Contractor doctor: Can I bypass an agency that has already introduced me?

Dear Contractor Doctor,

I spoke to an agent recently who said they would put me forward for a role at a particular client, who they named, but I don't think they went ahead with it. Can I just approach the client directly myself?

Is there anything stopping me bypassing the agent?

Ben Duncan

Sure, you can try and contact the client directly. There is nothing in law that says you cannot do that.

However, there are a few hurdles to overcome:

  1. Client may not be allowed to hire you directly
  2. The client may want to use an agency for all contractors
  3. You may find it almost impossible to speak to the decision maker

Agency client contracts prevent you going direct

The agency-client terms will most likely include terms which state the client cannot directly hire anyone the agency have already introduced to them. So if your CV has gone forward then going direct is unlikely to be an option.

Whilst you have no contractual relationship with the agency at this stage, they have one with the client, and it's that contract that quite rightly protects their business interests and prevents them from being cut out of the loop by both contractors and clients.

Many clients want to use agencies for their contractors

Another hurdle is that many companies have a policy of not taking on contractors directly, and prefer the cushion of an agency in between.

Agencies provide a very valuable business to clients. They take away the process pain of hiring, and introduce another layer that further protects any company from possible rights claims from the contractor. They also have lower administration costs by dealing with one agency, and one standard contract, as opposed to separate ones for each and every contractor they hire.

For many companies using agencies is mandatory and company policy, so whilst you may try to go direct, even if you are successful you will be processed by an agency, who will want their margin. There won't be any cost saving or higher rate.

Sales is not as easy as you think

Going direct means you will effectively try and become your own recruitment agent. This means you will need to understand and adhere to all the laws associated with the recruitment business and learn some professional selling techniques.

Unless you already have a relationship with someone at the client who can introduce you, the chances of you being able to cold call the client and speak to the decision maker are very slim. These firms are bombarded daily with phone calls from agencies who try to get on the client's preferred supplier list. You will be joining that queue, and unless you know what you are doing you are unlikely to get anywhere.

If you know the name of the person hiring, you could try and connect directly with them on Linked In. But chances are they will ignore you (they got lots of requests from agents already) or they will simply redirect you to an agency who is doing the hiring.

It's just not worth trying

The time and effort you could expend trying to go direct, not to mention damage to your reputation, probably isn't worth it.

You time would be better focused on applying for other contracts.

Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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