimbursement was mentioned.

      2. Natalie*

        Provided you have sufficient information to identify a person and are willing to pay the fees involved, I’m sure you can run a background check on whomever you want, whenever you want. PIs and attorneys do, presumably, and they’re not law enforcement officials.

        That said, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if you want to use the information (to decline to offer someone a job, for example) you have to have informed the person ahead of time.

        1. Saturn9*

          It is my understanding that the Fair Credit Reporting Act only applies to (… wait for it…) credit reporting information.

  18. Chriama*

    I think something this outrageous needs to be escalated. It’s wildly unprofessional, and others have pointed out that the recruiter could be using this to skim money off the agency’s clients. I think both the company that was hiring and the recruiting agency need to know what’s going on, because I expect that this is NOT someone they want representing them.

    1. pajh*

      That’s a good point. This goes beyond the wildly unprofessional into the quite possibly spectacularly illegal—if I were using this guy, I want to know all about this so I could drop him like a hot rock.

  19. INTP*

    Imagine a world where we could just invoice people who inconvenience us.

    Dear Sir, you cut me off in traffic and I felt so angry that I drank half a bottle of wine and went on an online shopping spree. As a gesture of good faith, please send $100.

    Dear Madam: because you so rudely shoved in front of me at the grocery store, you got the last container of generic Greek yogurt and I had to buy Chobani. Please send $3, preferably in quarters so I can do my laundry.

    1. JB*

      This made me laugh out loud, which wasn’t fun since I was eating at the time. Please send me $10 for pain and suffering.

      1. Shell*

        But you should cut a discount for how much INTP amused you in the process of causing pain and suffering! Say, $5? ;)

        1. INTP*

          I can consider the $5 laughter royalty as an even trade for a $5 keyboard clean-up fee. However, my check will be $9.22 because I’m subtracting the cost of the envelope, check, stamp, and address label (the address labels were free from a charity but I didn’t donate so I expect to be invoiced for them later).

    2. Mike C.*

      Kind of serious, but I have always wished that folks responsible for car accidents during rush hour were giving an additional ticket to cover the time and environmental costs of a huge, multi-mile backup.

      1. Stephanie*

        In Arizona, there’s a law where motorists get billed for rescue services if they bypass barricades and get trapped in flash floods. I think people are rarely prosecuted under it, but it’s a good deterrent.

        1. Nerd Girl*

          there’s a similar law in my state where if an unexperienced hiker gets lost on a mountain or in the woods and needs to be rescued they get a bill. The state does bill them too! One of the rescued – a man with no experience hiking who got lost in November wearing only a thin jacket (in New England-on a mountainside) – went to the press and complained that he was unfairly being billed over $100K for rescue services. The last I’d heard he was still responsible for the charges.

          1. Stephanie*

            New Hampshire? I think it’s fair, because you’re also putting the first responders at risk! Maybe he can work with the state to negotiate the amount down or get on a payment plan.

          2. Hlyssande*

            You can by insurance to pay for being airlifted out in Colorado!

            We did it for my cousin when he went hiking while the rest of us camped. It wasn’t that expensive and it was a huge peace of mind for us with him hiking alone.

          3. Chinook*

            I think there is a push to charge boneheaded hikers needing rescue in the Rockies too. In Alberta and BC, local mountain rescue groups that are often called upon to save snowmobilers and hikers not prepared for the mountain (who are usually visitors from outside the community if not the province or even country so they don’t pay local taxes or donatino drives to help support the services) are often volunteers who have to cover their own expenses for gear and insurance. As a result of the higher number of rescues recently and the odd bone head who actually sued the rescue groups for not doing it quick enough, their insurance is going up and some of them are considering folding due to the financial risk at stake.
            /rant over

          4. kelseywanderer*

            On a similar note, here’s a fun fact I just learned after taking a position in a conflict zone: apparently if stuff really hits the fan and the government has to extract their citizens in a hurry (think South Sudan last year), the government also sends you a bill for the cost of doing so. Which is not insignificant, apparently.

            It’s why people who work in areas like this usually get emergency evacuation insurance, meant to cover anything from medical emergencies necessitating transport back home to situations like the military airlifting you out of the middle of a coup d’état, just in case.

    3. Nancie*

      I’ve got a coworker who would owe me thousands. Possibly tens of thousands. If you added together everyone in just my department that they’ve inconvenienced in just the last year, it would probably be 2x their salary or more.

  20. pajh*


    I’d write back and say that I’d be delighted to pay; but first, there’s the small (insignificant, even) matter of one hour of my time for the interview. I think $150 as a consultancy rate ought to do it.

  21. Ajax*

    This doesn’t make any sense. A good recruiter makes their living on repeat business and referrals, so while he didn’t win your commission this go-around he might have in a year – IF he had taken the trouble to build a relationship with you. Instead he chose to throw a tantrum, and try to squeeze $50 out of you now instead the possibility of a real commission down the road. Over $50! This guy isn’t just a jerk, he’s an idiot.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      This is one of the perks of being in the HR field in a relatively small community. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to bring recruiters and temp agencies into companies I’ve been hired into as the HR manager, and to give the axe to those who’ve treated me or friends of mine poorly. When I was unemployed for a lengthy period of time, two particular people at a well-known temp agency kept me busy, and when I finally got a full-time job I brought them into my new company. When these two jumped ship, I started using their new company.

      You never know what bridges you’re burning when you light that match.

  22. Middle Name Jane*

    Agree with Alison and everyone else who said this “invoice” is ridiculous, but my only concern would be if the recruiter decided to get really ugly and send this charge to a collections agency if the OP doesn’t pay. Then you’re looking at a dinged credit report and harassment from a collections agency. Damned if you pay, damned if you don’t.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is why I think a preemptive strike is good. I would definitely consider going to the attorney general about it. That is part of what the AG is for- fraud.

    1. HR Manager*

      This is why escalating to his/her manager is important, or if needed to the head of the agency. Bogus charges can’t be presented for collection. I would challenge it (and yes, it would be a pain and a headache) but I’d be very curious as to what the agency would render as evidence of service to warrant the fee, since all other agencies (and this is fairly common knowledge) that the client in this case is the employer…NOT the candidate.

      I would also love to see any publicity on this hit the media. It would be virtually guaranteed that the agency’s name would be dragged through mud for their practice.

  23. Kathryn T.*

    My first impulse would be to forward the email to the recruiter’s boss and to the hiring manager at the firm and add “FYI, received this from $Recruiter today and was pretty taken aback. Please advise?” Short, sweet, don’t over-explain, make sure everyone knows everyone saw it.

  24. doreen*

    I’ve always had to pay a fingerprinting fee for my government jobs- but I a) knew in advance and b) made the check out to the agency that was going to run my fingerprints, not the agency hiring me

    1. De Minimis*

      That seems odd to me, I’ve worked a number of government and quasi-governmental jobs and have had to do a lot of background checks and have never had to pay anything. I know where I currently work we also pay for the background checks on contractors and student interns.

      I’ve never worked for a state or local government agency, though, so there are probably different practices.

  25. Executive Recruiter*

    Hi OP,
    I happen to work for one of the world’s largest international recruiting firms (hopefully not the one you dealt with!) and I can’t even begin to imagine someone trying to pull this scam on a potential candidate. $50 bucks is nothing compared to the expenses we regularly incur to fly candidates in from around the world for interviews on a daily basis. If this recruiter’s manager finds out about this, I can guarantee there will be hell to pay for this individual. I would not hesitate to respond by demanding the contact information of the recruiters manager and also their legal department. This persons career is now in your hands.

  26. Kidd*

    Recruiters can be just as rude and quite frankly harassing/stalking the candidates. You should not have to pay the $50 which is quite an insult and blackball them.

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